Jun 21, 2011

Road Reading: David Brooks on the 'Social Animal' - Change your behaviour and you change your mind

Its been a delight to access poignant media whilst travelling. I stumbled on an old Charlie Rose interview with NY Times columnist David Brooks on Portugese cable. Brooks was promoting his new book 'Social Animal' which speaks to the profound influence our social environment has on the way we act and operate.

Being constantly around travellers and students living abroad, there is a recurring theme in our conversations. How "things have dramatically changed in our mindstates" through our time away from home.

Below is a sample of Brooks' findings on Social behaviour. I highly recommend viewing the Charlie Rose interview if possible, it's more engaging and dynamic due to its conversational format.

David Brooks' new book can be found here - The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character, and Achievement

VIDEO: Book event with David Brooks on "The Social Animal"

(33min) DAVID BROOKS: We don't have the power consciously to change our minds, cause there's too much going on down there. Thats why New Year's resolutions fail. But we do have the power to a) change our context - what organisations you belong to and what institutions do you join? If you join the marine corps it will have a pervasive affect on your mind that you will never understand but will have pervasive effects. So you have the power to change your environment.

The second thing you have the power to do is to change your behaviour. One of the themes is, change your behaviour first and your mind will come later. Or as the folks at Alcoholics Anonymous put it "Fake it till you make it". If you behave well in small ways... you lay grooves in your head for when the big temptations come your way..."
More posts featuring David Brooks
- The "Haimish Line": Pixar and TroubleMaker Studios
- "Limerence": Snowboarding, Skating, Surfing, Christmas and Love
- The 'Social Animal' - Change your behaviour and you change your mind


  1. David Brooks makes an impressive case for the role of the unconscious and moral intuition in man's judgments. Brooks argues that we are not rationalists, in which conscious reason and logic control our decisions, the view of the French Enlightenment. We are largely social, sentimental creatures, the view of the British Enlightenment. Unfortunately, the unconscious and the moral imagination have become the basis for societal decisions that also require reason and logic-critical thought. Our college-educated social animals consider their views the products of uniquely creative intelligence, intuition, and imagination-and thus morally superior. But in other than technical professions such as natural science, medicine, engineering, and finance, college since the 1960s has inculcated postmodern thinking in our elites. Postmodern thinking dismisses the "rationalistic" mentality associated with scientific mechanism and materialism, what Theodore Roszak derided as "objective consciousness." The elite moral imagination reflects the postmodern social construction of reality (or illusion), dismissing the need for evidence.

  2. I've decided my catch-all comeback for someone I don't see eye to eye with is going to be "We could agree but we just lack the imagination"

  3. Great post with great stuff...!!!