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Speakers strive to impress their audience by consistently delivering impressive remarks.

They're compensated not in-kind, by receiving information reciprocally, but rather by raising their social value in the eyes (and ears) of their listeners.




  • We are stuck in a rat race
  • No matter how fast the economy grows, there remains a limited supply of sex and social status-and earning and spending money is still a good way to compete for it
  • The easier it is to judge someone based on a particular product, the more it will b...

  • Human beings are strategically blind to body language because it often betrays our ugly, selfish, competitive motives
  • A cue is similar to a signal, in that it conveys information, except that it benefits only the receiver
  • An open posture makes a person vulnerable
  • ...

  • We laugh far more often in social settings than when we are alone
  • It's a vocalization, a sound, and it serves the purpose of active communication
  • When we laugh at our own actions, it's a signal to our playmates that our intentions are ultimately playful
  • In other s...

  • Beliefs are often better modeled as symptoms of underlying incentives, which are frequently social rather than psychological
  • We don't worship simply because we believe, we worship (and believe) because it helps us as social creatures
  • A religion is an entire social system

  • According to one calculation, for the cost of sending a kid through college in America, you could instead save the lives of more than 50 children in sub-Saharan Africa
  • The main recipients of American charity are religious groups and educational institutions
  • When we evaluat...

  • For sociologists and anthropologists, conventions like queueing are known as norms. They're the rules or standards about how members of a community should behave.
  • Collective enforcement, then, is the essence of norms. This is what enables the egalitarian political order so characte...

  • Norm-evaders and norm-enforcers are locked in a competitive arms race of their own-a game of cat and mouse-pushing each other ever upward in mental ability.
  • Our norms are only partially enforced, so we need big brains to figure out how to cheat.

  • EIR- An important issue that people are reluctant to acknowledge or address.
  • EIB- An important but unacknowledged feature of how our minds work; an introspective taboo.*

  • The perverse incentives of mixed-motive games lead to option-limiting and other actions that seem irrational, but are actually strategic
  • Closing or degrading a channel of communication
  • Ignoring information, also known as strategic ignorance
  • Purposely believing som...

  • Our ancestors got smart primarily to compete against each other in a variety of social and political scenarios.
  • Social challenges, such as competition for mates, jockeying for social status, coalition politics (alliances, betrayals, etc.), intra-group violence, cheating, and decept...

  • People do not vote for their material self-interest
  • Instead, they vote for the candidates and policies that would make them personally better off
  • We tend to vote for our groups' interests
  • For our beliefs to function as loyalty signals, we have to believe things th...

  • Primate grooming is about politics
  • By grooming each other they help forge alliances that help them in other situations
  • This explains why grooming time across species is correlated with the size of the social group, but not the amount of fur
  • Larger groups have, on ...

When we use the term "motives," we're referring to the underlying causes of our behavior, whether we're conscious of them or not.

  • We ignore the elephant because doing so is strategic.
  • Self-deception allows us to act selfishly without having to appear quite so selfish in front of others.
  • Another benefit to confronting our hidden motives is that, if we choose, we can take steps to miti...

  • If a small amount of useful learning takes place, then sending every citizen to school will result in only a small increase in the nation's overall productivity
  • Meanwhile, when you're an individual student within a nation, getting more school can substantially increase your future ...

  • Each party is hoping to earn a bit of loyalty from the patient in exchange for helping to provide care.
  • In part, it's a simple quid pro quo: "I'll help you this time if you'll help me when the tables are turned."
  • When choosing between doctors, people typically focus on the...

  • While ecological selection (the pressure to survive) abhors waste, sexual selection often favors it
  • Because replicas are cheap relative to the originals, we'll pay less to see a much wider variety
  • We find attractive things that could have been produced only by people with ...

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