What generalist books attempt to explain human nature?

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knightrider
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What generalist books attempt to explain human nature?

Post by knightrider »

Looking for a generalist books that mix sociology, psychology, economics etc. to understand how human nature works. For example, trial lawyers need to have good understanding of human nature to sway jurors with their arguments. Are there books they read about that?

The closest book I got to this was "The Social Animal".
Juliajones54
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Re: What generalist books attempt to explain human nature?

Post by Juliajones54 »

I just read 'Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind' by Yuval Noah Harari, published in 2015.

From the jacket blurb: " From a renowned historian comes a groundbreaking narrative of humanity's creation and evolution that explores the ways in which biology and history have defined us and enhanced our understanding of what it means to be human."

Highly readable and in the context of our world today made a lot of sense as to how and why we live and behave the way we do.
dekecarver
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Re: What generalist books attempt to explain human nature?

Post by dekecarver »

I don't have a specific book but offer; humans:
will always be in conflict and as long as there are two people on earth, there will be conflict and one has to be alpha
for the most part humans are pack animals and follow that structure regardless of politics, religion, family orientation etc.
have been taught and have learned that depending on their circumstances or how they are wired they can save for the future or spend for the moment.
have the ability to demonstrate confidence, competence and compassion and unfortunately compassion gets lost in this day and age.
want to do good but it comes back to a perpetual conflict and struggle of good vs evil.

When one really thinks about it, have we really advanced from the beginning of time or at least as far back as history takes us? As an example, have we learned to live without war (no) and during war or for that matter aggression against others including within families, are the atrocities really any different now than a 1000 years ago; no, the weapons just change.

Interesting topic.
WildBill
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Re: What generalist books attempt to explain human nature?

Post by WildBill »

Howdy

“On Human Nature” by E O Wilson

Plato’s “Dialogues” - although Plato was critical of the Sophists, his dialogues have been used as a “reverse engineering how to “ for demagogues and BS artists for millennia.

Happy hoodwinking

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almostretired1965
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Re: What generalist books attempt to explain human nature?

Post by almostretired1965 »

I came across this book by Robert Wright when I was an undergrad in the mid-1980s after reading a shorter piece in the New Republic:

https://www.amazon.com/Moral-Animal-Sci ... B003VXI8DO

At the time, it felt like the veil has finally been lifted from my eyes. In hindsight, I suspect this was largely because of my low EQ, but it was a fun read, nonetheless. For a brief second, I even contemplated looking into pursuing evolutionary psychology as a field of study.

And no, it didn't really improve my game, however, now I had something to blame ........ :happy

A
SevenBridgesRoad
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Re: What generalist books attempt to explain human nature?

Post by SevenBridgesRoad »

Some good titles being suggested upthread. I agree with Sapiens, definitely a must-read. I found Jordan Peterson's 12 Rules for Life an intriguing read on this subject, but be aware, it is controversial in some circles. The field of evolutionary biology/sociology is absolutely fascinating.
SevenBridgesRoad
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Re: What generalist books attempt to explain human nature?

Post by SevenBridgesRoad »

dekecarver wrote: Tue Sep 17, 2019 9:29 pm I don't have a specific book but offer; humans:
will always be in conflict and as long as there are two people on earth, there will be conflict and one has to be alpha
for the most part humans are pack animals and follow that structure regardless of politics, religion, family orientation etc.
have been taught and have learned that depending on their circumstances or how they are wired they can save for the future or spend for the moment.
have the ability to demonstrate confidence, competence and compassion and unfortunately compassion gets lost in this day and age.
want to do good but it comes back to a perpetual conflict and struggle of good vs evil.

When one really thinks about it, have we really advanced from the beginning of time or at least as far back as history takes us? As an example, have we learned to live without war (no) and during war or for that matter aggression against others including within families, are the atrocities really any different now than a 1000 years ago; no, the weapons just change.

Interesting topic.
Yes.

Along these lines, a fascinating long-form essay is spooling out over the next weeks on the website "Wait But Why". Tim Urban, the author, always has an interesting take on giant subjects such as human nature. His current series is called "The Story of Us".
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Re: What generalist books attempt to explain human nature?

Post by Fallible »

knightrider wrote: Tue Sep 17, 2019 8:54 pm Looking for a generalist books that mix sociology, psychology, economics etc. to understand how human nature works. For example, trial lawyers need to have good understanding of human nature to sway jurors with their arguments. Are there books they read about that?

The closest book I got to this was "The Social Animal".
Would you use such knowledge for a specific purpose? Or are you looking for just a general understanding of human nature for your own general interest? Have you read any books on the human brain?

Edit: to add that just about every book mentioned here would be good, including good fiction. But again, if you are looking for something to help with a specific approach, such as investing, an excellent book is Your Money & Your Brain by WSJ columnist Jason Zweig.
Last edited by Fallible on Wed Sep 18, 2019 11:23 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Keith43
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Re: What generalist books attempt to explain human nature?

Post by Keith43 »

Already mentioned above but Robert Wright's "The Moral Animal". I'd also recommend "The Righteous Mind - Why good people are divided by Religion and Politics" by Jonathan Haidt.

Once you fall down the rabbit hole of Evolutionary Psychology (it really is the only game in town at analysing peoples behaviour), it completely changes how you view every human interaction, irrational behaviour and your own negative emotions.
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JoMoney
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Re: What generalist books attempt to explain human nature?

Post by JoMoney »

Not a book, but I like "The Psychology of Human Misjudgement" speech given by Charlie Munger
https://buffettmungerwisdom.files.wordp ... une_95.pdf
You can find the audio of the speech on Youtube.

Munger credit's the book "Influence" by Robert Cialdini
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aristotle'sfootprint
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Re: What generalist books attempt to explain human nature?

Post by aristotle'sfootprint »

Steven Pinker's _The Blank Slate_ is terrific on the sciences of human nature (biology, psychology, neuroscience, etc.), and couches the discussion in the context of the old philosophical debate between nativists and empiricists. Highly recommended.
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Re: What generalist books attempt to explain human nature?

Post by Calhoon »

You might want to put Why Buddhism is True on the list. Much of the book deals with evolutionary psychology. Sapiens is also good...but I'd read this one first.
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Re: What generalist books attempt to explain human nature?

Post by WiscoTrout »

In addition to the mention of Sapiens, I'd add two books about the quirks of human nature that had a big influence on me:

Thinking Fast and Slow -Daniel Kahneman - a great book on how our minds work and the behavioral psychology behind it.

Influence - Robert Cialdini - Another plug for this one, based upon your mention of trial lawyers. Cialdini talks about the key ways that people can persuaded by others to think or do certain things. If you have any interest how people are effected by sales or marketing, this book is a classic.
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Re: What generalist books attempt to explain human nature?

Post by Sandtrap »

"Life Code" by Dr. Phil entertainingly explains the "seedy side" of human nature and behavior.
His acronym, "B-A-I-T-E-R-S" is likely, something most have or will be exposed to some time or another.

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Re: What generalist books attempt to explain human nature?

Post by Northster »

Some good suggestions here. I would add Sapolsky's 'Behave', which delves deeply into the origins of our actions and thoughts. Though perhaps too much neurology for some. You can see the contents and sample much of the intro on Amazon.
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Re: What generalist books attempt to explain human nature?

Post by jebmke »

if you want to read about greed, track down a copy of The Treasure of the Sierra Madre by B. Traven.
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Re: What generalist books attempt to explain human nature?

Post by NotWhoYouThink »

Reading fiction is a good way to learn about human nature. You learn how the author thinks, and what the author has observed in others. The book mentioned above is one good way to start.

One key is to remember that we don't all think alike or feel alike, so maybe look into human natures.
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Re: What generalist books attempt to explain human nature?

Post by Valuethinker »

knightrider wrote: Tue Sep 17, 2019 8:54 pm Looking for a generalist books that mix sociology, psychology, economics etc. to understand how human nature works. For example, trial lawyers need to have good understanding of human nature to sway jurors with their arguments. Are there books they read about that?

The closest book I got to this was "The Social Animal".
Others have mentioned Influence by David Cialdini. That's key to understanding marketing, and political rhetoric and its influence.

On the human condition, Viktor Frankel Man's Search for Meaning is pretty important. Suffering is universal, great actors & politicians suffer from depression, what matters is what, as human beings, we contrive to do in the face of that suffering.

I am a fan of well written detective fiction for exposing the human being in all its faults. Raymond Chandler first and foremost - especially the novel The Big Sleep. The Wire among tv series.
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Re: What generalist books attempt to explain human nature?

Post by beehivehave »

knightrider wrote: Tue Sep 17, 2019 8:54 pm Looking for a generalist books that mix sociology, psychology, economics etc. to understand how human nature works. For example, trial lawyers need to have good understanding of human nature to sway jurors with their arguments. Are there books they read about that?

The closest book I got to this was "The Social Animal".
As previously mentioned, Thinking Fast and Slow by Kahneman, a Nobel Prize winner in economics. It explains why people are prone to error in judgments yet also often their instincts are correct. It was the National Academy of Science's best book of 2012.
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Re: What generalist books attempt to explain human nature?

Post by jebmke »

NotWhoYouThink wrote: Wed Sep 18, 2019 8:11 am Reading fiction is a good way to learn about human nature. You learn how the author thinks, and what the author has observed in others. The book mentioned above is one good way to start.

One key is to remember that we don't all think alike or feel alike, so maybe look into human natures.
I agree - fiction is a good way to explore many aspects of human nature. I would add that a healthy does of history books also provides some context - you realize that most of these "natures" have been with us for centuries and many times, we keep cycling through the same outcomes with a new generation only to find that the end result is the same.

There is a lot of truth to Mattis' recent statement
“If you haven’t read hundreds of books, you are functionally illiterate, and you will be incompetent, because your personal experiences alone aren’t broad enough to sustain you”
When you discover that you are riding a dead horse, the best strategy is to dismount.
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Re: What generalist books attempt to explain human nature?

Post by Quirkz »

"Liars and Outliers" by Bruce Schneier. He's a security expert, but this one dives deep into cooperation, selfishness, lying, and trust, and puts them in the context of pressures from small group (family, clan) and large group (society). A fascinating mix of social and biological scientific understanding.

Sort of a similar topic, but from a strictly genetic and game theory angle is Dawkins' "The Selfish Gene."

You might also enjoy the research of Dan Ariely, who looks closely at the art/science of decision making. This one is less "human nature explained" as delving into the surprising quirks that suggest human nature isn't quite as reliable and sensible as you might expect. But it still sheds a lot of light on how people work. "Predictably Irrational," I think is one of the books. He may have more.
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Re: What generalist books attempt to explain human nature?

Post by Fallible »

NotWhoYouThink wrote: Wed Sep 18, 2019 8:11 am Reading fiction is a good way to learn about human nature. You learn how the author thinks, and what the author has observed in others. The book mentioned above is one good way to start.

One key is to remember that we don't all think alike or feel alike, so maybe look into human natures.
Agree on the fiction, in particular Chekhov, Dickens, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, and probably all of the classics.

And more is being discovered and written about the brain, about individual differences owing to genetic and environmental factors that determine personality.
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Re: What generalist books attempt to explain human nature?

Post by Texanbybirth »

Fallible wrote: Wed Sep 18, 2019 11:43 am
NotWhoYouThink wrote: Wed Sep 18, 2019 8:11 am Reading fiction is a good way to learn about human nature. You learn how the author thinks, and what the author has observed in others. The book mentioned above is one good way to start.

One key is to remember that we don't all think alike or feel alike, so maybe look into human natures.
Agree on the fiction, in particular Chekhov, Dickens, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, and probably all of the classics.

And more is being discovered and written about the brain, about individual differences owing to genetic and environmental factors that determine personality.
Although the Russians were good, as an anglophile I'd also recommend Dickens. :beer
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Re: What generalist books attempt to explain human nature?

Post by ohai »

What is that book, Think Fast Think Slow or something?
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Re: What generalist books attempt to explain human nature?

Post by Finridge »

Lots of great suggestions here.

My recommendation: Tolstoy's "War and Peace."

Edit: Also, Alice Munro's short stories.
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Re: What generalist books attempt to explain human nature?

Post by Tigermoose »

Texanbybirth wrote: Wed Sep 18, 2019 11:55 am
Fallible wrote: Wed Sep 18, 2019 11:43 am
NotWhoYouThink wrote: Wed Sep 18, 2019 8:11 am Reading fiction is a good way to learn about human nature. You learn how the author thinks, and what the author has observed in others. The book mentioned above is one good way to start.

One key is to remember that we don't all think alike or feel alike, so maybe look into human natures.
Agree on the fiction, in particular Chekhov, Dickens, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, and probably all of the classics.

And more is being discovered and written about the brain, about individual differences owing to genetic and environmental factors that determine personality.
Although the Russians were good, as an anglophile I'd also recommend Dickens. :beer
Dicken's characters are very memorable because they are extravagant. The 19th century Russians were masters at realistically portraying human nature.
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Re: What generalist books attempt to explain human nature?

Post by Halicar »

ohai wrote: Wed Sep 18, 2019 11:58 am What is that book, Think Fast Think Slow or something?
Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman. It's on the more narrow topic of cognitive biases. I wouldn't say that he attempts to explain human nature.
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Re: What generalist books attempt to explain human nature?

Post by rj342 »

Matt Ridleys The Red Queen and The Origins of Virtue.
Both evolutionary bio based.
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Re: What generalist books attempt to explain human nature?

Post by palaheel »

For background, Genesis. For how bad it can get, Judges. For a modern example of Judges, Gulag Archipelago.
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Re: What generalist books attempt to explain human nature?

Post by Fletch »

The Bible. In addition to what has been said about Genesis and Judges, Ecclesiastes points out how nothing much changes when man depends only on himself.
“Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher. Whoever loves money never has enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income. This too is meaningless.
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Re: What generalist books attempt to explain human nature?

Post by daheld »

Juliajones54 wrote: Tue Sep 17, 2019 9:24 pm I just read 'Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind' by Yuval Noah Harari, published in 2015.

From the jacket blurb: " From a renowned historian comes a groundbreaking narrative of humanity's creation and evolution that explores the ways in which biology and history have defined us and enhanced our understanding of what it means to be human."

Highly readable and in the context of our world today made a lot of sense as to how and why we live and behave the way we do.
I really enjoyed Sapiens as well. It does explain why we behave the way we do, but I appreciated that it made 70,000 or so of human history make sense.
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Re: What generalist books attempt to explain human nature?

Post by elcadarj »

The rise and fall of a stock swindler in 1870 London, “The Way We Live Now”, Anthony Trollope. There’s nothing new under the sun.
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Re: What generalist books attempt to explain human nature?

Post by Bill Bernstein »

+1 on The Moral Animal, a brilliant book. As one of the other posters alluded to, once you start looking at the world through the evo psych lens, it looks completely different.

I know it's cheesy for an author to plug his own books, especially on this forum, but for anyone interested in the intersection of human nature, finance, and the history of mass delusions, and who enjoyed Mackay's "Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds," watch this space . . . .

Bill
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Re: What generalist books attempt to explain human nature?

Post by aristotle'sfootprint »

Fans of Wright's _Moral Animal_ might also like H. Clark Barrett's _The Shape of Thought_. It's not a trade book but it's still very readable for non-experts and gives an excellent overview of developments in evo psych since the 90s.
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Re: What generalist books attempt to explain human nature?

Post by pilot_error »

Here is a entertaining blog that is a fun framework for what can be a dry topic. I recommend it.
https://waitbutwhy.com/2019/08/story-intro.html
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Re: What generalist books attempt to explain human nature?

Post by ColoradoRick »

SevenBridgesRoad wrote: Tue Sep 17, 2019 11:12 pm Some good titles being suggested upthread. I agree with Sapiens, definitely a must-read. I found Jordan Peterson's 12 Rules for Life an intriguing read on this subject, but be aware, it is controversial in some circles. The field of evolutionary biology/sociology is absolutely fascinating.
+1!!!!
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Re: What generalist books attempt to explain human nature?

Post by B80 »

The laws of human nature - robert greene
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Re: What generalist books attempt to explain human nature?

Post by Tribonian »

Reading Moral Tribes by Joshua Greene, philosopher turned neuro researcher. His own research was based on posing intractable moral dilemmas to people then charting brain activity in an nMRI. I don’t always agree with his extrapolations, the prose can be a little awkward and the contemporary commentary distracts a little, but the research is fascinating.
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Re: What generalist books attempt to explain human nature?

Post by Robert T »

.

Scarcity co-authored by an economist from the University of Chicago and a phycologist from Princeton.
.
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Re: What generalist books attempt to explain human nature?

Post by international001 »

Nobody mentioned the 'selfish gene' already?

Not as much as to describe it, but explain how it became to exist. If not in the details, certainly changes the framework. Things exists exist not because they are good or bad, but because they are stable.
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