The Elephant in the Brain: Hidden Motives in Everyday Life by Kevin Simler
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
I was underwhelmed by this book. Many have praised it, but I found it somewhat banal. There were certainly some interesting aspects. The general idea, that we have often have motives for our actions other than what we explicitly state or tell ourselves, seems obviously true. Yet, the authors took this as something remarkable, needing detailed analysis. It's worth exploring for sure and seeing how it might explain certain puzzles of human psychology and institutions could prove useful. But the authors find hidden motives everywhere and for everything and gave these motives the primary role. (It seems just as possible that in some cases the hidden motive isn't the prime mover or explainer.) They leaned heavily into evolutionary biology having to explain all human behavior; and while that is part of the story, it seems under-determinative. In short, they overgeneralized their thesis and overextended their analysis/application.
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