Book Review – “Rational Animal: How Evolution Made Us Smarter Than We Think”

RationalAnimal300Why do some people make self-defeating decisions, spend $200,000 on a new car, or put hot wax their genitals?

In “Rational Animal”, Vlad Griskevicius (professor of marketing and psychology at University of Minnesota) and Doug Kenrick (professor of psychology at Arizona State University) take the reader on an entertaining and enlightening journey to understand the reasons for our desires and the choices we make.

They intelligently construct the argument that humans are neither rational economists influenced by data, nor irrational apes blindly bent on pleasure and avoiding pain, but are in fact driven by something they call “deep rationality” – programmed evolutionary wisdom passed down from our ancestors’ trial and error.

Though it seems to us that we have one mind or personality behind the levers and dials of our life, evolutionary psychology reveals that we actually have multiple personalities, each with unique goals and aversions. These “sub-selves”, as they’re referred to in the book, are activated by triggers in our environment, dictating which of them is at the helm in making decisions. Which explains why, sometimes, we just can’t get our shit together.

For the book’s profound implications, the writing style is refreshingly accessible. Despite their highly academic backgrounds, Kenrick and Griskevecius simply and fluidly communicate their analysis and conclusions, without washing them with pretentious scientific jargon.

They play with the outrageous aspects of contemporary culture such as “pimping” cars, social fads and political decisions; using quintessential examples from modern context to relevantly illustrate the mechanics of the primitive mind and it’s manifestations in contemporary society (the words “diamond encrusted grills” are used multiple times throughout, impressively).

This book is a fun, powerful tool for anyone who seeks to better themselves by examining their decision-making faculties, while gaining a deeper understanding of their own insanity and of the world at large.

mindMost critically, the read is a gateway to a deep inner dimension. Once you’ve begun to pay attention to your emotional and mental states, and the reasons in your environment for their shifts, you can begin to take back an immense amount of power that is constantly diffused.

Checking the desires of the status or mate acquisition sub-selves may save you thousands in unnecessary material goods. Observing desires for the affiliation sub-self will help you avoid compromising your authentic self to please those around you. Having a general understanding of how people or businesses may be marketing to your subconscious will prevent you from being taken advantage of for their interests. You’ll also be more compassionate toward yourself when you have changes of heart, conflicting desires, or feel fear in the face of opportunity.

It has profoundly influenced my inward reflection, understanding, and put me deeper in touch with the reasons for the automatic responses of my body and mind. I highly recommend picking this one up or checking it out from the library.

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