The Elephant in the Brain: Hidden Motives in Everyday Life

· Oxford University Press
4.5
4 reviews
Ebook
288
Pages
Eligible

About this ebook

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.

Ratings and reviews

4.5
4 reviews
Pearl Bipin
December 4, 2023
I learnt many interesting things from this book. I learnt about some of the elephants in the brain, like buying expensive medicines to show how much we care for elders, giving money to charity not for the sake of helping the poor but for the prestige of being a philanthropist. Finally I learnt about the elephant in the book, which is Kevin Simler and Robin Hanson publishing the book through a prestigious publisher to gain more popularity instead of just self publishing it and giving it for free. But I will say that I did not mind paying for the book, the price is justified because the book provides you with invaluable insights.
Did you find this helpful?
Dean Pickett
June 22, 2018
This book has a lot of really good consideration into typical human behavior. Regardless of how much one agrees with this material, it is an excellent opportunity to take a closer look at oneself.
Did you find this helpful?

About the author

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. Robin Hanson is an associate professor of economics at George Mason University and a research associate at the Future of Humanity Institute of Oxford University. He has a doctorate in social science, master's degrees in physics and philosophy, and nine years of experience as a research programmer in artificial intelligence and Bayesian statistics. With over 3100 citations and sixty academic publications, he's recognized not only for his contributions to economics (especially, pioneering the theory and use of prediction markets), but also for the wide range of fields in which he's been published. He is the author of The Age of Em: Work, Love, and Life when Robots Rule the Earth (OUP 2016).

Rate this ebook

Tell us what you think.

Reading information

Smartphones and tablets
Install the Google Play Books app for Android and iPad/iPhone. It syncs automatically with your account and allows you to read online or offline wherever you are.
Laptops and computers
You can listen to audiobooks purchased on Google Play using your computer's web browser.
eReaders and other devices
To read on e-ink devices like Kobo eReaders, you'll need to download a file and transfer it to your device. Follow the detailed Help Center instructions to transfer the files to supported eReaders.