Sex, Murder, and the Meaning of Life by Douglas T. Kenrick
A Psychologist Investigates How Evolution, Cognition, and Complexity are Revolutionizing our View of Human Nature

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“Kenrick writes like a dream.”—Robert Sapolsky, Professor of Biology and Neurology, Stanford University; author of A Primate’s Memoir and Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers What do sex and murder have to do with the meaning of life? Everything.

In Sex, Murder, and the Meaning of Life, social psychologist Douglas Kenrick exposes the selfish animalistic underside of human nature, and shows how it is intimately connected to our greatest and most selfless achievements. Masterfully integrating cognitive science, evolutionary psychology, and complexity theory, this intriguing book paints a comprehensive picture of the principles that govern our lives. As Kenrick divulges, beneath our civilized veneer, human beings are a lot like howling hyenas and barking baboons, with heads full of homicidal tendencies and sexual fantasies. But, in his view, many ingrained, apparently irrational behaviors—such as inclinations to one-night stands, racial prejudices, and conspicuous consumption—ultimately manifest what he calls “Deep Rationality.”

Although our heads are full of simple selfish biases that evolved to help our ancestors survive, modern human beings are anything but simple and selfish cavemen. Kenrick argues that simple and selfish mental mechanisms we inherited from our ancestors ultimately give rise to the multifaceted social lives that we humans lead today, and to the most positive features of humanity, including generosity, artistic creativity, love, and familial bonds. And out of those simple mechanisms emerge all the complexities of society, including international conflicts and global economic markets. By exploring the nuance of social psychology and the surprising results of his own research, Kenrick offers a detailed picture of what makes us caring, creative, and complex—that is, fully human.

 Illuminated with stories from Kenrick’s own colorful experiences -- from his criminally inclined shantytown Irish relatives, his own multiple high school expulsions, broken marriages, and homicidal fantasies, to his eventual success as an evolutionary psychologist and loving father of two boys separated by 26 years -- this book is an exploration of our mental biases and failures, and our mind’s great successes. Idiosyncratic, controversial, and fascinating, Sex, Murder, and the Meaning of Life uncovers the pitfalls and promise of our biological inheritance.


About Douglas T. Kenrick

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Douglas T. Kenrick is a Professor of Psychology at Arizona State University. His work has been covered in Newsweek, the New York Times, and Psychology Today. Kenrick lives in Tempe, Arizona.
Published April 26, 2011 by Basic Books. 258 pages
Genres: Health, Fitness & Dieting, Science & Math, Professional & Technical. Non-fiction

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Kirkus Reviews

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An evolutionary psychologist with a flair for expressing his ideas in down-to-earth language seeks to integrate evolutionary psychology and cognitive science to explain what makes human beings tick.

Apr 17 2011 | Read Full Review of Sex, Murder, and the Meaning ...

Publishers Weekly

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Classical Freudian psychology was often mocked for claiming that everything we do is a result of our sexual drives, but evolutionary psychologist and Arizona State professor Kenrick says that his field now believes that isn't far from the truth.

Jun 27 2011 | Read Full Review of Sex, Murder, and the Meaning ...

London Review of Books

3 · 9 February 2012 » Gideon Lewis-Kraus » It’s good to be alive The print edition of the London Review of Books in which this book review appears and a downloadable PDF version of this book review are also available for purchase from the London Review Bookshop.

Feb 09 2012 | Read Full Review of Sex, Murder, and the Meaning ...

If you aren’t familiar with the various psychological journals, Current Perspectives is dedicated to reporting on the hottest trends in modern research, and the editor asks the trend-setting researchers to report on those new developments in brief clearly written articles—designed for a young pro...

Apr 19 2011 | Read Full Review of Sex, Murder, and the Meaning ...

Either the young women and the old men are getting married, or they're all gay because you can't have 'older men 50 percent more likely to marry than older women' unless the older men are NOT marrying the older women.

Jun 24 2012 | Read Full Review of Sex, Murder, and the Meaning ...

He gave a fascinating pair of lectures on the emerging field of social genomics, describing how human genes are turned on and off by stressful experiences (such as loneliness), and how those experiences can change the molecular structure of our cells, and hence the structure of our brains and bod...

Aug 09 2011 | Read Full Review of Sex, Murder, and the Meaning ...

In fact, when I read the best-selling book Nudge, by the behavioral economists Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein, I saw that they referred to Cialdini as the “great guru of social influence.” And one time, I sat next to a fellow on the plane who had read Cialdini’s book Influence, and when I told...

Dec 08 2012 | Read Full Review of Sex, Murder, and the Meaning ...

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