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The Elephant in the Brain: Hidden Motives in Everyday Life

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Human beings are primates, and primates are political animals. Our brains, therefore, are designed not just to hunt and gather, but also to help us get ahead socially, often via deception and self-deception. But while we may be self-interested schemers, we benefit by pretending otherwise. The less we know about our own ugly motives, the better - and thus we don't like to talk or even think about the extent of our selfishness. This is "the elephant in the brain." Such an introspective taboo makes it hard for us to think clearly about our nature and the explanations for our behavior. The aim of this book, then, is to confront our hidden motives directly - to track down the darker, unexamined corners of our psyches and blast them with floodlights. Then, once everything is clearly visible, we can work to better understand ourselves: Why do we laugh? Why are artists sexy? Why do we brag about travel? Why do we prefer to speak rather than listen?

Our unconscious motives drive more than just our private behavior; they also infect our venerated social institutions such as Art, School, Charity, Medicine, Politics, and Religion. In fact, these institutions are in many ways designed to accommodate our hidden motives, to serve covert agendas alongside their "official" ones. The existence of big hidden motives can upend the usual political debates, leading one to question the legitimacy of these social institutions, and of standard policies designed to favor or discourage them. You won't see yourself - or the world - the same after confronting the elephant in the brain.

408 pages, ebook

First published December 1, 2017

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About the author

Kevin Simler

1 book104 followers
Kevin Simler is a writer and software engineer currently living in Brooklyn, NY. He's worked for ten years as a programmer, product designer, and engineering director, and continues to advise startups about technology, leadership, and recruiting.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 598 reviews
5 reviews53 followers
February 16, 2018
This was a surprisingly disappointing book. As a practicing researcher in evolutionary biology, I hate to see my subject mistreated like this.

Pro tip: if you want to write about a subject - read up on it from other sources than best selling popular science accounts. For some examples, (1) Franz de Waal's Chimpanzee Politics is fun, but basically an exercise in anthropomorphizing, (2) Robin Dunbar's hypotheses of a "Dunbar number" limiting human group size has a badly thought through mechanism (many things limit primate group sizes) and lacks empirical support, and (3) Geoffrey Miller's ideas of the brain as sexual or fitness advertisement likewise has no empirical support. They are fun hypotheses to speculate about, no more, much less.

The central thesis in the book seems to be that we are driven by hidden motives (duh) having to do with self-deception (yes!) and social signaling (also yes!). But that's it - its biology all the way down. Like the exploding field of cultural evolution hasn't made huge inroads to that type of explanation. Is biological evolution our real motive? Well no, its an underlying process having shaped some of our motives, like self-deception and social signaling. But there is more, much more, to be known about our motives from understanding cultural evolution. To recommend just one immensely readable recent book on the topic, read Joseph Henrich's The Secret of Our Success.

That said, the book picks up steam towards the end, is well written and contains interesting observations. But it is sadly one-sided and lacking in current research.
Profile Image for Kevin Gomez.
25 reviews3 followers
May 11, 2018
My Ulterior Review

I don't care for reviewing this book. I only care that you, the person reading this review, know that I read this book. I'm virtue signalling like crazy.

It's enjoyable. I'm pretty much on board. The world is different now.
115 reviews44 followers
March 24, 2018
Maybe you think you know this already. You probably don’t. The world would be slightly better if you did, so: read it this book. It’s surprising and accessible.

The thesis is that our everyday actions are (1) motivated by social signalling and (2) hidden from ourselves and others. The important word is “social,” and the insight is that it is not “selfish.”

Self-deception (You may already know this part)

Maybe you already know about self-deception. I benefit from lying, and the most efficient way for me to lie to you is to deceive myself first – because you were selected for detecting my bullshit, and lying is cognitively expensive. That is a primary function of my consciousness: to rationalise my actions to myself, to hide my motives from myself. I am uniquely incapable of understanding my own motivations. And so are you.

These insights are shocking and important, but also available in many other recent introductions to social and evolutionary psychology. The core ideas are from Robert Triver’s Deceit and Self-Deception: Fooling Yourself the Better to Fool Others, and can also be found in Jonathan Haidt’s The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion, Sperber and Mercier’s The Enigma of Reason, and to some extent even in Kahnemann’s Thinking, Fast and Slow. Everybody should know this.

Social signalling (You don’t know this yet)

What then are the hidden motivations that we so aptly hide from ourselves and others?

This is where the book really shines, because it’s not what you thought.

Let me give just a single example: Charity. (The book has 10 chapters like that: Art, Education, Medicine, etc. I thought the Charity chapter was best at making the point.)

As a sufficiently cynical person I thought I knew this already: The “real reason” for charity is, of course, not to benefit the recipient, but to advertise the donor. This behaviour is easily explained by the handicap principle from evolutionary theory: a sufficiently privileged donor can advertise his evolutionary fitness and social stability by making a large, visible donation. Folk evolutionary psychology explains why this behaviour was selected for: it advertises evolutionary fitness. This behaviour is seen in many other species, the peacock’s tail is a famous example. The larger the tail, or the larger the donation, the stronger is the fitness signal. So far, so good, any sufficiently well-read person with a Darwinian mindset knows this.

Well, it’s wrong, or at least incomplete.


The charity industry is characterised by deliberate self-deception about the effectiveness of charity. (Note: The Effective Altruism movement – Doing Good Better: How Effective Altruism Can Help You Make a Difference – is a counterexample to this, and a very recent invention. Effective Altruism is nothing like a “normal” Charity.) Normal charities will not and cannot account for their effectiveness in actually helping the recipient. In fact, you’re making a social blunder for even asking! Why is this so? Because charity is not only an advertisement of the donor’s individual fitness “I am rich. Procreate with me! I have money to spare. Choose me as a friend!”. Instead, it is a social signal: “I give away money irrationally. I am a useful ally!”


Think about it this way. Alice is charitable but rational. You have observed her actually researching the effect of her various donations, calculate “return-on-charity”, and the reasonableness of the recipient’s plight. You’ve seen her check quarterly investment statements and obsess over spreadsheets. She invests in charities that you’ve never heard of, but it makes sense when she explains it do you. In contrast, Bob is also quite charitable, maybe even spending less than Alice, but advertises his utter indifference to what the money is used for. He gives his money to the same causes as everybody else. And he’s easily moved: Crying pauper on the Church’s steps? Bob opens his wallet.

Now, who makes the better ally for you? Bob does. Of course. If your break a leg on your way home from hunting (maybe because you unwisely ate some of the funny-looking mushrooms), then you can count on Bob to help you. You cannot count on Alice at all (she has found another cause where her time is better spent.)

So: The motivation for charity is a lie. (We knew this.) But you and Bob maintain a shared fiction about its pure motives, because Bob must signal his usefulness as an ally, and you must acknowledge that signal. Neither of your can seem self-serving. Therefore, his charity must be irrational, indifferent, lavish, visible, emotional, proximate, and you must applaud him for that. In contrast, Alice makes a social mistake, because she thinks charity is about helping others (when it really was about helping future-you). You and Bob have evolved psychological mechanisms to keep this reality hidden from each other and yourselves. Alice is just blind to this social mechanism.

So: our hidden motives aren’t selfish. They are social. The signal benefits both its author and its observer. (Whereas the receiver of the charity is irrelevant. He is not part of the transaction.) Signal-author and signal-recipient are selected for psychological mechanisms for denying this, and society has social and cultural norms for supporting this denial. Were it otherwise, social trust would corrode.

Mind = blown.

So what

Our evolved, social psychology will determine that Bob is a better person. Ouch.

This, of course, is a societal insight of the highest magnitude. Because in the modern world, Alice is the better person, but our brains won’t intuit that (see also Moral Tribes: Emotion, Reason, and the Gap Between Us and Them and probably Against Empathy: The Case for Rational Compassion, which I haven’t read). We need institutions and other mechanisms to tackle this.

Things I didn’t like

The book’s main metaphor, the Elephant in the Brain, does not do as much useful work as the authors may think. It shifts the focus towards the insight about self-deception, which we already knew or can read elsewhere. Instead, the book’s core message is about social signalling, where our behaviour plays the same role as grooming among primates. Elephants don’t arise from grooming. I would have chosen “The Flea in the Brain’s Fur” or something—which is much worse and tells you why I shouldn’t write books.

The style is surprisingly light and accessible, much in contrast to The Age of Em: Work, Love and Life When Robots Rule the Earth. This is probably a good idea because it may widen the potential readership, but I had to cringe at some of the formulations.
Profile Image for Mehrsa.
2,234 reviews3,663 followers
March 9, 2019
Half way through the book, I was really liking it and very excited about the style and the content. It's hard to find a book in this area these days that says anything new or interesting, but this one seemed to be doing just that. Then, I soured on the book. A few things--they got some of the science wrong--especially the parts on sexual selection and art. There's a lot of new data on this saying that it's not just about signaling extra resources, but that we can just have a predilection for beauty itself. And then after that part and all the way toward the end, it was quite bleak. Unnecessarily so--it started to dip into Sam Harris territory. We're all just selfish, religion is bad, and everyone has an ulterior evolutionary motive.

If you want to read an excellent counter-narrative, read the Human Instinct by Kenneth Miller
Profile Image for ScienceOfSuccess.
106 reviews190 followers
June 22, 2019
The best book I've read in 2019 so far. Quite similar to "Nudge", "Freakonomics" and "Thinking Fast and Slow". Full of original thoughts and unique point of view.
Profile Image for Ryan.
56 reviews1 follower
April 17, 2018
I almost rated this book a 3 because if you've read Khaneman, Cowen, Haidt, etc..., a lot of what's in here doesn't come as too much of a shock. However, there were enough individual nuggets in here (usually in the chapters that relate signaling theory to specific domains of human behavior like art or religion) that made me go, "Wow, I've never thought of it like that," that I felt compelled to bump it up to a 4. The playful writing style (there are like three literal winking emojis in the text) makes it very readable.

Five Things I Want to Remember About This Book:
Profile Image for Charlene.
875 reviews485 followers
March 14, 2019
These authors identify some of the most interesting oddities about human behavior. They ask questions about why we do so much story telling and they do this...... by engaging in lots of story telling themselves. They did a great job of identifying the elephant in the brain, which is probably why this book received so many 5 star reviews. The problem is, while they were successful at identifying the elephant, and successful in creating more satisfying stories about the elephant, the methods they used to create these new, more satisfying stories are severely lacking. In turn their conclusions are themselves lacking. They are entertaining, thought provoking, and probably even get us on a better path to understand the questions presented in the book, but they are undoubtedly lacking in scientific rigor.

I can tell this will be one of my most unpopular reviews, right up there with my negative review of Jonathan Haidt's Righteous Mind. I love the questions Haidt asks but think his methods do not deliver the solid "scientific" findings he suggest they do. The questions that he asks put us as a society on the right track. They are indeed the right questions. It's just that it is very difficult to find a method that can produce definitive answers about the workings of the human brain. Our scientific tools are simply not there yet. This book, while extremely thought provoking, runs into the same problem some of Haidt's books do. The science just isn't there, and pretending it is leaves science, the actual field of science, open to criticism-- as in, "Do you *believe* in science?" If the methods used produce findings that do not require a lot of interpretation, then the method is probably good. For example, humans were able to figure out that when two hydrogen atoms experience the condition of extreme heat and pressure, which is the environment in the core of stars, they strip off their electrons, smash into each other, and create deuterium and heavier elements. These results do not require a lot of interpretation. So it is worth asking ourselves if the results that come from the work of Robert Trivers are as solid and free of interpretation. If they are not, using them as a foundation for just about every argument you make in a book, makes those arguments untenable.

I can’t wait until the day we stop talking about animal and plant behavior in terms of cooperation v competition and start talking about things through the narrative of physical laws— specifically the 2nd law of thermodynamics. These authors want to talk about evolution and animal behavior in very different terms. Like many Dawkins followers, they want to know if our actions are governed by competition or cooperation, as if it's one or the other. The neoDawkins crowd loves to make statements such as, “When you look deeper, what looks like cooperation is competition.” These authors are not nearly as obnoxious as Dawkins who should just add a, "Duh!" to the end of every sentence in which he responds to anyone in the field of epigenetics, anyone who brings forth evidence of cooperation in species, and the like. He has repeatedly suggested that those who don't agree with his outdated understanding of science simply "do not understand science." All the while, he hasn't a clue what thermodynamics means for the origins of life, for the dissipation of energy in systems that leads them to be active and evolved forms, and for how it even begins to govern systems that *must* cooperate and compete in order to follow the laws of the universe itself. ***(see discussion of systems' nutrient exchange below)

Is what Dawkins and Trivers do really science? All of this debate definitely led to a lot of observation and experimentation and wonderful debates. I encourage all of that. Moreover, I firmly believe that Dawkins selfish gene was a helpful way to understand aspects of heredity and how traits might be handed down and modified over evolutionary time. But, it surely is not even close to the whole story. If you want to better understand evolution, you should read Jermey England's papers on how the dissipation of energy leads to the evolution of a species (or even non living forms). This whole argument about cooperation vs competition is reminiscent of psychology's nature vc nurture. Turns out it is never, ever that simple. In order to understand nature v nurture or cooperation v competition arguments, you must understand the interaction of species with each other, the genes that live inside them, the microbes that are literally part of who they are, their larger environments (including distance from a sun and heat at the center or the planet upon which they live). Unless you truly understand how all of that works, you probably cannot give a definitive answer about whether species ultimately either cooperate or compete.

***nutrient exchange:

For every smaller species, there are bigger systems than a species. Animals expel waste products (carbon in air, poop, etc) that poison us. Plants take it in. To them it’s a nutrient, not a poison. Their waste is oxygen, poisonous to them, but a nutrient to us. Each type of form — the plant or animal- expels waste that is that is poisonous to them but acts as a nutrient to the other. Why do they do this? Are they cooperating? The answer is, they must engage in these behaviors because the 2nd law of thermodynamics requires them to. Do they make choices within the physical constraints placed on them? Of course they do. Can we tell stories about those choices? Sure . Will they be as accurate as describing behavior is dictated by the second law of thermodynamics? Of course not.

In order to understand whether species cooperate or compete, you must look to how a species ingests and expels energy. If you are not including that, then you have lost sight of the primary motivation for any species to either cooperate or compete. If you then do not put that energy ingestion and expulsion into the larger context of the other energy systems (no matter where it is in the ecosystem), then you are not really understanding anything. At the end of the day, even if you begin to understand the root of competing or cooperating to gain resources (energy packaged as nutrients), if your story can be countered by another story, then you have more work to do in order to prove your hypothesis. Consider again the results obtained from observing what happens in the core of stars. Scientists cannot easily debate each other about whether or not 2 hydrogen are forced to smash together to make heavier elements. It is clear that is going on in the sun. But, the debates about cooperation and competition are easily debatable. It's not solid science and no should pretend it is.
Profile Image for Fenn.
2 reviews4 followers
September 29, 2017
I can only hope this book sees the attention and success it deserves. Disclaimer up front: I requested and received an advanced copy of the book. That said, my opinion is genuine.

You simply are not going to find another book that both describes how fundamental self-deception is to the workings of our minds and how this trait is writ large in society.

The first section of the book does a good job explaining how and why people deceive themselves, skirting, sometimes breaking, norms of behavior set in our foraging past, as we seek status, mates and allies. We did not evolve to understand ourselves. Being apparent to ourselves would only make us transparent to others. And to make it (and to make babies) in the world, we need to be little (or a lot) sneaky. And you ain't lying if you believe what you're saying. Or at least you don't appear to be.

But it's the second section of the book that sets it apart. Hanson and Simler show how our nature can be seen in our behavior (body language, conversation, laughter, consumption) in ways we are blind to. This book is an eye opener. My favorite chapter was on the function of laughter. The most practical was the one on body language.

The second section also explores how the functions of some institutions (education, medicine, politics) veer from their "obvious" purposes. We spend a fifth of our lives in school, almost as much of our GDP on medicine. But we don't remember calculus and many medical procedures are as likely to hurt us as help. What's going on? We're showing, respectively, we will be good worker bees and that we care for each other.

These later chapters would make (and have made) fodder for entire books. That's the book's great strength. Others have written about self deception (Trivers, Kurzban). And about some of the institutions (Bryan Caplan in particular). But you won't find a single other book of this scope.

And unlike most "wow, ain't it crazy how the world works" airport books, the core idea here is pretty undeniable. The authors state they expect readers to accept about 2/3 of their claims. But the single central idea behind these claims is very convincing, and if you pop that red pill you'll know something fundamental and important. And its ramifications are real and huge.

Sure, it's neat to understand yourself and your daily life better. This book can help you do that. But we also live in a world with problems that need to be addressed. And we cannot fix the broken things if we do not know what they are really built to do.

Will you see the world and yourself better after this book? Maybe. Good luck.
Because you're built not to.
Profile Image for J & J .
190 reviews57 followers
November 10, 2018
Critique of the "authors" is that they mostly compiled other writers' or researchers' evidence (as shown by the copious amount of citations in the back of the book) although, in praise, at least they included research. Also- the book, in a good hearted attempt to show evidence, went awry with too many examples and interruptions. I enjoyed the graphs, data, statistics, etc but there were too many and they felt like a bombardment of information without allowing me time to let the information to sink in before moving on to another topic, example, etc... I did very much enjoy the chapter about education and am still mulling this information over in my mind so it definitely gave me some new ideas to entertain.
Profile Image for Amir Tesla.
161 reviews655 followers
August 23, 2022

The origination of our disproportionate intelligence is better explained by the competitive social challenges against other humans in the zero-sum games of sex, status, and politics rather than the cooperative ecological challenges against nature in positive-sum games of survival. These social challenges require players to evaluate and attract allies. This is done through signals: honest and expensive signs of status.

Zero-sum competition is inefficient for groups as little progress is made in aggregate yet resources are spent. Norms, which are agreed-upon punishments enforced by a collective against a subject who committed a certain action, limit the resources spent in zero-sum competition. Norms against discreet actions (killing, rape) are hard to bypass, but norms against intentions (romantic intent towards someone’s spouse) can be bypassed. Norms paradoxically reduced the resources you can direct into zero-sum competition but increased the incentives to be a clever competitor: one who operates on selfish/ugly motives but convinces others that they are prosocial/pretty ones.

To reap this reward people lie a lot, but lying is costly as it takes a lot of mental resources, and getting caught is expensive. Therefore, we started deceiving ourselves of our true intentions in order to deceive others better. This also gives us plausible deniability if we are “caught”. This explains the evolutionary advantage to the psychological idea of “repression”: we hide elements of ourselves to our conscious so that we can present a better version of ourselves to others.

We are great at operating under hidden motives, but the danger is poor optimization since our conscious and unconscious goals are different. Our saving grace is that we are inconsistent and incongruent: It is possible for our brains to maintain a relatively accurate set of beliefs in systems tasked with evaluating potential actions without certain harmful beliefs surfacing into consciousness where we manage social impressions.

Finally, we are great at rationalizing decisions as seen by split-brain patients and disability denial. There is an interpreter module in our left hemisphere that is great at coming up with narratives and reasons for our actions that we actually have little visibility into.

The existence of hidden motives accounts for a lot of friction in personal relationships, but this expands to institutions as well. In many areas, our hidden agendas explain a surprising amount of our behavior, often a majority. When push comes to shove, we often prioritize our hidden agendas over the official ones. Here are some hidden agendas in seemingly innocent domains

Body Language:
- Why we are unaware of our body language:
- It gives us the ability to preserve the power to deny and avoid interrogation. I John flirts and his wife complains, he can deny it.
- It keeps our press secretary in the dark and enables her to come up with better explanations, denying things more easily than if she knew what was going on.
- Body language is hidden in the three games of life: politics, sex, and social status.

Laughter: signals playfulness and friendliness, psychological distance to subject with the added protection of plausible deniability.
- laughter has evolved to signal that we perceive the situation to be unharmful and not dangerous.
- Laughter is a play signal . Play is prevalent in animal kingdom and is a means to build skills. But, we need to communicate that we are playing and there’s no seriousness or danger. Hence, we do it by laughter.
- We mainly laugh under two scenarios:
1. We laugh At ourselves to communicate we’re being playful
2. We laugh At others’ actions to communicate: I perceive your actions as playful, not dangerous. It’s in response to stimuli such as tickling, jokes, etc.

both forms of laughter act as forms of assurances. : in spite of what seems to be dangerous, I’m still being playful.

Language/conversation: instead of lending someone a specific tool (information sharing) we want to signal to people that we are a diverse toolbox and that by allying with us they gain access to all of our tools.

Consumption: We talk more than we listen because talking and sharing useful information is a way of increasing one's status in a group

Art: a function of art is to signal the genetic fitness of the artist as well as those who are able to discern good art. Good art also could imply an abundance of resources. The person has had enough resources that could put his/her time into crafting an art.

What we subconsciously value is the extrinsic value of art. What the art tells about the artist is what matter. 80 percent of people asked, preferred seing ashes of the burned original Mona Lisa painting than seeing a fake copy.

Charity: visibility (are we recognized), proximity (is the person a neighbor or across the world), relatability (one death is a tragedy, a million is a statistic), mating (men more likely to give money when observers are female).

Education: Educated people are not better workers because of their education. Rather, they are good workers because they have attributes that make them both good students and workers.

Companies put a value on education not because of the skills that academia provides. Rather, the academic degree is a certification that this person can work under pressure and provide results in a timely manner.
Profile Image for Anna.
32 reviews19 followers
February 16, 2018
Put simply - this is a book that would only be surprising to economists. Boldly fighting a battle against a 'rational' model of human behavior that has already largely been debunked, even by economists, this book suggests that people's motives are often not what they claim, even to themselves. The Elephant in the Brain in this case refers to the human capacity for self-deception. The authors suggest this impacts a wide variety of human behavior, from how we interact with others to why we send our children to school. At least they acknowledge that this may not be a new idea to many people - in a blog post one of the authors wrote: "People on this side [psychology] find our basic book thesis, and our many specific examples, so plausible that they fear our book may be too derivative and unoriginal." Right on the money.

The authors extraordinarily limited definition of 'rational' behavior was occasionally incomprehensible (for example: his assertion that voting is only rational if it directly benefits you in some financial way). There were a few other bizarre statements like one where he claimed men before the industrial revolution did not have to follow orders very often - has he never heard of serfdom? Or the military? Or slavery?

I did, however, like the idea that we should accept that people's stated needs may not be only motives in a lot of their behavior, and we should look for ways to be more efficient in meeting the unstated needs. The chapter on healthcare was particularly interesting in this respect.

As someone with a psychology background and an interest in evolutionary psychology, I did not find much new here. If you are interested in this topic I would suggest 'Righteous Minds' by Jonathan Haidt (heavily sited in this book) as a more in depth and thoughtful discussion of the hidden motives of human behavior. Richard Thaler (author of Nudge and Misbehaving) has also heavily covered this topic through his writing on behavioral economics.
Profile Image for عبدالرحمن عقاب.
666 reviews733 followers
November 3, 2018
لسنا كما نظنّ! هناك مسافة ليست بالقصيرة بين ما نقوله عن أنفسنا وما نعرفه عنها من جهة، وبين ما ‏هي حقيقتها من جهةٍ أخرى. ‏
يعرض هذا الكتاب لما يراه دوافعنا الحقيقية وراء كثيرٍ من سلوكياتنا الاجتماعية والثقافية كبشر. ابتداءً ‏من اتجاهاتنا السياسية وأفعالنا التدينية وامتدادًا إلى التعلّم والفنون، والضحك والتطبّب، والعون ‏والصدقة ، والاستهلاك ...الخ.‏
مدار الكتاب على حجم" المصلحة الشخصية" وراء جميع أفعالنا، ومقدار الخداع الذي نمارسه على ‏الآخرين، ونمارسه -من قبل- على أنفسنا بتزيين دوافعنا بالتبريرات العقلانية، والكليشيهات المصطنعة ‏البراقة اجتماعيًا. ‏
يعتمد الكتاب كثيرًا على استنتاجات ومبادئ علم النفس التطوّري، مما يفسّر مقدار "مادية" و"جلافة" ‏استنتاجاته، وكذلك تمحور تلك الاستنتاجات حول مجموعة محددة من الأفكار (المكرّرة) في كلّ فصل ‏عن انشغالنا بالتكاثر والتعاون سبلاً للبقاء، واستخدامنا للإشارات "الخفية" التي تدلّ على لياقاتنا لذلك. ‏
يطيل الكاتب جدًا في شرح أفكاره، وطرح أمثلته ومعاودة الحديث عن ذات النقاط في كلّ فصلٍ من ‏فصوله. ويعترف بذلك، وبدوافعه الأنانية كذلك. غير أنّ عذره في ذلك أنّ كتابه مقسم إلى أصلٍ يشرح فيه ‏الأفكار الأساسية (وهو الجزء الأوّل بالطبع)، و أمثلته المتنوعة من مجالاتٍ عدّة وصلت إلى ما يزيد على ‏‏10 مجالات، ترك لقارئه اختيار ما يريد ويهمّه منهه، تطبيقًا لأفكاره الاساسية.‏
غالب أفكار الكتاب انطباعية ومعروفة، وبعضها مهمّ ويعتمد على الدراسات السابقة. قد تقبل بعضها، ‏وتأنف بعضها الآخر، غير أنّك بالتأكيد ستنظر إلى أفعالك ببعض التوجّس لاحقًا، وكذلك ستفعل في ‏فهمك أو تفهمك لأفعال الآخرين وسلوكياتهم. وهذا تحديدًا ثمرة علوم النفس ودراسات السلوك ‏الاقتصادي الأجمل والأخطر! ‏
Profile Image for Yousif Al Zeera.
232 reviews79 followers
March 23, 2021
The book is nothing less than a game-changer (or paradigm-shifter to put in a more scholastic environment) to your perception and perspective in all domains in life.

You can have a look at my ratings and you would rarely see a 5-star-rated book but, here you go, this book got it!

It might be shocking at times as it might shake your views in some topics/domains or, at least, provide you with a challenging (and different) view to the mainstream.

Does everything it contains is right? Not necessarily, even the authors themselves question this possibility and think some of their views might prove wrong later on. In some cases, I already disagree with some of the views.

But, in a nutshell, the premises of the book is that not only occasionally we have 'an elephant in the room' but also 'an elephant in the brain!"

Wow, wait a second! Another elephant?! Oh no! Where is that this time?! At least it is in your brain, right? Or wait, is it in my brain? No. In all brains.

An elephant (not only that, but an invisible one!) in our brains. All of us. Period. Can we do something about it? Well, the good thing, we can do something. The bad thing? It is there to remain (with all its heaviness and ruggedness to spoil nothing but our otherwise already faulty perceptions and perspectives). Thanks elephant, hope you are having fun in my brain.
Profile Image for Brittany.
618 reviews1 follower
March 20, 2019
2.5 stars rounded up. I'm rather disappointed by this book because it's basically right up my alley in terms of subject matter. Fundamentally, this book takes the position that people are rational, and if they are motivated to do things that aren't seemingly rational, then there are less evident motivations at play (that may or may not be known to the individual). My counter-position to this idea is that people aren't really all that rational, and even if they act in ways that don't mesh with how they "should" act according to data, it's because they think they're being rational.

For example, why do Americans spend so much money on healthcare and have little to show for it? The authors say spending money on unknowingly unnecessary healthcare is primed by the motivation of achieving better health and, because that doesn't explain the whole story, conspicuous care. But I think this is flawed because I think Americans spend so much money healthcare and have little to show for it because they hold a seemingly rational belief that spending money on healthcare has a direct relation to achieving better health, when in fact this isn't actually backed by data. In essence, they're acting in a way that "feels" rational ("feels", because again, people aren't really all that rational to begin with). Of course people sometimes act in ways due to motivations others may be unaware of, but more often than not, I think people are simply acting in a way that feels right to them.

I think the authors should have just gone full textbook mode on this book. Granted, they say that the book is quite high-level, but this is like an analysis of an analysis of an analysis levels of high-level for my taste. Also, it's pretty wordy to explain "people act with hidden motives across multiple facets of their lives".

"If you make eye contact for the same fraction of time while speaking and listening, your visual dominance ratio will be 1.0, indicative of high dominance. if you make less eye contact while speaking, however, your ratio will be less than 1.0 (typically hovering around 0.6), indicative of low dominance."

"A real danger of laughter, then, is the fact that we don't all share the same norms to the same degree. What's sacred to one person can be an object of mere play to another. And so when we laugh at norm violations, it often serves to weaken the norms that others may wish to uphold."

"Instead, we seem content with just the veneer of confidence and expertise, as long as our pundits are engaging, articulate, connected to us, and have respected pedigrees."

"...Vaccines, penicillin, anesthesia, antiseptic techniques, and emergency medicine are all great, but their overall impact is actually quite modest. Other factors often cited as plausibly more important include better nutrition, improvements in public sanitation, and safer and easier jobs."

"Parents of children in public school are not more supportive of government aid to schools than other citizens; young men subject to the draft are not more opposed to military escalation than men too old to be drafted; and people who lack health insurance are not more likely to support government-issued health insurance than people covered by insurance." [From The Righteous Mind]

"More generally, any attempt to deviate from the preexisting consensus will be considered suspect. We see this kind of attitude during elections: voters typically punish politicians who change their positions to match the changing opinions of their constituents, even though it's in the spirit of democracy for a representative to "reflect the will of the people.""

"...Many communities prioritize a commitment to orthodox views over impartial truth-seeking."
Profile Image for Sarah.
534 reviews
January 19, 2020
It's true. Humans are...just awful.
If you've ever wondered why nothing in society makes any damn sense, read this book immediately. So many things go unspoken, unacknowledged. You wonder how it is that people can come to believe their own lies. This is how. And we all do it. Much of what we call rationality is just the rationalizing we do in retrospect. “We deceive ourselves to better deceive others.”

It's rare that a book is this enlightening but also this accessible. (As it happens, the chapter on education will make you want to scream into a pillow.)
Profile Image for Ryan.
963 reviews
February 27, 2019
We don't go to art museums to see art. We go to art museums to signal our cultured intelligence to increase the supply of sexual partners. Because our culture has a lot of hangups, we prefer to obfuscate the true motive. For Robin Hanson and Kevin Simler, a cigar is neither a cigar nor a phallic symbol, but it is a signal of something because all of us are caught up in a web of primal "signalling."

I mostly liked this book. For starters, the cover, a Rorschach elephant, is fantastic (unless it's a ripoff of the poster for PT Anderson's The Master). At one point, Hanson and Simler convincingly argue that BMW ads are not targeted at their buyers but rather at the people who cannot afford to buy BMWs. The purpose of the ad is not to directly create a sense of superiority but rather to directly create a sense of inferiority. The distinction is subtle, I hadn't thought of it, and I really look forward to sharing it.

Because I mostly enjoyed The Elephant in the Brain, here are some complaints about it.

Simler and Hanson, economists by training and trade, take an admirably inter-disciplinary approach in demonstrating their thesis. Having said that, sometimes the risk of an inter-disciplinary approach is that the author needs to take shortcuts with content. They often refer to Machiavelli as a sincere advocate for cut-throat political strategies, but I was under the impression that The Prince is read with more complexity now. Is drinking in public by wrapping the bottle in a paper bag really cheating in the same way as cheating on an exam? They skirt norms, yes, but what advantage over others is gained? When people murmur appreciatively at your new car, is this really evidence of envy? It occurs to me that it's actually intended as a balm against buyer's remorse. They state that education is designed to help students learn material--what? Surely humanistic psychology has been at the heart of education for decades. Their analysis of the distinction between artistic and functional objects is compelling to anyone who wonders why a painting with a line might cost a million dollars, but I didn't understand how they could so completely overlook minimalism. Many of the analyses are cute, at best. Simler and Hanson attempt to forestall this reading by challenging readers to accept more than 70% of their analyses, which is obviously evidence that they in fact knew that much of their content is superficial.

Although the authors' commitment to reading more deeply into all social interactions is often fascinating, we should be wary of this reverse engineering of motive. First, "reading deeply" too often means everything is about sex, status, and dominance because of evolutionary needs that drive behavior. Are we really reading deeply into our modular minds if we always arrive at the same conclusion? Summary Box 17 warns against limiting this analysis to individuals, so I'll keep to myself what is implied by Hanson's dedicating the book to the "little guys, often grumbling in a corner" or Simler's decision to write this book about shallow credentialing rather than finishing his doctorate. But even if we avoid applying this analysis to individuals, these analyses provide too tempting a model to dismiss groups' (political, ethnic, national, etc.) stated preferences by glazing over how people arrive at decisions and dismissing their ideas as "just" primal drives.

The introduction suggests that the title refers to the "elephant in the room," the obvious thing no one wants to talk about. But isn't this what everyone is talking about right now? They say the brain is like an elephant, and I was shocked they didn't acknowledge the similarity to Haidt's metaphor of the mind (Haidt argues that we best understand the mind as an impulsive elephant with a rational mouse driver). Simler and Hanson often retread covered territory. In fact, if you've read Haidt, Trivers' book on deception, or Miller's book on art, you can probably skip much of this one. This is not a ground breaking work, but it might be a useful entry point to those other authors.

Ultimately, the idea that superficial motives are superficial is interesting--and fun. The writing style is transparently easy and it comes with little boxes that summarize the main points. Although I have always felt condescended to when academics include these little boxes, I now realize these academics are not writing for a mass audience but rather their academic peers. They worry their peers won't read their book and so, to spare everyone embarrassment, they include cheat sheets. I note as proof that Tyler Cowen has blurbed it.

25 reviews12 followers
February 2, 2019
The Elephant in the Brain (TEitB) is one of the most remarkable books I've read in a long, long time. Before I jump into a long review, I want to reiterate what a joy it was to read this fun and insightful book (with over 100 pages of references). The crux of the book is this - In any (partially) mind-reading species such as humans, self deception is a feature and not a bug. Now say that out loud and listen to yourself carefully.

Reasons why you should read this book :
TEitB tries to answer some of the most basic questions about puzzling human behaviour revolving around laughter (WTH do we laugh?), fashion, art, charity, religion and other "wasteful" activities. The book argues that beyond the (often self deception filled) pro-social, utility driven reason there is a dark underlying need for conspicuous display of survival surplus for 3 critical reasons - Mate, Ally, Social status. Most of our behaviour is to signal survival surplus, pro-social caring attitude, fitness display or wasteful conspicuous consumption in order to attract mates, allies or win badges. But you may argue that we don't necessarily think about the selfish signalling motives every time we do something that makes us "feel good". This is genuinely true, which is where it gets *really* exciting. The best way to convince (or deceive) someone of your puzzling behaviour is to first convince (or deceive) yourself, and really believe it.

Here are some quotes from the book that I would like to refer to in the future.
- Competition : "it was the arms race between lying and lie-detection that gave rise to our intelligence. It is perhaps ironic that dishonesty has often been the file against which intellectual tools for truth have been sharpened."
- Self deception : We may have evolved an instinct to make art, for example, as a means of advertising our artistic skills and free time (survival surplus)—but that’s not necessarily what we’re thinking about as we whittle a sculpture from a piece of driftwood. We may simply be thinking about the beauty of the sculpture. Nevertheless, the deeper logic of many of our strangest and most unique behaviors may lie in their value as signals.
- Friendship : When a close friend forgets his wallet and can’t pay for lunch, you might call him an idiot. This works only when you’re so confident of your friendship that you can (playfully) insult him, without worrying that it will jeopardize your friendship. This isn’t something a casual friend can get away with as easily, and it may even serve to bring close friends closer together.
- Loyalty : The truth is a poor litmus test of loyalty.
- Body Language: humans are strategically blind to body language because it often betrays our ugly, selfish, competitive motives.
- Signals : Signals need to be expensive so they’re hard to fake. More precisely, they need to be differentially expensive —more difficult to fake than to produce by honest means.
- Teasing : Teasing is good-natured when it provokes only light suffering, and when the offense is offset by enough warmth and affinity that the person being teased generally feels more loved than ridiculed. The fact that it’s hard to tease strangers—because there’s no preexisting warmth to help mitigate the offense—means that the people we tease are necessarily close to us. Knowing and sensing this is partly what gives teasing its power to bring people closer together.
- Laughter : "If you want to tell people the truth, make them laugh; otherwise they’ll kill you."
- Need to talk so much : "If one makes a point of communicating every new thing to others, one loses the benefit of having been the first to know it." If you tell people about a new berry patch, they’ll raid the berries that could have been yours.
- Experiences : Buying experiences also allows us to demonstrate qualities that we can’t signal as easily with material goods, such as having a sense of adventure or being open to new experiences.
- Art : Something doesn’t qualify as "art" unless it has decorative, non-functional elements. The fitness-display theory explains why. Art originally evolved to help us advertise our survival surplus and, from the consumer’s perspective, to gauge the survival surplus of others. By distilling time and effort into something non -functional, an artist effectively says, "I'm so confident in my survival that I can afford to waste time and energy."
- Charity : helpful. We therefore use charity, in part, as a means to advertise some of our good qualities, in particular our wealth, prosocial orientation, and compassion.
- Education : The signaling model says that education raises a student’s value via certification —by taking an unknown specimen, subjecting it to tests and measurements, and then issuing a grade that makes its value clear to buyers.
- Education (2) : sorts us all into a hierarchy. Kids at the top enjoy prestige because they’ve defeated everybody else in a competition to reach the schools that proudly exclude the most people. All the hard work at Harvard is done by the admissions officers who anoint an already-proven hypercompetitive elite. If that weren’t true—if superior instruction could explain the value of college—then why not franchise the Ivy League? Why not let more students benefit? It will never happen because the top U.S. colleges draw their mystique from zero-sum competition.
- Education (3) : "It is . . . nothing short of a miracle that modern methods of instruction have not yet entirely strangled the holy curiosity of inquiry."
- Medicine : Most modern medicine is an elaborate adult version of "kiss the boo-boo."
- Hypocrisy : But human brains aren’t powerful enough to pull off such perfect hypocrisy, especially when others are constantly probing our beliefs. So the next best thing is often to internalize the belief, while remaining inconsistent enough to occasionally give in to temptation.
- Religious rituals : They can be entirely arbitrary, as long as they’re consistent and distinctive. It doesn’t really matter what a sect believes about transubstantiation, for example, or the nature of the Trinity. In particular, it doesn’t affect how people behave. But as long as everyone within a sect believes the same thing, it works as an effective badge. And if the belief happens to be a little weird, a little stigmatizing in the eyes of nonbelievers, then it also functions as a sacrifice.
- Humans : We may be competitive social animals, self-interested and self-deceived, but we cooperated our way to the god-damned moon. :)
Profile Image for Marcin Zaremba.
Author 5 books97 followers
June 5, 2018
Twój mózg to dupek. Ma ukryte, egoistyczne motywy a z „Ciebie” robi rzecznika prasowego, który ubiera je w piękne słówka i logiczne postracjonalizacje.

Po co? Żebyś dobrze wyglądał wśród innych mózgów, które mają podobne cele; żebyś wytrwale i metodycznie wspinał się w hierarchii społecznej, ale tak, aby nie było to zbyt jednoznaczne, bo nikt nie lubi dupków.

Poza tym nasze mózgi komunikują się ze sobą na frekwencjach niedostępnych dla „nas” i ustalają sprawy między sobą przez skomplikowany system niedopowiedzeń, kontekstów i gestykulacji, tak jakbyśmy my sami byli tylko ich kukiełkami.

Ta książka jest personalnie niewygodna. Po jej przeczytaniu m aktywności, które wydawały się jednoznacznie pozytywne (np. działalność charytatywna) zyskują swoją ciemną stronę, a forma dekompozycji przyjęta przez autorów powoduje, że łatwo można uznać swoje prywatne szczytne cele za czystą hipokryzję - i do tego słusznie.

Jest tutaj sporo przykładów, które wydają się odkrywcze, ale podskórnie każdy z nas je czuje (system edukacji, polityka) ale też hipotezy, które mnie zwaliły z nóg (medycyna, gestykulacja, znaczenie sztuki i mechanizmy sygnalizacyjne)

Twój mózg to dupek. Przeczytaj, że mu to uświadomić.

Profile Image for Bryan.
60 reviews44 followers
August 16, 2018
The Elephant in the Brain is at times an uncomfortable read, but well-worth it for anyone willing to undertake its introspective incursion. Programmer Kevin Simler (of the fascinating Melting Asphalt blog) and economist Robin Hanson explore why we are prone to self-deception about our motives, and how this deception can shed light on otherwise inexplicable individual behaviours, as well as institutional inefficiencies. The titular elephant comes from the fact that nobody wants to discuss hidden motives, because they tend not to show humans in the most flattering light.

The argument in the first half of the book may be familiar if you’ve followed writing either on neuroscience or meditation, both of which refer frequently to the Sperry/Gazzaniga “split-brain experiments” started in the 1950’s. Basically, they show evidence that much of what we think and say represents post-hoc justification for actions that we had already unconsciously decided to do. This could mean that human self-conception, possibly even consciousness itself, came originally from our need to represent ourselves socially, to make us look good even when we’re not acting particularly well.

In that sense, what we typically think of as “self” is less like a president or CEO deciding our actions, and more like a press secretary explaining them. A good press secretary will come up with plausible, though not necessarily honest, reasons to explain actions already taken. The best type of press secretary is not the one that knows the full truth, then has to distort it persuasively, but the one that never knew the whole story to begin with. For this reason, our conscious mind does not have easy or natural access to our innermost motivations, and self-deception may actually be evolutionarily adaptive. We tend therefore not only to misrepresent our motivations to others, but to ourselves as well. If you’re not familiar with these arguments, they’re presented in a well-written and easy-to-understand way in this book.

The second half of the book is where the fun starts. The two authors look at how these deceptions manifest in everyday life, and more importantly, in institutions. For example, why do we laugh? If you think it’s because things are funny, this is not borne out by the evidence, which suggests that laughter is prompted directly from humour in only a small minority of cases. It seems more often to be a way of signalling our intentions. Why do we talk so much? If you think it’s to convey information, this too has obvious problems—for example, why do we normally prefer speaking to listening? Why don’t we keep track of information debts? And most obviously, why do we spend so much time on small talk, or on subjects in which we already agree, which seem to convey no information at all? Once again, only a small part of conversation is covered by the intuitive excuse (conveying information) and the true motives for speaking are normally relatively opaque to both parties. The point is not that these behaviours are always deceptive, but that they have elements of deception and self-deception in them. In this way they sometimes fulfil multiple goals, even without our overt knowledge of what these goals are.

On an institutional level, what is the point of education? If it were solely an economic exchange for the purpose of learning, then universities would not go out of their way to make lectures freely available online, and employers would give 75% of the additional salary paid to graduates for finishing three out of four years of college (as you might guess, it’s much lower). The prestige of association with exclusive universities is at least part of what’s for sale. Healthcare? If it were about prolonging or improving life, then we wouldn’t spend such a huge amount on end-of-life care that is often not proven to prolong life, but can even make the end of life worse. Instead, it looks like medical spending is often partially motivated to show care for relatives conspicuously. Many of our motivations involve status or signalling, to make us look good regardless of whether we actually learn anything at school or make people healthier.

The arguments are extended to many other topics, including body language, consumption, art, charity, religion, and politics. On these topics it is not only provocative but entertaining. The book has faced some criticism, which I think is undeserved, for focusing so intently on the negative sides of human nature, rather than the many cooperative aspects that indisputably improve our lives. But the point is that positive motivations are often loudly advertised. The book is not at all arguing that we have purely selfish motives, just that our motivations are often mixed—and that we could improve ourselves by reflecting on this fact. Neither does the book claim to be a smoking gun on any of these topics, but rather drops the gauntlet for open discussion about the many covert aspects of human behaviour. Read with an open mind, it can not only raise questions about why humans act in certain ways, but also act as a call for institutions to be more honest about their motives, which could allow for better outcomes in a variety of fields.
126 reviews9 followers
September 6, 2022
„Nici chiar noi nu avem un acces în mod special privilegiat la informațiile și procesul de luare a deciziilor care se petrece în interiorul minții noastre. Ne considerăm destul de buni la introspecție, dar aceasta este în mare parte o iluzie. Într-un fel, suntem aproape ca niște străini în propriile noastre minți”.
Profile Image for Kuldeep Dhankar.
44 reviews50 followers
February 9, 2021
Every few years there is a book that will package a lot of research in a usable form that will end changing the world. This book is like that. I was going to skim through this book but after a few pages I decided to slow down and take notes. I ended up spending 4 months on this book.

This book looks at our motives with a framework that humans evolved to compete with each other for prestige, allies, mates etc. We tend to hide these motives and it is this need to hide these motives that has caused our brains to evolve this rapidly.

The first half tries to explain why we hide these motives and the second half examines specific scenarios where we hide our true motives. I think the book largely succeeds in providing an excellent framework for evaluating and detecting these motives in real life.

I am richer for the experience of having read this book. My Roam graph is full of takeaways that I have noted down. I will probably reread in a few weeks to extract some more juice.
57 reviews13 followers
February 10, 2019
One of the best books I've read. It covers a lot of broad areas and tries to explore the multi-layered complexity of our interactions and institutions.
223 reviews35 followers
April 13, 2020
ЛиЕдна от най-добрите съвременни red pill книги за темите на лична психолгоия, социална психология, поведенческа икономика и политика, наравно с книгите на Стивън Пинкър (Празната дъска и как работи умът), Джонатън Хайт (Праведният Мозък), и книгите Nudge, Thinking fast and slow, The power of Habit, Predictibly Irrational и книгите на Скот Адамс (Dilbert principle, How to fail at almost everything and still win big и loserthink).

Изводът е ясен - хората сме идиоти, нишо обшо с рацуоналните хора които гледаме по филмите и сериалите и които ни учат в училище че сме.

Както казват авторите можв би не всеки човек трябва да знае за нешата написани в тази книга, може би даже е по-добре повечето хора да не знаят за тях.. Но със сигурност е добре ПОНЕ НЯКОЙ да знае за тезни неща. Особено тези с власт и тези контролиращи тези с власт (журналисти и др.)

Много е трудно да се резюмира за какво се разправя книгата.
С едно изречение - хората сме идиоти, които правим неща по две причини - официална и реална, Официалната е алтруистична и звучи добре за пред другите, а реалната причина е изключително цинична, себична, егоистична, долкова чак, че дори мозъците ни я крият не само от другите, но и ор самите съзнателни АЗове..

Така дори ние не сме напълно наясно за пъклените причини на нашите официално алтруистични действия.

Много хубаво е написана книгата тъй като дава най-адекватия съвет...

Човек да си намери такава игра (както са съветеали Адам Смит и Бенджамин Франклин, която да е с положителна су��а. Да е така, че печалбата му в личен план да е и печалба за общвството или хората около него..

Или по Левски - Печеля аз печели цял народ...

Реално това е и свободния пазар.. Всеки печели, не по равно естествено, но важното е че в крайна сметка всички са спечелили, а никой не е загубил.

За съжаление много хора (пещерна логика) мислят не така, ами в парадигма на игра с нулева сума или с отрицателна сума.

Т. Е. Си мислят че единственият начин аз да соечеля е някой друг да загуби. Тези хора си мислят, че богатите стават все по-богати за сметка на бедните, които стават все по-бедни, КОЕТО НЕ Е ТАКА. На хартия на теория "неравенството бедни-богати" е огромно, но на практика не е. Замислете се какво Бил Гейтс през деня си може да направи толквиа ПОВЕЧЕ от един средно беден човек..?

Едно време 1% са ядяли по-малко неща от днешните 99%. Това са част от еволюционно остарели пещерни логики..

Но както и да е.. Книгата е супер плътна и не може да се съкрати и обобщи..

Говори се за скритите причини, които дори крием от себе си зад нашите действия.

Комбинира много дисжиплини - психология, икономика, политология (макиавелистика да кажем.. С идеята истинска причина и официална причина), а включително и липностна философия.

Шокиран съм колко добра и актуална е книгата.

С леки изключения тук там напълно съответства с повечето неща и автори (независими един от друг) които съм чел и с цвлият ми опит в живота. Не се сещам за нещо сериозно което знам - от опит с хора или от сериозна книга, което да е в несъгласие с тази книга.

За изкуството.

В книгата се комднтира как изкуството е вид сложнотия, която да покаже, че мъжкото животно щом може да си загуби времето за прави такива безсмислени сложни неща е достстъчно ЛАРДЖ, че да заслужи жднската да има деца от него.


Определено за чистото изкуство е до голяма степен нещо такова.

Но има още нещо което бих добавил..

Искуството като инсентив (стимул). Както сладкото е стимул и съответно, ако нещо е сладко статистически ше го ядеш поврче от нрщо, което не е толкова сладко, така р и изкудтвото и красотата.

Това наскоро го преоткрих и рационализирах (няколко пъти съм го откривал пак, но не го бях рационализирал до сега) това.

Предмет ако е красив, ако е вкарано зиксутво в него това ще стимулира ползването му.

Ако една книга е с красива корица това ще стимулира тя да се купи.. Дори да не се отвори поне да състои добре на рафта.

Ако има хубави рисунки вътре в нея (както е едно списание InGlobo примерно), това шр стимулира поне, ако не чете да се разлисти.

Ако шрифтът е "красив" той ще задържа окото и човек ако попне да чете ше чете бавно и ще се замисля повече върху написантото.

До голяма степен изкуството го виждам като стимул за конкумация на нещо.

Като презумцията е че щим твореца се е занимавал толкова много да окраси нещо - дали ше е книга, или някакъв филм, или нещо което спокойно можеше просто да ср напише в 2 изречения черно бяло.. То това говори, че за твореца това е нешо важно..

Това ме връща към идеята на авторът на пропаганда, че ако някой знае някаква истина за света то то е негов дълг са се постарае тя да стигне ди максимално много хора. И обратното, един инфлуенсър - дали ще е творец, художник, композитор, певец (той е създател на инсентиви - стимули) негов дълг е, ако е добър да създава стимули около някаква истина.

Това което бъркат повечето творци е в това, че те блъскат творчдските инсентиви на красотата на слупаен приницп.. Т. Е. Те нямат философия, нямат цвнности просто рисуват "каквото им е на сърцв и душа", което прави изкустсото им просто наркотик, ксто хероина - нешо хубаво, но безсмислено..
В липен план може би им вдига рейтинга и способността за привлипанр на партньор, но ксто се има предвид, че много от тях са дори гейове, това допълнително обезмисля делото.

От друга страна имаме хора като Соуел. Които са учени, изследователи - търцачи на истината, но които не полагат почти никакви усилия да я опакиват в достъпна форма. Вижте книгите на Томъс Соуел, да супер написани, пълни с факти 100тина страници библиография и аудиокнигите му са с много готини гласове (повечето). Но вижте му кориците... Вижте му заглавията.. Скука.. Еми нормално е да не са известни, докато много по-съмнителни проповедници като Ноам Чомски да са по-известни. Особено като се има предвид, че Ноам Чомски, до колкото предполагам (все още не съм му чел книгите, но фактът, че всички комуняги са му фенове, включае и Хюго Чавес говори доста, но все пак е предположение, а не знание. Като го прочета ще мога да кажа вече МНЕНИЕ ЗА ТЯХ базирано на знание, а не на предположение) не учи на нещо, а само гояори това дето искаме да пуем, особенно пещерните ни мозъци. Но това е друго тема...

С 2 думи тези които мислят че са открили някаква истина вместо да самодоволничат или да задълбават още повече в нея, да търсят ОЩЕ ПОВЕЧЕ НАУКА И КАК ОЩЕ ПО-ПРАВИ СА, вместо да се радикализират с още повече ред пил литература и клипове във ютюб, е по-добре да се заемат с това или да изучат пресуейжън, инфлуенсърстсо, дизайн, изкуство и пр., или да разкажат на някой владеещ тези тъмни дарби истината, да се опитат и успешно да го убедат и да започнат да създават стимули около тази важна истина.

Едно време хората са смятали библият�� за достстъчно важна истина, че да трабва и да се преписва на ръка, и да се окрасява всяка страница от нея, за да првилчива окото белкъм някой я прочете.

Хората не сме мръднали грам като нужди и желания (и реакции на стимули и ограничения) от пещерата насам, вле па от преди 300 години. Тъй че е смешно да се мисли, както може би Соуел си е мислил, че само защото нещо е истина, доказана от купища източници и страници библиография то автоматично ще победи и всички ще го прочетат. Мисля че вече фостатъчното разочарования у Соуел са му показали това.

Че побе��дата не това което е по-истина, а това което е опаковано по-добре.

И че повече истината може да победи по-малко истината само, ако те са в еднакво красиви опаковки...

Тъй че другафи либертарианци и класически либерали И дизайнери и художници от цял свят обединените се! И вдигнете красотата на контента! Само така то ще може да победи марксистките по-малко истини..



Не знам дали го обясних добре, но след като Соуел ме научи да гледам света през призмата на стимули и ограничения, през призмата на знание, под качествен контрол на обратни връзки (от книгите му Basic economics И Knowledge and Decisions) толкова много неща излезнаха от сенките и ми се изясниха..

Но това че ги виждам, и че знам за тях не ми погама супер много за това да не ми повлиават.

И аз продължавам да си харесвам книгите по корицата, да предпочитам красивото пред грозното..

Щот и аз съм човек, а хората СМЕ идиоти! Всички хора, почти през цялото време.
Profile Image for Siv30.
2,297 reviews120 followers
May 9, 2019
חשבתי שהספר הזה יהיה משהו אחד והסתבר שהוא משהו אחר. הספר מעניין, אבל מתבדר לכל מיני כיוונים שלא תמיד יש בינהם קשר ברור ולוגי.
והכי חשוב שהמסקנות של הספר טרוויאליות ולא מתייחסות לנושא האסטרטגי. הם מודים כי חוקרים אחרים שמו לב כבר מזמן שבזמן שאנו מכירים הרבה סיבות בולטות להתנהגות האנושית, בדרך כלל אורבים ברקע מניעים פחות אצילים, שלנו כבני אדם קשה להביט בהם ישירות ובמהלך הספר הם חשפו כמה מן המניעים הנסתרים . עם זאת, הם מודים כי רק גירדו את פני השטח.

התזה של מחברי הספר היא שקיימות התנהגויות אנושיות שמונעות ע"י מניעים רבים ומורכבים. גם התנהגות שנראית חד מימדית מסתברת כהתנהגות מורכבת. המחברים ממשיכים ומציעים כי חלק מהמניעים אינם מודעים וכי בני אדם אינם מודעים למניעים האלה גם אם הם בולטים ומשאירים סימנים שניתן לאתר אותם (כמו פיל שעומד באמצע החדר) ולכן המחברים טוענים שזו אסטרטגיה של המח האנושי.

המח האנושי נועד לפעול באופן אנוכי ואינטרסנטי וכדי לפעול כך, המח האנושי מפעיל את התודעה במחשכים תוך שהוא לא מאפשר לנו להכיר את המניעים המכוערים והלא חברותיים שלנו. לשם כך המח נוקט בהונאה עצמית שכן ככל שאנחנו פחות נכיר את המניעים האמיתיים שלנו, כך נוכל להסתיר אותם טוב יותר מאחרים. ההונאה נועדה בעיקר לשכנע את הזולת ולהציג אותנו באור חיובי כשההתנהגות שלנו היא בעצם שלילית.

הספר מחולק לשני חלקים: בחלק הראשון הם דנים במניעים להסתרה תוך שהם יוצאים מעולם בעלי החיים ועוברים לעולם האנושי. בחלק השני של הספר הם חוקרים מניעים ניסתרים שונים מעולמות שונים. הדוגמאות המעניינות ביותר לדעתי הן הדוגמאות שמתייחסות לעולם הבריאות וצריכת תרופות והדוגמאות שמתייחסות לעולם הלימודים.

סה"כ ספר מעניין אבל לא מה שהוא מתיימר להיות.
Profile Image for Farha Crystal.
45 reviews58 followers
December 16, 2018
We are evolved to be a social animal and we often brag about our intelligence based on cooperation skill from the viewpoint of wide and quick information processing skills than other animals.
The reason is evolved as a medium for connection between groups.

I have seen people who like sharing quotes. I have also seen people who get irritated about seeing people sharing quotes. There is subgroup inside this second group, who puts their reason( as an act of explanation for the former act) into an alternative/alternatives which counters the quote theme. Of course, quotes aren't universal for all time, place, region... and there are so many parameters to consider before putting "label" on things. Again if we put "label" on things, we go blind on the things to uncover... it's like Schrodinger situation to me.

But, there's a grain of "reality from the perspective" in quotes sometimes ... it's not the whole truth(in fact there's nothing as whole truth) or any "perfect words"( the word "perfect" is a delusion but still a communication medium)... It's just that different people understand and interpret it from their own angle. It's just a feature of any language/literature/art. We see things in the way we wanted to see and that's just our side of reason. But, if it's our evolutionary advantage to make allies and find likable social groups, then which is more important to understand others or to express ourselves through speaking?
In reality, there's always a trade-off between these two things. Please don't forget for a moment that we humans are cute hypocritical and political being. ;D

But, still, why do we prefer to be brag/advertise about our own point of view rather listening to others just to understand them?

Why do we laugh? How does the laughter sounds ( chuckles/giggles) produce instantaneously?

Why do we laugh at jokes?

Why do we brag about travel? :D

Why do we brag/advertise our achievements and positive moments?

Why do we brag about not bragging about our things?

Why do we prefer people who show/share instant charity works than people who rather do slow and calculative work on charity behind the screen?

Why do we prefer to show charity more to close psychologically connected people than the far psychologically connected human? :D

haha, the welcome to the dark side of the human brain... the elephant we don't want to see... To tell a good lie, you first have to believe in your own lie... here's come the "Self Deception" ... the major wheel of this book. We deceive ourselves in order to deceive others for group benefit.

Things I liked about this book:

I like the analogy that the sense of me works as a press secretary of the president of the state. Where the consciousness is acting as a press secretary and the whole compound of my brain is acting like a president.

The task of a press secretary is to defend the president from an outside angle. The more loyal the press secretary is to the president, the more she is doing well in her job. It's not an easy job. She always has to fight harsh criticism about the president from the public angle. The interesting point is sometimes she isn't even aware of president's misdeeds( just for a moment think that the president is Frank Underwood :D)but more she is unaware of his acts, the better she is defending him as a loyal employer.

Now, what if the secretary isn't such a loyal employer. What if the secretary doubts/second and third doubts "the doubt" about the president?

It gets more spooky when the press secretary secretly monitor the president's activity, try to analyze and judge him... :D

What if she caught the president at stealing public goods for himself in the banner of party/ group/country?

how is she doing now?

How badly she want her job?

Does she have a reason to continue her job?

If there's a reason then she could manage to find a way to keep her job in Nietzschean perspective :D

Otherwise, quit ....... Please, think about that poor consciousness :)

I liked the chapter about laughter and the charity too. :)

Things I don't like about these books ...

The chapter about the Arts, Politics, and Religion.
Maybe, I was trying/hoping to find more from these topics. Maybe I feel bored because I was already aware of the contents from these topics related coverage.

Anyway, I felt the book worth reading after a long while.

I guess my satisfaction level is between 3.33- 3.45/5.
Profile Image for Gavin.
1,065 reviews305 followers
June 17, 2018

The best synthesis of the study of human nature (cognitive psychology, interactionist sociology, primatology, and economics) I've ever seen. Freud done right ("although the explanations in this book may seem Freudian at times, we follow mainstream cognitive psychology in rejecting most of Freud's methods and many of his conclusions"). It's introductory, laced with illustrative anecdotes but with much deeper scholarship underneath.

The 'elephant in the brain' is our unwitting selfishness. We compete without knowing or admitting it, for we are social animals seeking power or status, and thereby sex.

Modeling the world accurately isn't the be-all and end-all of the human brain. Brains evolved to help our bodies, and ultimately our genes, get along and get ahead in the world—a world that includes not just rocks and squirrels and hurricanes, but also other human beings. And if we spend a significant fraction of our lives interacting with others (which we do), trying to convince them of certain things (which we do), why shouldn't our brains adopt socially useful beliefs as first-class citizens, alongside world-modeling beliefs? Wear a mask long enough and it becomes your face. Play a role long enough and it becomes who you are. Spend enough time pretending something is true and you might as well believe it.

Incidentally, this is why politicians make a great case study for self-deception. The social pressure on their beliefs is enormous. Psychologically, then, politicians don't so much 'lie' as regurgitate their own self-deceptions. Both are ways of misleading others, but self-deceptions are a lot harder to catch and prosecute.

Simler undertook the book in lieu of a PhD, and his work is a welcome modification of Hanson's usual relentlessly lucid style: he is more concrete, chattier, more personable.

Information is sensitive in part because it can threaten our self-image and therefore our social image. So the rest of the brain conspires—whispers—to keep such information from becoming too prominent, especially in consciousness. In this sense, the Freuds were right: the conscious ego needs to be protected. But not because we are fragile, but rather to keep damaging information from leaking out of our brain and into the minds of our associates.

You can probably skip this if you're familiar with Overcoming Bias / LessWrong / Econlog - but even then it's a pleasant read. I'm going to give this to every teenager I know. Armour and key.
83 reviews78 followers
February 2, 2019
I liked this book within a few moments of starting it. Either I have really good taste, or the authors of this book have such a deep understanding of my hidden motives that they effectively manipulated me into thoroughly enjoying their book from the very start to the very end, which would also mean I have great taste.

That, of course, is the main purpose of this review: to tell you that I have great taste in books and that I am capable of understanding them. Also, that I can demonstrate these facts in a witty review, under the guise of 'sharing information with others' and 'keeping my gigantic catalog of books organized'. I hope it worked.

But just because this is a social signal does not mean you can't benefit from it. Despite the fact that I have mostly selfish reasons for saying it, you should still listen to me when I tell you that you should read this book. It is a short, enjoyable read that starts with an explanation of their thesis and then fractures into a series of chapters where they plug said thesis into different categories like art, sex, religion, and perhaps my favorite topic, which was laughter.

It's really well done. Just like this brilliant review that absolutely proves you should either mate with me or be my ally. Thank you for your time.
Profile Image for Abhishek.
5 reviews9 followers
March 23, 2019
By far one of the most (almost depressingly) influential books I've read in a while. Operates at an extreme density of insights / reality-check moments on a spectrum of topics from everyday life -- art, charity, politics, education, religion, medicine, etc.

Chapters follow a simple framework -- begin with observations of usual human activities (going to school / voting in elections / taking medicines, etc.), then describe why people think they do what they do (to get educated / to elect effective leaders / to keep healthy, etc.), then point out obvious loopholes in how activities don't align with stated goals, and finally propose an alternative causal hidden motive that explains behavior better than the publicly stated one.

In general, I found myself not always agreeing with the described hidden motives, and almost always agreeing with the lack of alignment between stated motives and behavior. But irrespective of whether you agree / disagree, like / hate what's said, it does help build an accurate world model.
Profile Image for Hatim Qa.
168 reviews21 followers
March 15, 2019
This books, as it's clear from the title, explores a lot of the psychology behind a lot of the decisions we take in our lives that we might not be willing to admit. How one might say that he wants to be a doctor because he wants to help people but he actually wants the prestige and the high pay that comes with being a doctor (not that there's anything wrong with it). How we claim that religion is making us better people when, for a lot of people, religion is something that we practice because the communities we live in might reject us.
The two authors argue that being selfish isn't something that we should be ashamed of. It is okay to admit that you do things to feel good about yourself and talk about it with your social circle in order to even feel better. They present ideas that may not be new but they discuss them from an interesting perspective.
It's a hit or miss but I highly recommend it 👍🏽
في تعبير باللغة الانجليزية معناه (خلينا نتكلم عن الفيل الي بالغرفة) ويتم إستخدامه عند الرغبة في الحديث عن مشكلة/قضية يعرف كل الموجودين في الغرفة بوجودها لكنهم يتجاهلونها. هذا الكتاب يتخذ من هذه العبارة عنوانا له وبتغيير بسيط
الكتابين يناقشوا أفكار مختلفة في العقل البشري وكيف أن هناك دوافع خفية تدفعنا للقيام بالأعمال المختلفة التي نقوم بها يومياً ممكن إن الواحد فينا يخجل من أنه يعترف بوجودها في عقله.
كيف إن الطبيب يقول بأنه يبغى يكون طبيب لأنه يبغى يساعد الناس وإن الراتب والمكانة العالية في المجتمع مالها علاقة (نوت ذات إنيثنج إز رونج وذ ذات *بصوت ساينفيلد*)، وكيف إن ناس كثيرة تمارس واجباتها الدينية لأنها خايفة من إن المجتمع وما بقناعة نفسية منها.. وامثلة كثيرة ثانية
الزبدة إن ترا عادي تتبرع بمبلغ علشان تحس إنك إنسان طيب، ولو بتتكلم عنه مع ربعك والناس المحيطة بك ما بالضرورة بتكون إنسان يسوي ذا الشيء علشان يجذب إهتمام الناس لأنك ما تقدر تدخل في نوايا الناس، كونك تضحك على نكتة تتخطى حدود حمراء لناس كثيرين ما معناها إنك شخص سيء.. يمكن، مو رأيك نته؟ 😂
أحس ما الكثيرين يتقبلوه لكني إستمتعت به بصراحة، أنصح به
Profile Image for Siddarth Gore.
241 reviews17 followers
August 8, 2018
For a nonbiological example, consider the difference between blue jeans and dress pants. Jeans are durable and don’t need to be washed every day, whereas dress pants demand a bit more in terms of upkeep—which is precisely why they’re considered more formal attire.

This is without a doubt 5 stars. It gives you an arsenal of things that you can use to judge people. You will find that in every conversation there are people who are adding their voice not to take the conversation forward but to let others know that they are smart and capable. Unknowingly, of course.

It’s crass to quote one’s IQ or salary, but if those numbers are worth bragging about, we typically find a way to let our peers know—perhaps by using big, show-offy words or by buying conspicuous luxuries. We name-drop and #humblebrag. We show off our bodies by wearing flattering clothes. Or we let others boast on our behalves, as when we’re being introduced as speakers.

The problem is, most times that someone is us.

Ultimately all our social interactions boil down to sex and status. Don't believe it? Of course you don't. As they say, it is hard to make someone understand something if their lives depend on not understanding it.

But understanding something and putting it in practice are two entirely difference things. Especially when the learnings go so against our nature. I am setting an alarm to get back to this book once every month. Let us see how that goes...

"You are not the king of your brain", says Steven Kaas. "You are the creepy guy standing next to the king going, A most judicious choice, sire."

[Even this review is an attempt to brag. To tell you that I read fancy intellectual stuff. Thankfully the book tells us that it is OK (even advantageous) to do such things. But it is even better if you manage to understand your real hidden motives once in a while.]
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