The Mind of the Market

The Mind of the Market

Compassionate Apes, Competitive Humans, and Other Tales From Evolutionary Economics

Book - 2008
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In this eye-opening exploration, author and psychologist Michael Shermer uncovers the evolutionary roots of our economic behavior. Drawing on the new field of neuroeconomics, Shermer investigates what brain scans reveal about bargaining, snap purchases, and establishing trust in business. He scrutinizes experiments in behavioral economics to understand why people hang on to losing stocks, why negotiations disintegrate into tit-for-tat disputes, and why money does not make us happy. He brings together astonishing findings from psychology, biology, and other sciences to describe how our tribal ancestry makes us suckers for brands, why researchers believe cooperation unleashes biochemicals similar to those released during sex, why free trade promises to build alliances between nations, and how even capuchin monkeys get indignant if they don't get a fair reward for their work.--From publisher description.
Publisher: New York : Times Books, 2008.
ISBN: 9780805078329
Characteristics: xxiv, 308 p. ;,25 cm.


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Mar 12, 2015

I thought this book presented an interesting look into evolutionary psychology. However, I agree with the previous commenter that Mr. Shermer takes a huge leap in logic to argue that all the research presented proves that libertarianism is the most logical system available.
The funny thing is Mr. Shermer even applauded the anti-pollution legislation that made his bicycle rides more enjoyable. I've yet to see where the markets would solve the matter of pollution without governmental involvement.
There are several other arguments he makes throughout the book that are debatable and don't quite connect with the science he is presenting.
The science in this book is fascinating, but the ideological aspect needs more work.

Jul 18, 2014

Summary from someone else (shortened to fit here) In "The Mind of the Market" Michael Shermer presents a compelling case for using the tools of evolutionary biology in understanding the dynamics of economic processes. This is largely a vehicle in which to setup his libertarian worldview not only as the only scientifically valid view of economic discourse but as the only moral view on such. Here he overstretches the utility of his conclusions & neglects all but the most basic counter argument. In doing so he critically weakens the thesis of the book forcing me to give the one star rating. Shermer does do an excellent job of pulling data from evolutionary psychology & using that to dispel such economist myths as the "rational actor" etc. His analysis of the data on fMRI scans, primate behavior, & psychological research is careful & directly pertinent to his claim that humans make their economic (& moral) choices not using purely rational means (as has been long supposed by economists) but thru irrational processes that were adaptive behaviors selected for by the Paleoethic environment in which the first humans evolved. On this point I urge the reader to read the book & learn for themselves. However, the work has its most critical failings when it tries to link these conclusions & findings to the legitimacy & "morality" of "hands . Shermer begins with corporate structure & effortlessly switches that for free market capitalism. Never mind the fact that corporate structure & free market capitalism, while often linked, are by no means causative of each other, one can exist without the other. And that many have made the argument that corporatism inhibits free market capitalism by leading to monopolism & the inhibition or assimilation of small start up entrepreneurs. Also, his assertion that if free market capitalism and/or corporatism were so egregious they would have ended now is like the arguing for feudalism in the 13th century by saying, "If it was so bad, it wouldn't have lasted as long." While I support free market capitalism this kind of justification for it is simply lazy thinking unlikely to convince anybody.
In sum, Shermer makes cogent points concerning our evolutionary past & how it impacts our current economic behavior. But, as this is largely in service of his greater thesis concerning the inherent morality of markets when left to "libertarian" principles & that thesis is critically weakened by arguing against straw-men & neglecting substantive counter argument, his work largely suffers.

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