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Passions Within Reason: The Strategic Role of Emotions: The Strategic Role of the Emotions (Englisch) Gebundene Ausgabe – September 1988

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The "Me" generation has justified itself by appealing to social scientists who see selfishness as the only rational basis for action. But what are we to make of selfless acts in business, personal life, even politics? In this provocative book, Robert Frank shows us that looking out for Number One may require that we look out for others, too. He finds his evidence in our emotional acts. Like the blush on telling a lie, they can serve as hard-to-fake signals of a commitment to social values. We recognize these signs; we know people we trust; and if we can identify trustworthy fellows we can reject those who do not merit our faith.


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A Pathbreaking Contribution 11. April 2003
Von Herbert Gintis - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Taschenbuch Verifizierter Kauf
Passions within Reason is a remarkably prescient and insightful book, drawing upon behavioral research of the decade leading to its publication (1988). It is also a rather subtle book. Even though I used in in a college course I taught in 1989, I do not believe I really understood it until I reread it very recently.
Frank asks: why to people help others, and retaliate against others who harm them, even when they can expect no future personal, material gain from so doing? His answer is that there are emotional rewards to helping those who deserve our aid and hurting others who deserve our ire. Our behavior towards others is regulated by the passions: empathy, spite, shame, remorse, guilt, compassion, and the other social emotions.
He then asks: why are those who behave in this emotional way not displaced (e.g., by having more offspring, or by acquiring more earthly possessions) by others who are purely selfish, and who help and hurt only when a dispassionate calculation indicates that it is in their material interest to do so? He answers this by noting that our emotions "precommit" us to keeping our promises and carrying out our threats, so that we gain in the long run by not being able (or willing) to make the dispassionate calculation. We gain because others will trust our promises and respect our threats. Frank calls the the "commitment model."
This idea that it is "rational" to be "emotional" is, of course, a commonplace today, and has been popularized by neuroscientist Alberto Damasio's fine book, Descartes' Error, and more recently, philosopher Martha Nussbaum's UPheavals of Thought. Experiments using behavioral game theory more than amply confirm the centrality of emotions in decision-making even in the company of strangers (see papers on prosocial emotions on my web site: [...]
A thornier question is: why can a purely selfish type (otherwise known as a sociopath) not simply mimic the behavior of a committed altruist when it suits his purposes, and not otherwise? If this were possible, and there were no other counteracting tendencies, sociopaths would surely drive out committed altruists. Here Frank is less convincing. He says simply that it is very hard to fake the emotions, just as it is difficult for a small bullfrog to fake his size by mimicking the deep-throated croaks of his larger bretheren. This is true, but some people do this very successfully. Why do they not prosper? Moreover, there is no obvious developmental constraint in humans opposing the evolution of excellent emotional cheats.
Perhaps the payoffs to faking commitment are not that high. Surely this would explain why it is "difficult to fake emotions": they payoff to doing is low or negative, so the capacity for faking has not evolved to a high level in humans. More recent research, using models of gene-culture coevolution, indicate that this may well be the case. See, for instance, Herbert Gintis, "The Hitchhiker's Guide to Altruism: Genes, Culture, and the Internalization of Norms", Journal of Theoretical Biology 220,4 (2003):407-418, and Robert Boyd, Herbert Gintis, Samuel Bowles and Peter J. Richerson, "Evolution of Altruistic Punishment", Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 100,6 [mar] (2003):3531-3535.
26 von 26 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
Compelling and Eye-opening 26. Juni 2000
Von Donald J. Boudreaux - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Taschenbuch
This is Robert Frank's best book. As is true of everything he writes, Frank's style here is clear and engaging.
He aims to show that human emotions are created by natural selection to increase the individual's chances of survival. What appear to be a person's irrational reactions and inclinations often promote mutually beneficial trade and, thus, promote that person's long-run welfare. The explanation of how emotions achieve this remarkably beneficial outcome is the core of this fine book.
Of all the many serious books that I've read over the years, this one is surely among the most fun! It's fantastic reading.
16 von 19 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
Revealing the Logic Behind Emotions 1. April 2005
Von Amazon Customer - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Taschenbuch
The sheer volume of literature devoted to understanding behavior in humans and animals underscores how tricky understanding behavior is. A fraction of this literature, including this book, devotes particular attention to the problems that humans and animals encounter within social and natural environments. With a grasp of the important problems people encounter, a new perspective arises that identifies behavior as stragegic, attempted and on average efficient solutions to specific problems.

But these problems though hinted at here and there are rarely understood well by even the elite of the academic world let alone found within the common knowledge. Arguably among the more important problems that shape behavior are the freerider problem, the prisoner's dilemma, the problem of mutually offsetting investments, the problem of uncertainty, and the commitment problem. Robert Frank is perhaps the commitment problem's best spokesperson.

Often a person or an animal must convince a mate, an rival, or a predator that one is committed to taking a course of action that will require a substantial investment and perhaps substantial risk. If the commitment has convincing force, often the investment and risk will not be necessary. So the best course of action in a situation can seem highly counterintuitive. Behavior that might seem irrational or crazy can actually be the most efficient resolution to a competitive or cooperative circumstance. The commitment problem arises because in order to take advantage of these efficiencies, one must convince others that one is not bluffing and is actually fully committed. Robert Frank explores these situations including the cooperative enterprise of marriage and other social relationships. The explanatory power is impressive.

Frank argues that emotions in general are essentially technologies designed to solve the commitment problem. Emotions convey to others that one is committed to certain perspectives or courses of action. The significance of this insight cannot be overstated. Those who are privy to evolutionary psychology and the evolutionary perspective will appreciate how this theory of emotions fits into the paradigm of selective pressures and adaptive behavior. This book can be read right along with Darwin's "The Expression of Emotions in Man and Animals."

Why is the commitment problem an important idea? One reason is that many philosophies, including Objectivism, treat emotions as the polar opposite of logic and rationality. The commitment problem underscores the logic behind emotions.

As an aside, Frank is the perfect explanation of why some economists are among the brightest social scientists. The economic perspective includes the idea that rationality is strategic and that in order to make the most efficient choice, often problems are encountered that require tradeoffs. So, economists are among the first to discover or elaborate on specific and pervasive problems that people and other organisms encounter.

Lastly, to argue that emotions are strategic is not to say that the strategy is conscious. As the emotional animals illustrate, the strategy of emotions can be carried out by instinct. Cases where the emotional strategy leads to sub-optimal results doesn't contradict the theory either. The proliferation of emotional animals illustrates this as well.

I challenge that anyone who studies the emotions is in the dark ages without understanding the ideas in this book. From my experience, many PhD trained social scientists and educators don't have a good grasp of this material.
11 von 14 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
Is it ever rational to be irrational? Yes! 27. Dezember 1997
Von Ein Kunde - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Taschenbuch
Why are some people honest, even when nobody is looking? Why do we indignantly refuse an unfair offer, even if we could gain from accepting? If you're curious, read the book. It's written by an economist, but it's about psychology and ecology as much as economics. It's a wonderful book that deserves to be more widely known (it has a nice bibliography too). Moderately easy reading.
1 von 1 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
Absolutely incredible 30. November 2010
Von rodrigo - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Taschenbuch Verifizierter Kauf
I too first saw this book mentioned in some of Dan Dennett's writings. I'm blown away by the analysis of how emotions work, what they do and why they might be evolutionarily adaptive presented here. I'm very glad I read this. I'm definitely going to skim and reread this one periodically, what Robert Frank writes here needs to be fully internalized.
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