Thursday, March 24, 2011

We are not primarily rational creatures

by Rachel Courtland
Emotion, not rationality, rules our world - something policymakers should learn. So says David Brooks, who uses fiction to illustrate cognitive science

Where did the idea for your book The Social Animal come from?
It came from covering policy failures as a journalist. For example, one factor in the financial crisis were regulations that assumed bankers made decisions rationally. Also, in education, we in the US have spent 30 years just reorganising the bureaucratic boxes of our education system. These failures were based on a false view of human nature, which is that we are rational individuals who respond in straightforward ways to incentives.

In the cognitive sciences, however, they have come up with a different and more accurate view of human nature. My book is an attempt to put this together and capture the implications it has for the rest of us: how to do education, business and policy.

Is there one insight from the cognitive sciences that really stands out for you? I guess there are three. The first is that most of our thinking is below the level of awareness and that these processes are very different from the linear and logical processes of consciousness.The second is that we are not primarily rational creatures. Emotion is the foundation of reason and you have to pay close attention to instant emotional responses: that is what tells us what we value. Read More

Raising consciousness Amid the political turmoil engulfing the Arab world, it is easy to lose our sense of direction. These trying times are the perfect opportunity to read Eckhart Tolle’s “A New Earth Awakening To Your Life’s Purpose”. A new earth refers to the rising of an awakened consciousness, a necessary transformation as the world is faced with radical changes and a chain of insurmountable problems...