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The Battle for Human Nature


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Barry Schwartz is Dorwin Cartwright Professor of Social Theory and Social Action in the psychology department at Swarthmore College. Schwartz has published widely in scholarly journals in the field of learning and motivation. In addition, he is the author of Behaviorism, Science, and Human Nature (with Hugh Lacey), The Battle for Human Nature, and The Costs of Living.


Are people basically selfish creatures out to further their own interests and goals? In this brilliant investigation, Schwartz (Psychology of Learning and Behavior, etc.), a Swarthmore psychology professor, exposes the hidden assumptions that cause modern economists, behavioral psychologists and sociobiologists to form incomplete impressions of human beings and reply ``yes'' to the above question. Making sense of individuals' economic activity, he argues, requires knowledge of their noneconomic motives. Behaviorists do not find ``order in chaos'' so much as they create it by imposing a narrow frame of reference. Sociobiologists' clever theories equating human sexuality and aggression with animal behavior leave out the cultural dimension entirely. After identifying biases that link these disciplines, Schwartz goes on to ponder the threat economic imperialism poses to democratic institutions and our sense of social concern. (May 27)

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