The Rational Animal

How Evolution Made Us Smarter Than We Think


By Douglas T. Kenrick

By Vladas Griskevicius

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This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around September 10, 2013. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.

Why do three out of four professional football players go bankrupt? How can illiterate jungle dwellers pass a test that tricks Harvard philosophers? And why do billionaires work so hard — only to give their hard-earned money away?

When it comes to making decisions, the classic view is that humans are eminently rational. But growing evidence suggests instead that our choices are often irrational, biased, and occasionally even moronic. Which view is right — or is there another possibility?

In this animated tour of the inner workings of the mind, psychologist Douglas T. Kenrick and business professor Vladas Griskevicius challenge the prevailing views of decision making, and present a new alternative grounded in evolutionary science. By connecting our modern behaviors to their ancestral roots, they reveal that underneath our seemingly foolish tendencies is an exceptionally wise system of decision making.

From investing money to choosing a job, from buying a car to choosing a romantic partner, our choices are driven by deep-seated evolutionary goals. Because each of us has multiple evolutionary goals, though, new research reveals something radical — there’s more than one “you” making decisions. Although it feels as if there is just one single “self” inside your head, your mind actually contains several different subselves, each one steering you in a different direction when it takes its turn at the controls.

The Rational Animal will transform the way you think about decision making. And along the way, you’ll discover the intimate connections between ovulating strippers, Wall Street financiers, testosterone-crazed skateboarders, Steve Jobs, Elvis Presley, and you.


  • “Kenrick is one of evolutionary psychology's alpha males, a grizzled veteran of many battles against the Blank Slate dogma. Griskevicius is the field's most brilliant and productive young star, whose ingenious research proved the transformative power of Darwinism for understanding business and marketing. Together, they make a fascinating, compelling, and fun case that people's decision-making embodies a deep evolutionary rationality rather than a superficial economic rationality. It you want to take the Red Pill and really understand what is going on in modern consumerist capitalism—if you want to dive deeper into our paleo-rationality than Dan Ariely or Daniel Kahneman have dared to go, you must read this book.”
    —Geoffrey Miller, University of New Mexico, and author of The Mating Mind and Spent

    “Do you want to understand all kinds of human judgment errors that seemed inexplicable before? And do you want to be able to profit handsomely from that new and deep form of understanding? Then don't miss the profound insights of this groundbreaking book.”
    —Robert B. Cialdini, author of Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion
  • The Rational Animal is a fun romp through the comedy of human errors. Again and again, the authors find, evolutionary urges and hardwired brains explain behaviors rational economists cannot. Humans just don't make sense, it seems, unless you expect them not to.”
    Mother Jones

    “[An] entertaining and informative book.”
    Minneapolis Star-Tribune

    “A persuasive—and entertaining—look at the Darwinian dynamics of decision making.”

    “Vigorously investigated.... Sharp, piquant science/behavioral-economics writing.”
    Kirkus Reviews

    “Why do we overspend, underinvest, and make seemingly poor decisions? The Rational Animal shows that the answer comes from a simple, but often overlooked place: Our animal ancestors. Whether we like it or not, evolution has shaped who we are today. But rather than making us foolishly irrational, looking deeper inside ourselves reveals a surprisingly brilliant beast.”
    —Jonah Berger, author of Contagious: Why Things Catch On

On Sale
Sep 10, 2013
Page Count
288 pages
Basic Books

Douglas T. Kenrick

About the Author

Douglas T. Kenrick is a professor of psychology at Arizona State University and the author of Sex, Murder, and the Meaning of Life. He lives in Tempe, Arizona.

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Vladas Griskevicius

About the Author

Vladas Griskevicius is McKnight Professor of Marketing and Psychology at the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota. He lives in Edina, Minnesota.

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