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Clif's Book World

Adventures from reading books captured within short reviews.

The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character, and Achievement

The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character, and Achievement - David  Brooks, Arthur Morey Before reading this book I believed that I and most other humans used our rational minds to make life's decisions. After reading this book I now know that the subconscious mind is a raging monster and the rational mind is the midget hanging on for dear life who thinks that since his hands are on the reigns that everything is under control. The following is an example of how some of the most important parts of our lives depend on guidance from our subconscious minds with very little training or formal preparation:

"Children are coached on how to jump through a thousand scholastic hoops. Yet by far the most important decisions they will make are about whom to marry and whom to befriend, what to love and what to despise, and how to control impulses. On these matters, they are almost entirely on their own. We are good at talking about material incentives, but bad about talking about emotions and intuitions. We are good at teaching technical skills, but when it comes to the most important things, like character, we have almost nothing to say."

The objective of this book as stated by the author:
1. Synthesize the findings of research of the subconscious mind into one narrative.
2. Describe how this research influences the way we understand human nature.
3. Draw out the social, political, and moral implications of these findings.
4. Help counteract a bias in our culture to ignore the importance of the human subconscious mind.
5. Explore why experiments in improving the educational system almost always result in disappointing results.
6 Explore ways that integration of our true makeup could improved education.

David Brooks uses his journalistic skills to organized this material into an interesting and easy-to-read format. He narrates the lives to two fictional characters and follows every step of their development (from pre-conception through to death) to illustrate the findings of research findings from the fields of psychology, sociology, physiology, economics, politics, and neuroscience. At first I thought the use of fictional characters to demonstrate the nonfiction facts was a bit hokey. But by the end of the book I emotionally identified with these fictional friends, and I was sad to see them grow old and die.

The following are some miscellaneous quotations from the book that I found interesting:

"People rarely revise their first impression, they just become more confident that they are right."

"Subjects [were given] microsecond glimpses of the faces of competing politicians. … subjects could predict, 70 percent accuracy, who would win the election between the two candidates."

"Sensitive early [childhood] care predicted competence at every subsequent age. … Attachment-security and caregiver-sensitivity rating were related to reading and math scores throughout the school years. Children with insecure or avoidance attachments were much more likely to develop behavior problems at school. Kids who had dominating, intrusive, and unpredictable caregivers at six months were much more likely to be inattentive and hyperactive by school age."

"By observing quality of care at forty-two months … researchers could predict with 77 percent accuracy who would drop out of high school. Throwing in IQ and test-achievement data did not allow researchers to improve on that prediction’s accuracy."

"Attachment patterns in early childhood also helped predict the quality (though not the quantity) of other relationships later in life, especially romantic relationships."

"A child born into a family making $90,000 has a 50 percent chance of graduation from college by age twenty-four. A child born into a family making $70,000, has a one-in-four chance. A child born into a family making $45,000 has a one-in-ten chance. A child born into a family making $30,000 has a one-in-seventeen chance."