David Brooks on rationality


The three main learnings that David Brooks proposes are:

  1. Conscious mind writes the autobiography, the unconscious mind does most of the work. While the mind in each moment is taking on millions of pieces of information a minute, the conscious mind is capable of about 40. The unconscious mind, actually quite smart.
  2. Emotions are at the center of our thinking.  Emotions are the foundations reason, telling us what to value. Reading and educating emotions is one of the central pieces of wisdom. A brain is the record of the feelings of a life.
  3. Not primarily self contained individuals, we are social animals, not rational animals, we emerge out of relationships.  We are deeply interconnected.  Mirror neurons are one fascinating subject of today’s neuroscience advances.

Brooks suggests that we have “taken on a view of human nature that we are divided selves” and that “reason is separated from the emotions”.  This view that we are rational individuals who respond in straight forward ways to incentives, has become popularized but many times delegitimized by science.  Brooks points out that our policies are continually produced based on this understanding, and therefore continue to fail.


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