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Why Everyone (Else) Is a Hypocrite

Evolution and the Modular Mind

By Robert Kurzban
15-minute read
Audio available
Why Everyone (Else) Is a Hypocrite: Evolution and the Modular Mind by Robert Kurzban

Why Everyone (Else) Is a Hypocrite (2010) pushes us to challenge our assumptions about the human brain. These blinks explain the modular structure of our mind which, rather than creating a coherent conscious self, can lead to confusion and conflict as evolutionary traits clash with the challenges of the modern world.

  • Students and teachers of psychology
  • Readers questioning traditional explanations of how the mind works
  • People frustrated with friends’ hypocritical actions and poor judgment

Robert Kurzban is a professor of psychology, a blogger for Psychology Today, the editor-in-chief of the journal Evolution & Human Behavior and the director and founder of Pennsylvania’s Laboratory of Experimental Evolutionary Psychology. In 2008, the Human Behavior and Evolution Society awarded him the Distinguished Scientific Award for Early Career Contribution.

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Why Everyone (Else) Is a Hypocrite

Evolution and the Modular Mind

By Robert Kurzban
  • Read in 15 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 9 key ideas
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Why Everyone (Else) Is a Hypocrite: Evolution and the Modular Mind by Robert Kurzban
Synopsis

Why Everyone (Else) Is a Hypocrite (2010) pushes us to challenge our assumptions about the human brain. These blinks explain the modular structure of our mind which, rather than creating a coherent conscious self, can lead to confusion and conflict as evolutionary traits clash with the challenges of the modern world.

Key idea 1 of 9

Our brain is essentially an information processor that has been shaped through evolution.

There’s nothing more fascinating or mysterious than the human brain.

How exactly did we end up with such an organ, capable of composing symphonies, planning megacities and speculating about parallel universes?

Some of us believe the brain must have been designed by one deity or another. Evolutionary psychology, however, has an alternative explanation. In this field, the human brain isn’t considered a product of divine inspiration. Instead, it’s simply a biological information processor.

Much like laptops and smartphones, the human brain runs programs to complete certain tasks. The difference is that instead of silicon chips, this machine is made of neurons along which electrical impulses travel at incredible speeds.

Of course, our brains weren’t always as advanced as they are now. Just as computers have evolved from huge machines that filled rooms to astonishingly thin devices that fit in a handbag, the human brain has developed considerably over time.

Familiar with Darwin’s theory of natural selection? Let’s recap it briefly: an organism has genes, and these genes express themselves as physical traits, such as a giraffe’s long neck or a human’s sophisticated brain.

Organisms with traits that allow them to adapt to an environment – such as the ability to find food, create a shelter and live in communities – are more likely to survive than organisms without them. It was this process that shaped the complexities of our brains. The way our brains are structured is a result of the challenges faced by our primitive ancestors.

And just how are our brains structured? Philosophers would have you believe that a human has a rational mind, with the idea of a single, distinct “self” and a more or less coherent set of beliefs.

The truth is that human minds are nothing like this. Evolution has given us a different kind of mind. To understand the brain better, let’s consider what it was at the beginning: a simple tool.

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