Out of Character | David DeSteno

Summary of: Out of Character: Surprising Truths About the Liar, Cheat, Sinner (and Saint) Lurking in All of Us
By: David DeSteno

Introduction

Embark on a journey to explore the surprising truths about the nuances of human character in ‘Out of Character’, authored by David DeSteno. Prepare to challenge your conventional beliefs on morality, hypocrisy, lust, love, pride, compassion, and the complexity in the decision-making process. Discover how our dualistic nature is actually influenced by various internal and external factors, rather than just the dichotomy of good and bad. This insightful and engaging book will unravel the intricate workings of your mind and help you understand the driving forces behind your actions, emotions, and choices.

The Dual Nature of Character

The word “character” has roots in ancient Greek, but its nature is far from fixed. People often act “out of character” to express different parts of their true nature, which contains both good and bad qualities. The traditional angel and devil metaphor oversimplifies this internal struggle, and a better metaphor is that of the ant and the grasshopper. Both mindsets are important, as people need to balance immediate rewards with long-term planning. External events also greatly affect behavior, making it difficult to trust one side over the other. Ultimately, the dual nature of character means that everyone is capable of both vice and virtue.

The Complicated Nature of Morality and Hypocrisy

The distinction between morality and hypocrisy is much more complex than we have been led to believe. The two are intertwined, and being hypocritical doesn’t always mean one is violating their morals; rather, it means the individual is merely adapting their values to suit their needs. Through psychological experiments, the book explores how morality is not a one-size-fits-all strategy and can be manipulated. People can believe something is fair when they do it, yet consider it unfair when someone else does the same thing. Additionally, moral judgments are subjective and are influenced by emotions and outside factors. The book challenges us to examine our beliefs and the underlying motivations that govern our behavior.

The Science of Lust and Love

Lust and love are two separate entities that are driven by hormonal impulses. While lust is a simple concept, love is more complicated. Our attraction to others is mostly based on survival instincts. For instance, symmetrical body features indicate healthy genes and thus attract us more. However, when it comes to finding a stable relationship, physical cues that convey a stable relationship are more attractive. Additionally, jealousy can play an essential role in human behavior, making us act out of character. As much as we try to resist these impulses, lust and love will always be part of our human nature.

The Upside and Downside of Pride

Pride is often considered a sin, but it can be helpful in achieving success and improving social status. Taking pride in one’s work leads to increased motivation and the ability to overcome obstacles. Receiving praise and positive feedback from others can also boost pride. However, claiming pride without earning it can lead to hubris, which is detested by others. In some cases, hubris can serve as necessary protection, as seen in the example of unemployed stockbrokers using Starbucks as their office space.

The Thin Line Between Cruelty and Compassion

Our sense of similarities is key to our treatment of others, and our inner voice influences our behavior towards outsiders. The closer we perceive the similarities, the more likely we are to show compassion. This message is demonstrated through the Ivorian civil war, where the soccer team served as a unifier. On the other hand, our ability to inflict violence and cruelty stems from the dehumanization of other people. By surrounding ourselves with diverse people, we can shift our perception towards a more inclusive “us” mentality.

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