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Feeling Smart

Book Description

Which is smarter—your head or your gut? It’s a familiar refrain: you’re getting too emotional. Try and think rationally. But is it always good advice?

In this surprising book, Eyal Winter asks a simple question: why do we have emotions? If they lead to such bad decisions, why hasn’t evolution long since made emotions irrelevant? The answer is that, even though they may not behave in a purely logical manner, our emotions frequently lead us to better, safer, more optimal outcomes.

In fact, as Winter discovers, there is often logic in emotion, and emotion in logic. For instance, many mutually beneficial commitments—such as marriage, or being a member of a team—are only possible when underscored by emotion rather than deliberate thought. The difference between pleasurable music and bad noise is mathematically precise; yet it is also something we feel at an instinctive level. And even though people are usually overconfident—how can we all be above average?—we often benefit from our arrogance.

Feeling Smart brings together game theory, evolution, and behavioral science to produce a surprising and very persuasive defense of how we think, even when we don’t.

Table of Contents

  1. Cover
  2. Title Page
  3. Copyright
  4. Dedication
  5. Contents
  6. Preface
  7. Introduction: What Is Rationality?
  8. PART I: ON ANGER AND COMMITMENT
    1. Chapter 1: What Is the Point of Getting Annoyed?: Emotions as a Mechanism for Creating Commitments
    2. Chapter 2: Why We Love Those Who Are Cruel to Us: Stockholm Syndrome and the Story of the Nazi Schoolteacher
    3. Chapter 3: Emotional Impostors, Empathy, and Uncle Ezra’s Poker Face
    4. Chapter 4: Game Theory, Emotions, and the Golden Rule of Ethics
    5. Chapter 5: The Prisoner’s Dilemma in Repeated Interactions: Do Drawn Knives Increase Cooperation in the World?
    6. Chapter 6: On Decency, Insult, and Revenge: Why Don’t Suckers Suffer from Disgust?
  9. PART II: ON TRUST AND GENEROSITY
    1. Chapter 7: On Stigmas and Games of Trust: Why Did the Bees Commit Suicide?
    2. Chapter 8: Self-Fulfilling Mistrust
    3. Chapter 9: Cultural Differences, Palestinian Generosity, and Ruth’s Mysterious Disappearance
    4. Chapter 10: Collective Emotions and Uncle Walter’s Trauma
    5. Chapter 11: The Handicap Principle, the Ten Commandments, and Other Mechanisms for Ensuring Collective Survival
    6. Chapter 12: Knowing How to Give, Knowing How to Receive: The Full Half of the Cholent
  10. PART III: ON LOVE AND SEXUALITY
    1. Chapter 13: The Spray That Will Give Us Love: On the Hormone that Creates Trust and Neutralizes Suspicion
    2. Chapter 14: On Men, Women, and Evolution: Testing the Myths
    3. Chapter 15: Make Me a Match Made in Heaven: Reproduction and the Mathematics of Romance
    4. Chapter 16: From Cavemen Flutes to Bach Fugues: Why Did Evolution Create Art?
  11. PART IV: ON OPTIMISM, PESSIMISM, AND GROUP BEHAVIOR
    1. Chapter 17: Why Are We So Negative? The Arithmetic of Emotions
    2. Chapter 18: On Arrogance and Humility: The Norwegian Professor’s Syndrome
    3. Chapter 19: Overconfidence and Risk: The “It Can’t Happen to Me” Syndrome
    4. Chapter 20: The Voice Is Herd: On the Sources of Herd Behavior
    5. Chapter 21: Team Spirit: The Paradox of the Generous Bonuses and the Lazy Workers
  12. PART V: ON RATIONALITY, EMOTIONS, AND GENES
    1. Chapter 22: Irrational Emotions
    2. Chapter 23: Nature or Nurture: What Is the Source of Rational Emotions?
  13. Epilogue
  14. Notes
  15. Index
  16. About the Author