Saturday, November 12, 2011

What is Robert L. Trivers reading?

The current featured contributor at Writers Read: Robert L. Trivers, author of The Folly of Fools: The Logic of Deceit and Self-Deception in Human Life.

His entry begins:
I have not been reading much lately because I have undergone a total hip replacement surgery. I naively imagined that I would get a lot of reading done during the rehab period of some seven weeks. Quite the contrary was true; I would often read only a paragraph and a half of a newspaper article and promptly sleep for two hours. The rehab was incredibly draining at the mental level.

I did however manage to read James Pennebaker's The Secret Life of Pronouns (2011), a marvelous book by a great, and sometimes under-appreciated, social psychologist. He invented computer programs to analyze texts, everything from private journals to the complete works of Shakespeare (in about 20 minutes time) according to more than 80 categories of words. He showed that the smallest were the most important, especially pronouns. After he is done with a text, he can tell you...[read on]
About The Folly of Fools, from the publisher:
Whether it’s in a cockpit at takeoff or the planning of an offensive war, a romantic relationship or a dispute at the office, there are many opportunities to lie and self-deceive—but deceit and self-deception carry the costs of being alienated from reality and can lead to disaster. So why does deception play such a prominent role in our everyday lives? In short, why do we deceive? In his bold new work, prominent biological theorist Robert Trivers unflinchingly argues that self-deception evolved in the service of deceit—the better to fool others. We do it for biological reasons—in order to help us survive and procreate. From viruses mimicking host behavior to humans misremembering (sometimes intentionally) the details of a quarrel, science has proven that the deceptive one can always outwit the masses. But we undertake this deception at our own peril. Trivers has written an ambitious investigation into the evolutionary logic of lying and the costs of leaving it unchecked.
Learn more about The Folly of Fools at the Basic Books website, and visit Robert L. Trivers's faculty webpage.

Writers Read: Robert L. Trivers.

--Marshal Zeringue