Arnold Kling  

Empathizers and Systemetizers

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Mike Rizzo reminds me of one of my classic essays. I wrote,


The analytical brain uses the principles of science. It learns to make predictions of the form, "When an object is dropped, it will fall toward the earth."

The social brain uses empathy. It learns to guess others' intentions and motives in order to predict their reactions and behavior.

My point is that economists try to use the analytical brain, looking for explanations in terms of rules and systems. Meanwhile non-economists (including some with advanced degrees and Nobel Prizes in economics) rely more on their social brain, looking for explanations in terms of human emotions.

A couple weeks ago, I mentioned Ron Bailey's article pointing out that research shows that libertarians tend to be systemetizers rather than empathizers.

[UPDATE: More from Slate:


we sometimes can't help but see intentions, desires, and beliefs in things that haven't even a smidgeon of a neural system. In particular, when inanimate objects do unexpected things, we sometimes reason about them just as we do for oddly behaving--or misbehaving--people. More than a few of us have kicked our broken-down vehicles in the sides and verbally abused our incompetent computers.

I find it interesting that people find it easy to use this sort of analysis to reduce religious belief to a category error but those same people would find it very difficult to do the same thing with people's beliefs about democracy or income distribution.]


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CATEGORIES: Political Economy



COMMENTS (1 to date)
Brian Shelley writes:

I suspect there are only Type M brains, and that Type C brains have created a false dichotomy because they want to be inherently different and superior. In my youth I was vehemently anti-free trade, but around the age of 19 my DNA began to reconfigure, my brain audibly rearranging itself, all while coincidentally sitting in an economics lecture.

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