The main idea here is that standard IQ testing does not provide effective measurement of human intellectual abilities because it is missing measure of rationality, the feature that is much more important in effective decision making than ability to quickly solve simple problems or have high ability for patterns recognition. The bulk of book is dedicated to review and analysis of Dysrationalia – a condition when high IQ people fail to make rational decisions. At the end a number of ideas of how to improve levels of rationality in decision-making is discussed.
ONE: Inside George W. Bush’s Mind: Hints at What lQ Tests Miss
The chapter starts with question how come that George Bush generally considered intellectually inferior had quite high IQ score and successfully graduated from the top educational establishments. The answer, author comes up with, is that tests measure only highly formalized intellectual abilities, while missing not only emotional and other types of intelligence, but most important intelligence as ability to think rationally. Author suggests name for this problem: Dysrationalia and insist that it is a form of mental deficiency that Bush is suffering from.
Two: Dysrationalia: Separating Rationality and Intelligence
Here author is trying defining and separating Rationality and Intelligence using multiple examples of each feature in action. In process he proposes a curious definition of what exactly IQ tests measure and calling it MAMBIT (Mental Abilities Measured by Intelligence Tests), claiming that it has nothing to do with rationality. After that he looks at Dysrationalia as an Intuition Pump.
THREE: The Reflective Mind, the Algorithmic Mind, and the Autonomous Mind
Here author claims that all major issues related to intelligence were answered at least in the first approximation and discussion moved on to detailed examination of two types of intellectual processing: Type 1 – fast unconscious processing that includes huge majority of all activities conducted in parallel by multiple subsystems of the brain and nervous system and Type 2 – slow moving conscious serial processing at much more abstract level capable override results of Type 1 processing if needed. He provides a model of Dual-Process that he then encapsulates into tripartite framework of various minds:
At the end of chapter he introduces notion of Mindware, which is analogous to software used for processing by each type of mind:
FOUR: Cutting Intelligence Down to Size
This is an attempt to devalue typical American attitude to overestimate value of Intelligence as defined by MAMBIT and use it for selection of people for positions of influence. Author believes that it is incorrect attitude and it is very important to separate and treat correspondingly in different ways MAMBIT intelligence and rationality.
FIVE: Why Intelligent People Doing Foolish Things Is No Surprise
At the beginning of chapter author provides a number of examples when seemingly smart and educated people make stupid mistakes and lose money in stock market. As explanation he introduces idea of humans being a cognitive misers, when needs for cognitive processing required to cope with live exceed cognitive abilities of human brain forcing humans to look for short cuts in cognition, sacrificing quality of cognition in process. This loss of quality expresses itself in widely spread Dysrationalia. The intellectual tools of rational cognition: probabilistic thinking, scientific reasoning, and logic consume too many cognitive resources and therefore had to be used sparingly and applied only in limited area of professional and personal activities where the outcome is critical, while all other areas could be left to believes acquired through cultural socialization regardless of validity and rationality of these believes.
SIX: The Cognitive Miser: Ways to Avoid Thinking
This chapter concentrates on methods of simplification of thinking processes such as:
- Attribute Substitution
- Vividness, Salience, and Accessibility
- Heuristic processing
- Cognitive shortcuts such as anchoring
- Status Quo Bias
At the end author discusses environment, which could be hostile or benign for use of Heuristics.
SEVEN: Framing and the Cognitive Miser
This is a detailed view at one of the most important deficiency of cognitive miser: susceptibility to Framing Effects. A very interesting finding is that it generally the same for highly intelligent and educated individuals and for not that intelligent. However when people told that there is need to pay serious attention, intelligent individuals are quite capable to overcome Framing Effects.
EIGHT: Myside Processing: Heads I Win-Tails I Win Too
This is about a special case of permanent Framing when belonging to a group or holding specific view that frames all analysis. In short whatever side of any controversy individual belongs to, is treated differently than other side. Author calls it Myside Processing and looks at some specific examples.
NINE: A Different Pitfall of the Cognitive Miser: Thinking a Lot, but Losing
This is about complexities of logical rational thinking caused by human’s difficulties with Boolean problems, but also tendency to ignore this logic due to interference from emotional side of the brain.
TEN: Mindware Gaps
This is about Mindware (rules, knowledge, and strategies) bugs and how they can cause problems. Author considers such human traits as inability consistently use probabilistic methods, incomprehension and failure to use Bayes theorem for conditional probabilities, failure to analyze alternative hypotheses, and inability to use effectively falsifiability criteria as bugs that cause multiple failure to evaluate environment rationally, leading in extreme cases to Dysrationalia.
ELEVEN: Contaminated Mindware
This is somewhat extension of previous chapter on Mindware, discussing fallacy that tend to be widely distributed in population via contamination when individuals transfer memes between themselves. As example author discusses collapse of Albania economy due to epidemics of pyramid schemes. This form of malfunction is especially popular among individuals with high IQ who often susceptible to contamination due to their striving to be “in” on whatever new and popular Mindware is expanding.
TWELVE: How Many Ways Can Thinking Go Wrong? Taxonomy of Irrational Thinking Tendencies and Their Relation to Intelligence
Here author discusses various characteristics of thinking failures and provides a couple of nice diagrams for their taxonomy:
THIRTEEN: The Social Benefits of Increasing Human Rationality–and Meliorating Irrationality
In the last chapter author comes up not only with notion that Dysrationalia is if not completely curable, but at least could be at least somewhat remediated. Obviously education and training in use of statistical methods would help. Also some environmental modifications could push people to more effective behavior, example – smaller portions of food as substitute of dieting. He also mentions “Nudge” methods calling them “libertarian paternalism” and invoking standard success story with 401K defaults for retirement. Finally author discusses needs to modify society’s selection mechanism to assure higher levels rationality of decision makers.
MY TAKE ON IT:
This is another approach to discoveries of behavioral economics. It concentrates on division between algorithmic and reflective methods of problem solving. I find this approach interesting because it is not only proposes more reasonable model of interactions between unconscious (autonomous) minds using override mechanism. I like this approach, but I think that ideas of Dysrationalia and Humans as Cognitive Misers are counterproductive. Author makes assumption that there is some objective rational way to behave in all circumstances and formal knowledge such as statistical methods could lead to consistently effective decision-making. It is a typical for academicians who tend to forget that their experience most often obtained in oversimplified environment and as such is not really applicable to complex real live situations. Rather than typical and somewhat boring ideas of how help regular people to overcome their irrationality I would like to see a serious attempt to understand how human irrationality or Dysrationalia in author’s parlance provide for evolutionary advantage for individual not only in historical hunter gatherers society, but also in contemporary society that we live in. After all George Bush extensively used in this book as nearly perfect example of Dysrationalia managed to achieve the very top of our society getting himself elected president in environment of high popularity of outgoing Democratic president, good economy, and peaceful time, which was not a trivial achievement.
The main idea of this book, which is quite well supported by research and experimentation, is that our relation to reality is quite tenuous. Our actions are defined not only and even not mainly by our conscious selves, but by the combination of unconscious, subliminal activities of our brain with consciousness being a secondary sense making device at best. The supporting discussion demonstrates our lack of understanding of our own actions, reconstructive rather than reproductive nature of our memories, our unconscious use of stereotyping, in-group vs. out-group allocations, and regular prompting of our actions by emotions that result from unconscious processing of environmental signals. The inference from all this understanding is that to achieve good result we should consciously take unto consideration supremacy of our unconscious self and adjust our actions so they would be more based on scientific, rather than lawyerly approach to reality.
PART I THE TWO-TIERED BRAIN
1 The New Unconscious: The hidden role of our subliminal selves … what it means when you don’t call gout mother
This is about difficulty for external observer to differentiate between conscious and unconscious actions. Typically humans inclined to assigned conscious motivation to just about any actions even if they done by animals. The latest achievement of science allows for a direct observation of brain activities leading to the new understanding of unconscious based on measurements. It also includes statistical measurements. Author provides example of unconscious behavior when people select spouse with the same surname out of proportion with statistical predictions. Additional examples are perceived quality of wine depending on stated price, stock market price movements depending on ease of company name pronunciation.
2 Senses Plus Mind Equals Reality: The two-tier system of the brain … how you can see something without knowing it
This is about discovered scientific reality that everything we perceive is not actual simple fact, but rather construct of our brain based on unconscious processing of bits and pieces of information collected by our senses in somewhat haphazard way. It provides nice examples of just such processing for vision. It also contains a simple exercise allowing observing one’s own blind spot.
3 Remembering and Forgetting: How the brain builds memories … why we sometimes remember what never happened
This is an application of similar findings to human memories, which turned out to be not a stable imprint of fact, but rather continuously reconstructed presentation of traces of initial activation of neural network easily influenced by follow up input all the way to changing initial memory to something different. The chapter also discusses an unusual case of Solomon Shereshevsky who remembered every detail of everything he ever sow, leading to difficulties with recognition of people and place because nothing stay the same in all details over time. There is also description of substitution experiments when one person is substituted by another during brief interruption in interaction that majority of people fail to notice.
4 The Importance of Being Social: The fundamental role of human social character … why Tylenol can mend a broken heart
This is about vital need to be connected with other people in order to survive all kinds of challenges not only physical, but also psychological. It includes discussion on use of fMRI in analysis of social behavior.
PART II THE SOCIAL UNCONSCIOUS
5 Reading People: How we communicate without speaking … how to know who’s the boss by watching her eyes
This chapter about non-verbal communication, interestingly enough starts with the story of intelligent horse that could do math and such. Eventually it was proved that horse just picked up non-verbal signal from people to do its tricks. Author reviews application of similar technics in communications between people often at subliminal level.
6 Judging People by Their Covers: What we read into looks, voice, and touch … how to win voters, attract a date, or beguile a female cowbird
This chapter expands discussion of non-verbal communications beyond information transfer to image creation when people use their exterior, sound signals, and touch to establish connection that allows obtain benefits from other people’s reaction to this image either in form of bigger tip, or election vote, or purchase of goods and services. The great experiment related to it had demonstrated that people are able to identify with about 60% probability the winner of election by look at his/her picture without any knowledge about candidate.
7 Sorting People and Things: Why we categorize things and stereotype people … what Lincoln, Gandhi, and Che Guevara had in common
This is a great look at human ability to extracting meaning from multitude of signals by categorizing people, materials, and events by using stereotypes, classifications, and prejudices. All this is a great help at the initial encounters, but is consistently loosing its value with accumulation of more information about specific object or person under consideration.
8 In-Groups and Out-Groups: The dynamics of us and them … the science behind Lord of the Flies
This chapter is about human natural inclination to form groups and immediately allocate positive characteristics to in-group and negative to out-group members. Whether they are randomly selected boys with practically identical background divided into two teams or sophisticated adult members of some profession, the result is always similar: “us against them” and readiness to do anything bar nothing to promote in-group and suppress out-group.
9 Feelings: The nature of emotions … why the prospect of falling hundreds of feet onto large boulders has the same effect as t flirtatious smile and a black silk nightgown
This chapter starts with discussion of a case of multiple personality when the person had completely different emotional profiles for each of personalities. The discussion goes into the link between physical arousal and emotion demonstrating via experiment that such link is quite strong even if people do not understand the reason. In short, emotions are often driven by unrecognizable conditions of the body with conscious analysis following far behind and mainly used for justification of action, rather than its cause.
10 Self: How our ego defends its honor … why schedules are overly optimistic and failed CEOs feel they deserve golden parachutes
This is about building a positive self-image from whatever material one has at hands. Obviously it is done with great application of self-justification, self-pity, adjusting of facts to narratives and other similar staff. Author refers to idea that we have two approaches to the truth: one is scientific based on fact and experiment and another lawyerly based on assumption of the truth and careful selection of facts to support this assumption. Our brain normally uses lawyerly approach as default. Author also provides dual view pictures when person can see one or another vision and expands it to the whole lot of live situation stating that our perception of the fact is highly dependent on predisposition for or against this fact.
MY TAKE ON IT:
This book is one of many based on technological breakthrough of fMRI and such, that allowed seeing what parts of brain are activated in different experimental situations created specifically to test various abilities of the brain. After all this information it is hard or even impossible to deny that our own conscious self is just a thin layer of self-awareness on the top of huge self-unawareness. As far as I am concern, it is not just something that is nice to know, but it is also a great explanatory tool useful not only for understanding of what happened in my live for previous decades, but also for planning and acting in the future. In short, from the point of view of information system, the self is a way more complicated contraption than it looks and, therefore, the simple command and control system would not work effectively even at the level of one individual.
Evolution equipped humans as well as many other animals with ability to conduct deception and self-deception activities in such way that these distortions of reality actually become highly effective tool in struggle for survival. It allows getting somebody for a dinner and/or avoiding becoming the dinner for somebody in the wild. It also allows smoothing human relations within family, while obtaining success in mating and winning competition for resources against other groups and individuals. It also plays not a small part in achieving group cohesiveness. From author experience with social sciences establishment in US, it is clear that it is not a small help in obtaining grants, tenure, and other basic needs of professorial existence.
CHAFFER 1 – The Evolutionary Logic of Self-Deception: THE EVOLUTION OF SELF-DECEPTION; DECEPTION IS EVERYWHERE; WHAT IS SELF-DECEPTION? DETECTING DECEPTION IN HUMANS VIA COGNIITVE LOAD; SELF-DECEFFION IS OLDER THAN LANGUAGE; NINE CATEGORIES OF SELF-DECEFFION; THE HALLMARKS OF SELF-DECEPTION
Here author establishes the need and main logic of self-deception: the need comes from the fact that we do not perceive reality directly, but rather build it into some coherent picture inside of our brain by using bits and pieces of information collected by our senses greatly supplemented by previous experiences, general views and believes. So in order to use perceived reality effectively we need to believe that it is the same as actual reality, which is impossible without self-deception. Another role of self-deception is to be a tool for effective deception of other, which is difficult to do if one does not believe own lies. This is connected to idea of cognitive overload. If one believes what he says he does not have to remember multiple versions of this and, even more difficult, remember which version activate in various circumstances. Author discusses 9 categories of self-deception and traces its evolutionary roots.
CHAFFER 2 – Deception in Nature: THE COEVOLUTIONARY STRUGGLE BETWEEN DECEIVER AND DECEIVED; FREQUENCY-DEPENDENT SELECFION IN BUTTTERFLIES; AN EPIC COEVOLUTIONARY STRUGGLE; INTEIIIGENCE AND DECEPTION; FEMALE MIMICS; FALSE ALARM CALLS; CAMOUFLAGE; DEATH AND NEAR-DEATH ACTS; RANDOMNESS AS A STRATEGY; DECEPTION MAY INDUCE ANGER; ANIMALS MAY BE CONSCIOUS OF DECEPTION; DECEPTION AS AN EVOLUTIONARY GAME; A DEEPER THEORY OF DECEPTION
Here author discusses use of deception in nature providing some vivid examples from the world of wild animals and other living things. He also discusses deception as part of co-evolutionary struggles between multiple species.
CHAPTER 3 – Neurophysiology and Levels of Imposed Self-Deception: THE NEUROPHYSIOLOGY OF CONSCIOUS KNOWLEDGE; THE NEUROPHYSIOLOGY OF THOUGHT SUPPRESSION; THE IRONY OF TRYING TO SUPPRESS ONE’S THOUGHTS; IMPROVING DECEPTION THROUGH NEURAL INHIBITION; UNCONSCIOUS SELF-RECOGNITION SHOWS SELF-DECEPTION; CAN ONE HALF OF THE BRAIN HIDE FROM THE OTHER? IMPOSED SELF-DECEPTION; IMPLICIT VERSUS EXPLICIT SELF-ESTEEM; FALSE CONFESSIONS, TORTURE, AND FLATTERY; FALSE MEMORIES OF CHILD ABUSE;
IS SELF-DECEPTION THE PSYCHE’S IMMUNE SYSTEM? THE PLACEBO EFFECT
In this chapter author looks at contemporary technology that allowed analyzing activities of different parts of brain during process of thinking. Result was the mapping of brain to specific activities and processes including various forms of deception. Another interesting point here is the role of deception in interaction between conscious and unconscious parts of the brain. Author analyzes role of self-deception in building of self-esteem, use of flattery, false memories, placebo effect, and other similar phenomenon. One important idea here is that self-deception is used as psyche immune system, hiding harsh reality from conscious mind.
CHAFFER 4 – Self-Deception in the Family–and the Split Self: PARENT/OFFSPRING CONFLICT; CASES OF EXTREME ABUSE; GENOMIC IMPRINTING; INTERNAL CONFLICT FROM OPPOSITELY IMPRINTED GENES; PARENTAL MANIPULATION AND IMPRINTING; THE EFFECT OF MARITAL CONFLICT ON GENETIC CONFLICT; IMPRITING AND SELF-DECEPTION; DECEPTION IN CHILDREN; PARENTAL EFFECTS ON CHILDREN’S DECEPTION
This chapter is about deception between parents and children and its role in assuring evolutionary fitness of the species. Humans need a long-term care provided to them by adults in order to achieve such level of maturity when they could survive, which creates necessity of maintaining complex relationships. The deception and self-deception are tools that are necessary to maintain this relationship. Moreover each individual actually split into multiple selves with sometimes-conflicting interests for example conflict between survival of self and survival of children in circumstances of extreme resource limitations.
CHAFFER 5 – Deceit, Self-Deception, and Sex: WHY SEX? TWO SEXES–TWO COEVOLVING SPECIES; DECEPTION AND SELF-DECEPTION AT COURTSHIP WHOSE BABY IS IT? MALE RESPONSE TO FEMALE INFIDELITY; DECEIT AND A WOMAN’S MONTHLY CYCLE; MEN’S SELF-DECEIT ABOUT FEMALE INTEREST; MALE DENIAL OF HOMOSEXUAL TENDENCIES; IS SELF-DECEPTION GOOD OR BAD FOR MARRIAGE? THE APPEAL AND DANGER OF FANTASY; THE PAIN OF BETRAYAL
This is about role of deception and self-deception in sexual relationships including infidelity and betrayal. One very interesting point is that human routinely rewrite they own history and it could be used as predictor for the future of marriage. Those who use negative rewriting would not stay together in the future.
CHAFFER 6 – The Immunology of Self-Deception: THE IMMUNE SYSTEM IS EXPENSIVE; THE IMPORTANCE OF SLEEP; TRADE-OFFS WITH IMMUNITY; WRITING ABOUT TRAUMA IMPROVES IMMUNE FUNCTION; HOMOSEXUALITY AND THE EFFECTS OF DENIAL; POSITIVE AFFECT AND IMMUNE FUNCTION; THE EFFECTS OF MUSIC; POSITIVITY IN OLD AGE; AN IMMUNOLOGICAL THEORY OF HAPPINESS
This is another approach to self-deception as immunity mechanism protecting individuals against psychological stress. Author looks at comparison with regular immune system in terms of energy consumption, at the sleep as the part of immunological process, and the general lifestyle circumstances as easer protecting psyche such as marriage, or undermining it such as drags. He also discusses competition for resources between biological and psychological immune systems, technics of overcoming effects of stress such as writing and music, positivity of the old age, and finally presents immunological theory of happiness.
CHAFFER 7 – The Psychology of Self-Deception: AVOIDING SOME INFORMATION AND SEEKING OUT OTHER; BIASED ENCODING AND INTERPRETATION OF INFORMATION; BIASED MEMORY; RATIONALIZATION AND BIASED REPORTING; PREDICTING FUTURE FEELINGS; ARE ALL BIASES DUE TO SELF-DECEPTION? DENIAL AND PROJECTION; DENIAL IS SELF-REINFORCING; YOU’R AGGRESSION, MY SELF-DEFENSE; COGNITIVE DISSONANCE AND SELF-JUSTIFICATION; SOCIAL EFFECTS OF COGNITIVE DISSONANCE REDUCTION; COGNITIVE DISSONANCE IN MONKEYS AND YOUNG CHILDREN
This chapter is review of specific technics of self-deception, which basically comes down to various forms of information manipulation starting from selectivity of attention and memorization of inputs and all the way through rationalization of inconvenient facts. All this is often done with a specific purpose to decrease or even eliminate cognitive dissonance.
CHAFFER 8 – Self-Deception in Everyday Life: SEX DIFFERENCES IN OVERCONFIDENCE; METAPHORS IN THE STOCK MARKET; MANIPULATIVE METAPHORS IN LIFE; THE NAME-LETTER EFFECT; DECEIVING DOWN AND DUMMYING UP; FACEISM; SPAM AGAINST ANTI-SPAM; HUMOR, LAUGHTER, AND SELF-DECEPTION; DRUGS AND SELF-DECEPTION; VULNERABILITY TO MANIPULATION BY OTHERS; PROFESSIONAL CON ARTISTS; LIE-DETECTOR TESTS
This chapter looks at trivial use of self-deception in regular life starting with specifics of its use by opposite sexes, its use in professions with high levels of unpredictability, and various technics of verbal and visual shortcuts used to deceive oneself into believe of better understanding of the environment than is warranted by reality. Author also touches on secrets of con artists success and lie detector technology.
CHAPTER 9 – Self-Deception in Aviation and Space Disasters: AIR FLORIDA FLIGHT 90–DOOMED BY SELF-DECEPTION? DISASTER 37000 FEET ABOVE THE AMAZON; ELDAR TAKES COMMAND – AEROFLOT FLIGHT 593; SIMPLE PILOT ERROR–OR PILOT FATIGUE? ICE OVERPOWERS THE PILOTS; AIRLINES OVERPOWER THE FAA; THE US APPROACH TO SAFETY HELPS CAUSE 9/11; THE CHALLENGER DISASTER; THE COLUMBIA DISASTER; EGYPT AND EGYPTAIR DENY ALL; SAVED BY LACK OF SELF-DECEPTION?
This is somewhat curious application of author’s ideas to analysis of air disasters.
CHAPTER 10 – False Historical Narratives: THE US FALSE HISTORICAL NARRATIVE; CONTROL THROUGH SMALL WARS AND INSTALLED PROXIES; US HISTORY TEXTBOOKS; LARGER VIEW OF US HISTORY; THE REWRITING OF JAPANESE HISTORY; TURKEY’S HOLOCAUST DENIAL; A LAND WITHOUT PEOPLE FOR A PEOPLE WITHOUT LAND THE FOUNDING OF THE STATE OF ISRAEL; VOLUNTARY FLIGHT OR ETHNIC CLEANSING? ARAB DECEIT AND SELF-DECEPTION; CHRISTIAN ZIONISM; WHY FALSE HISTORICAL NARRATIVES?
This is demonstration of author’s great vulnerability to self-deception when he critics various historical evens firmly standing on his anti-American, anti-Western, and anti-Semitic political views typical for western academia formed to the high degree by communist propaganda of 1950s and 60s.
CHAFFER 11 – Self-Deception and War: CHIMPANZEE RAIDING -> HUMAN WARFARE; SELF-DECEPTION ENCOURAGES WARFARE; DEROGATION OF OTHERS -> FATAL OVERCONFIDENCE; THE 2003 US WAR ON IRAQ; CREATING KNOWLEDGE AND THEN WALLING IT OFF; CAN WARS BE WON THROUGH BOMBING? BOMBING TO ERADICATE HISTORY AND TO REINFORCE IT; CARNAGE IN GAZA; SELF-DECEPTION AND THE HISTORY OF WAR
This is continuation of the same only applied to wars. Probably the only interesting point here is that author claims impossibility of winning war from the air simultaneously pointing to exception of victory over Japan, which actually was achieved from the air. Somehow despite clearly recognizing this case author manages self-deceive himself into ignoring fact that experience demonstrate that only limited war with use of power severely restricted by “humanitarian” considerations failed and ignoring fact that war with one overriding consideration to achieve victory did not fail to deliver victory via exclusive use of airpower.
CHAPTER 12 – Religion and Self-Deception: COOPERATION WITHIN THE GROUP; RELIGION: A RECIPE FOR SELF-DECEPTION; RELIGION AND HEALTH; PARASITES AND RELIGIOUS DIVERSITY; WHY THE BIAS AGAINST WOMEN? POWER CORRUPTS; RELIGIONS IMPOSE MATING SYSTEMS; RELIGION PREACHES AGAINST SELF-DECEPTION; INTERCESSORY PRAYER – DOES IT WORK? RELIGION AND SUPPORT FOR SUICIDE ATTACKS; RELIGION -> SELF-RIGHTEOUSNESS -> WARFARE
This part also has deep imprint of author religious views, which in this case is atheism, but it makes a lot more sense because his thesis of religion as self-deception use to increase group benefits seems to have a good factual foundation in history of all religious of all peoples including notorious cases of atheistic totalitarian states like Soviet Union and Nazi Germany.
CHAPTER 13 – Self-Deception and the Structure of the Social Sciences: PRECEDENCE OF JUSTICE OVER TRUTH? SUCCESS OF SCIENCE IS BASED ON ANTI-SELF-DECEPTION DEVICES; THE MORE SOCIAL THE DISCIPLINE, THE MORE RETARDED ITS DEVELOPMENT; SELF-DECEPTION IN BIOLOGY; IS ECONOMICS A SCIENCE? CULTURAL ANTHROPOLOGY; PSYCHOLOGY; PSYCHOANALYSIS: SELF-DECEPTION IN THE STUDY OF SELF-DECEPT; SELF-DECEPTION DEFORMS DISCIPLINES
This is a charming look at area author’s expertise: social non-sciences such as economics, cultural anthropology, psychology, and even some PC that drive many approaches in biology.
CHAPTER 14 – Find Self-Deception in Our Own Lives: TO FIGHT ONE’S OWN SELF-DECEPTION OR NOT? A SERIES OF MINOR VICTORIES FOLLOWED BY A MAJOR DISASTER; SIGNALS OF UNDERLYING MENTAL SCREW-UPS; CORRECTING FOR OUR OWN BIASES; WHY ARE WE SO COMPULSIVE? THE VALUE OF BEING CONSCIOUS; THE DANGER OF FANTASY IN PROPAGATING DECEPTION; THE BENEFITS OF PRAYER AND MEDITATION; VALUE OF FRIENDS AND COUNSELORS; AN INVITATION TO SELF-DECEPTION AND PERSONAL DISASTER; A NEVER-ENDING EXTRAVAGANZA
In this final chapter author analyses his own live, various uses of self-deception and his struggle to discover and remove them. He also provides somewhat philosophical deliberation of whether one should fight self-deception and on value of being conscious. His final world is that deception and self-deception turns world into never ending extravaganza, which is fun to watch.
MY TAKE ON IT:
I view self-deception and deception in the same light as author as necessary tools of survival and procreation developed within process of evolution. Even now when we are pretty much overcame evolutionary pressures by obtaining reliable supplies of all necessities, it still plays a huge role in getting amounts of resources beyond necessities. In short one can obtain welfare check with little to none deception and self-deception, but university tenure, rich grants, and other perks could be achieved only by masters of this art. One thing that left me somewhat irritated is author’s blatant anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism, but this is something that should be expected from dedicated leftist close to black panthers, so it does not diminish logic and information provided in regard to subject matter in meaningful chapters, and actually provide a nice example of self-deception in political chapters.
There are huge numbers of similarities between human and animal behavior that developed from evolutionary history that all living creatures went through. There is nothing that would drastically differentiate humans from other animals that would not be explained by analysis of our evolutionary development as primate, despite our achieving higher levels of self-awareness, communication, cooperation, and organization. This does not make humans any less valuable and unique, their lives are still worth living, and their happiness still worth to pursue, even if there is nothing supernatural in humans, their bodies, minds, and behavior.
People interact with other people to specific patterns and rules of game. Author’s extensive experience with primates allowed to look at similar patterns and rules used by our close biological relatives and demonstrate that these pattern and rules are not really that different between chimps and us.
Chapter 1: Dilemmas in the Elevator
This chapter starts with description of typical human behavior in elevator, which is closed space with other humans. Author traces this behavior to our evolutionary history when encounter with stranger of our species in close space is most often a dangerous situation that calls for establishment of dominance hierarchy either through fight or negotiation. Author provides a charming description of monkeys’ behavior in experiments designed to imitate this situation.
Chapter 2: The Obsession with Dominance
This is detailed and quite interesting analysis of dominance discovery process and how different animals, including human, do it. Very interesting is the discussion about change in chemistry of organism depending on the place in dominance hierarchy. In short dominant animals are healthier and happier than subordinates whether the environment is colony of chimps or some governmental bureaucracy.
Chapter 3: We Are All Mafiosi
This chapter describes author’s own experience of human dominance games obtained initially in his country of origin Italy’s military, then in its academia, and eventually in USA academia. All these environments are more or less saturated with nepotism and group survival networks with Italy definitely more and USA less saturated, albeit American academia is catching up. Examples of similar behavior and patterns from lives of non-human animals provided with discussion of their evolutionary meaning.
Chapter 4: Climbing the Ladder
This chapter moves from discussing support that individual get from his group, either nepotism of any other reason for support, to individual’s attempt of making it by own effort and luck. To demonstrate how it is achieved or failed author looks at 3 stories of human career:
- A compliant individual slowly moving along career path with very small achievement.
- Slash and burn revolutionary who prematurely rebel against superiors resulting in defeat.
- Smart Machiavellian strategist capable achieving big career breakthrough via manipulation, deception, and other time tested methods of bureaucratic advancement.
Consequently author reviews quite similar actions in the world of chimps, demonstrating quite convincingly how close are chimp’s world and human bureaucratic hierarchies.
Chapter 5: Cooperate in the Spotlight, Compete in the Dark
This chapter is about transparency or more precise about human and chimp ability to take into account other individuals and adjust own action in such way that would generate positive and beneficial image in their eyes. Some interesting experiments demonstrate that this feature is so deep seated in sub-consciousness that even such simple things as poster with human eyes watching has noticeable impact on behavior. Correspondingly when nobody sees it, behavior changes in different way with individual trying to obtain benefits even at the expense of causing damage to others. Author provides some interesting examples of this.
Chapter 6: The Economics and Evolutionary Biology of Love
This is quite an interesting take on love from point of view of economics, not necessarily simple monetary economics, but rather from point of view resource accumulation and application in order to produce and support next generation. Basically love is a bonding mechanism to create stable economic unit necessary to assure adequate resource flow to a child with live expectancy of the unit linked to the time required for child to achieve a minimal level of self-sufficiency.
Chapter 7: Testing the Bond
This is about bonds between animals and methods of these bods establishment and continuing testing, but even more about handicap principal developed by Amotz Zahavi explaining meaning of peacock ‘s tail and other examples of counter logical use of handicap as the sign of evolutionary fitness.
Chapter 8: Shopping for Partners in the Biology Market
This chapter about multiple and extremely diverse forms of cooperation in creating the next generation of species from human mating market to animal’s mating market, even about book author – publisher – agent market, all working according to similar principles defined by evolution.
Chapter 9: The Evolution of Human Social Behavior
The final chapter is about human behavior and its evolutionary roots. Author believes that evolution not only defined our biology, but also to high extent caused development of a variety of behavioral algorithms that control our behavior with emotions being activators and coordinators of these algorithms execution.
The epilog somewhat unexpectedly raises issue of meaning of live using a tragic accident of highly intellectual man who so much submerged into philosophical search of meaning of live, that he committed suicide after coming to conclusion that sociobiology is pretty much correctly defines human as just another, maybe glorified and self-conscious, but still an animal rendering live pretty much meaningless for somebody in search of deep meaning. Author pretty much rejects this attitude and sees no problem with all these philosophical problems, stating that meaning of live is pretty much the live itself and there is no point of freaking out because we are animals.
MY TAKE ON IT:
This book provides a wealth of observations, experiments, and analysis supporting my believes that we humans are animals developed via evolutionary process to become self-conscious and capable to amazing fits of cooperation and communication that by now allowed us to create an artificial environment for comfortable live, well protected from dangers inherent in our natural habitat as it existed for millions of years. By now we pretty much got evolution under control so we do not depend on survival of fittest any more. However we are in danger of self-destruction unless we’ll find way to handle unhappiness and loss of meaning when original meanings of live: get food, not die from exposure, and have sex is way too easy to achieve, making some people restless. I hope that switch of meaning of live from pursuit of surviving to pursuit of happiness would be eventually completed successfully making our current worries just a curiosity of the past.