Why Everyone (Else) Is a Hypocrite: Evolution and the Modular Mind

Why Everyone (Else) Is a Hypocrite: Evolution and the Modular Mind

Why Everyone (Else) Is a Hypocrite: Evolution and the Modular Mind

Why Everyone (Else) Is a Hypocrite: Evolution and the Modular Mind

Synopsis

We're all hypocrites. Why? Hypocrisy is the natural state of the human mind.


Robert Kurzban shows us that the key to understanding our behavioral inconsistencies lies in understanding the mind's design. The human mind consists of many specialized units designed by the process of evolution by natural selection. While these modules sometimes work together seamlessly, they don't always, resulting in impossibly contradictory beliefs, vacillations between patience and impulsiveness, violations of our supposed moral principles, and overinflated views of ourselves.


This modular, evolutionary psychological view of the mind undermines deeply held intuitions about ourselves, as well as a range of scientific theories that require a "self" with consistent beliefs and preferences. Modularity suggests that there is no "I." Instead, each of us is a contentious "we"--a collection of discrete but interacting systems whose constant conflicts shape our interactions with one another and our experience of the world.


In clear language, full of wit and rich in examples, Kurzban explains the roots and implications of our inconsistent minds, and why it is perfectly natural to believe that everyone else is a hypocrite.

Excerpt

Ignorance can save your life in Philadelphia.

If, like me, you’ve spent some time in Southern California, then you’re probably accustomed to cars stopping when you’re in a crosswalk. You might even occasionally make eye contact with a driver coming your way. I see you, you see me, so we both know you have to stop.

This could get you killed in Philadelphia. If a driver sees that you see that he’s coming, then he knows that you know that your best bet is to stay out of the street, since in the game of person versus car, person always wishes she hadn’t played.

So, here’s the best way to cross the street in Philadelphia. Keep your eyes away from any lanes of traffic with cars that might run you over. Cross the street looking a little lost or confused; try to “walk like a tourist.”

The goal is to appear conspicuously ignorant. Because drivers will actually stop for a pedestrian who has no chance of escaping if they barrel through the intersection, your best ally is ignorance: to appear completely— blissfully—unaware. This way, the driver knows you don’t know he’s com-

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