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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.

Author: Hanson Robin
Publisher: OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS
Pages: 400
ISBN: 9780190495992
Cover: Hardback
Edition Number: 1
Release Year: 2018
00 Introduction
01 Animal Behavior
02 Competition
03 Norms
04 Cheating
05 Self-Deception
06 Counterfeit Reasons
07 Body Language
08 Laughter
09 Conversation
10 Consumption
11 Art
12 Charity
13 Education
14 Medicine
15 Religion
16 Politics

17 Conclusion

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. Professor Hanson has master's degrees in physics and philosophy from the University of Chicago, nine years experience in artificial intelligence research at Lockheed and N.A.S.A., a doctorate in social science from California Institute of Technology, 2800 citations, and sixty academic publications, in economics, physics, computer science, philosophy, and more. He blogs at OvercomingBias.com, and has pioneered the field of prediction markets since 1988.

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