Arnold Kling  

Our Imperfectly Evolved Brains

Brooks' Hidden Secrets of Happ... Robin Hanson Refutes Happiness...

This review suggests a book that reminds me of Robin Hanson and Tyler Cowen.

our brains didn't evolve in a way that allowed us to thoroughly evaluate how well our beliefs represent reality.

...Marcus does supply us with a whole host of ways to trains our brains to act more rationally. My personal favorite is his first, "Whenever possible, consider alternative hypotheses." He recommends forcing yourself to come up with a list of alternatives even if you are absolutely certain... Or "Always weigh benefits against costs."

Sounds easy but as Marcus notes, few of us rarely consider what else we could be doing that's of more value (spending time with your partner or family, calling up an old friend, writing a thank-you note) than watching a "CSI" marathon on TV.

The book is Kluge: The Haphazard Construction of the Human Mind

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COMMENTS (4 to date)
Matt writes:

Evolution had to do an "end around" to get us from lizzard to mammal.

Consider evolutions problem. It wants us closer together, but wants to inhibit our desire to eat the young. What to do?

Evolution could have spent a nearly infinite amount of time adjusting many muscle genes to manipulate our movements and inhibit them, or evolution could have cheated and used olfaction.

Olfaction was a way for evolution to cheaply drug us, it was a short cut, using aerosols to inhibit actions when around members of the species.

Since then, all of our cognitive thought became action delayed. We go through the motions of action in our head, but via the olfaction path, evolution created a means to inhibit the movement itself, leaving the sense of movement behind as thought.

Bill writes:

Studying physics and logic are excellent training for the brain. Do everything you can to defeat bias in your thinking. Ideology is deadly; it will make you stupid.

FC writes:


Prove it. Bonus points for using only pure logic.

Dr. T writes:

To FC: Bill's claim that physics and logic are excellent training for the brain cannot be proved through logic alone. This is a scientific hypothesis that must be tested using the scientific method. One would first need an accepted and reproducible way of testing the brain's ability to handle logic and solve problems, then one would need to do either case matching or randomization to assign persons to a test group and one or more control groups (such as no studying or studying English literature and sociology). After a period of study, the groups would be retested to see if their cognitive skills improved.

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