“The Social Animal” by David Brooks: Part Two

Continuation for Part One of “The Social Animal.” The stereotypes that we develop relates to the themes described in “The Organized Mind.” When we view outside groups, we view them as much more homogeneous than the groups we ourselves belong to. We tend to view our own groups as more complex and with a much higher degree of social complexity.

  1. There is no question self-control is one of the essential ingredients of a fulfilling life.
  2. The test presented kids with a conflict between short-term impulse and long-term reward. The marshmallow test measured whether kids had learned strategies to control their impulses. The ones who learned to do that well did well in school and life. Those that hadn’t found school endlessly frustrating.
  3. Most ambitious people are driven to achieve membership in some exclusive group or club.
  4. Humans begin life far behind other animals. Humans have a diffuse set of genetic instructions, so when they are born, and for years afterwards, they can’t survive on their own.
  5. We use intelligence to structure our environment so that we can succeed with less intelligence. Our brains make the world smart so that we can be dumb in peace.
  6. All humans for example, register the same basic facial expressions for fear, disgust, happiness, contempt, anger, sadness, pride, and shame. Children born without sight display emotion on their faces the same way as children with sight. All humans divide time into past, present, and future.
  7. Zipf’s Law states that the most common word in any language will appear exactly twice as frequently as the next most common word, and so on down to the least common.
  8. Love is a motivational state, which leads to various emotions ranging from euphoria to misery. A person in love has the keenest possible ambition to achieve a goal. A person in love is in a state of need.
  9. People driven by lust want to have orgasms with each other. But people drive by Eros want to have a much broader fusion. They want to share the same emotions, visit the same places, savor the same pleasures, and replicate the same patterns in each other’s mind.
  10. We have a psychological immune system that exaggerates information that confirms our good qualities and ignores information that casts doubt upon them.
  11. People who feel lonely tend to be more critical of those around them, and so they judge others harshly, and thus become more lonely.
  12. You can’t be right too early, or interesting too often. You have to support measures you really oppose and sometimes object to things you think are for the good.
  13. People have stereotypes in their heads about what Democrats are like and what Republicans are like, and they gravitate toward the party made up of people like themselves.
  14. The search for a candidate is an aesthetic search—a search for a candidate who clicks. Some of the things that influence a voter’s decision can be instantaneous and seemingly unimportant.
  15. The individualist revolutions did not end up creating loose, free societies. They produced atomized societies in which the stat grows in an attempt to fill the gaps created by social disintegration.
  16. Many commentators had originally assumed that terrorism was a product of poverty and a lack of economic opportunity. It was a problem with material roots. But research into the backgrounds of terrorists established that 75 percent of the anti-Western terrorists come from middle-class homes and an amazing 63 percent had attended some college. The problem is not material but social.
  17. Societies in the cognitive age produce their own form of inequality, lodged deep in the brains of the citizenry, which is more subtle than ancient class distinctions under feudalism but nearly as stark and unfair.
  18. Some children are bathed in an atmosphere that encourages human-capital development—books, discussion, reading, questions, conversations about what they want to do in the future—and some children are bathed in a disrupted environment.

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

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