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Introduction: The Mismatch: Why We Can't Trust Our Instincts PART I: Curiosity 1. The Michael Jordan Lesson: Why people who don't vote and don't follow the news don't think they need to 2. We're Political Animals: So why aren't we better at politics? 3. Your 150 Closest Friends: How many people do you know? PART II: Reading People 4. Why We Are Surprised When Our Leaders Disappoint Us: The mistake even smart voters make 5. 167 Milliseconds: The amazing speed at which we draw conclusions about people PART III: Truth 6. Lying to Ourselves: The high cost of self-deception and why we can't stop ourselves 7. Do We Really Want the Truth?: Why we often seem less interested in the truth than we profess 8. Everything Happens for a Reason: It's not just kids we prefer fairy tales 9. It's Like It Was Still 1974: Why people make arguments so transparently feeble they leave others dumbstruck PART IV: Empathy 10. When It Happens to You: The limits to empathy 11. The Accountant's Error: The danger of relying on our gut Conclusion: A Way Forward: Solutions are at our fingertips if only we grasp them Coda: The Widow's Advantage: And What We Can Learn From Her
Rick Shenkman is an award-winning investigative reporter, a New York Times best-selling author, and the publisher and editor of the History News Network, the website that puts the news into historical perspective. An elected fellow of the Society of American Historians, he appears regularly on Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC. He lives in Seattle, Washington.
Avi Tuschman, author of Our Political Nature: The Evolutionary Origins of What Divides Us "Political Animals takes readers on an insightful tour of political irrationality over the course of American history, bringing embarrassing political misjudgments into the light of fascinating findings from behavioral economics, evolutionary psychology, and the life sciences. In doing so, Shenkman shows us how we can sharpen our political perceptions and improve, each in our own small way, the future of our democracy." George E. Marcus, Professor of Political Science, Williams College "A fascinating, well-told account of how our nature both prepares and ill-prepares us for politics in the modern age." Leonard Steinhorn, Professor of Communication and Affiliate Professor of History, American University "Politics in America has this Alice in Wonderland quality: what makes sense often doesn't happen, and what happens often doesn't make sense. Drawing on science, history, psychology, mounds of evidence and political insight, Rick Shenkman's masterful book shows us why. What Malcolm Gladwell's The Tipping Point does for society, Political Animals does for politics." Murray Polner, author of No Victory Parades: The Return of the Vietnam Veteran and co-author of Disarmed and Dangerous, a biography of Daniel & Philip Berrigan "Rick Shenkman's Political Animals is an engrossing and unique book aimed at understanding our complex and bewildering political world and our inherited myths, lies, and quick-fix solutions that more than often than not end up disastrously in appalling conflicts at home and abroad. Relying upon innovative studies in neuroscience and evolutionary psychology as well as history, and backed by fascinating studies of presidents, people and events, Shenkman offers serious suggestions for overcoming our delusions, historical ignorance, and groupthink." Walter G. Moss, Professor Emeritus of History, Eastern Michigan University and author of An Age of Progress? Clashing Twentieth-Century Global Forces "In Political Animals, historian Rick Shenkman makes excellent use of the latest research in behavioral sciences to indicate why we Americans so often fail politically. And in highly readable prose he also provides wise advice on how we can do better." Bookforum "Timed almost perfectly, Rick Shenkman's Political Animals seeks to explain our erratic political behavior using a different lens, one that focuses on the role evolution plays in how we choose our leaders... [Shenkman's] conclusions are far from flattering to our intellectual vanity, but he draws on a wealth of evidence, demonstrating just how abject our dependence on our Stone Age brain can be... Telling self-proclaimed rational voters they unknowingly punished a politician for an act of God or an NFL franchise's post-season collapse seems ludicrous and insulting, but Shenkman's case is compelling." Washington Post "Shenkman mixes history with evolutionary psychology to illuminate why American voters so often misread their leaders, resist politicians who offer hard truths and succumb to facile arguments." Kirkus "Readers will appreciate [Shenkman's] personable, chatty tone and will delight in the broad allusions and the wide variety of historical incidents he cites to help make his point... he makes a convincing case about our hard-wired infirmities and how they work to undermine our democracy. An amiable tour of the socioscientific evidence that accounts for our political miscalculations." Scientific American "A timely look into psychological patterns that drive political behavior." BillMoyers.com "As another presidential campaign unfolds like a runaway circus parade, Political Animals couldn't be more timely." CapX "In this engaging, illuminating and often humourous portrait of our political culture, Shenkman probes the depths of the human mind to reveal what we must do to fix our floundering democracy, and to become more political, less animal." Christopher Parker, Professor of Political Science, University of Washington "Rick Shenkman does it again! In Political Animals, his latest--and best--book, Shenkman proffers to explain why voters so often veer away from what seems politically rational. He does so by synthesizing political science, neuroscience, evolutionary psychology, and history to great effect. This book is essential reading for anyone even remotely interested in grasping the roots of the political circus in which the current GOP stars."