Friday, October 09, 2009

The Mind of the Market by Michael Shermer

A good introduction to evolutionary and decision psychology but with mostly unnecessary content about economics.
Shermer attempts to draw parallels between the natural process of evolution and the invisible hand of the free market, but the book works much better without the few analogizing attempts. Additionally, although the book is full of interesting and important ideas, there was not much of a coherent narrative and many of the ideas aren’t new.
Consequently, this would probably make a good first book for someone wanting to explore the topics of evolution, social psychology or behavioural economics, but will seem like a segmented review to those already exposed.
I did appreciate how Mind of the Market repeatedly stressed that we are also cooperative apes along with having selfish tendencies. Although Dawkins had an important point to make in his book The Selfish Gene (i.e., evolutionary fitness will trump everything else, so the genes that are most successful at propagating will do so, irrelevant of whether they make people play nice), too often the idea is misunderstood and people end up thinking evolution is synonymous with selfishness or besting competitors. It is true that we are built with dispositions to favour the survival of ourselves and our relatives, but we are also endowed with the ability to trust and cooperate with members of a larger community.


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