How Human Nature Shapes Our Choices

Nitin Nohria, Paul R. Lawrence

Publisher: Jossey-Bass, 2002, 315 pages

ISBN: 0-7879-5785-2

Keywords: Personal Development

Last modified: July 12, 2021, 12:10 a.m.

What universal characteristics make us human? Are there biological drives that motivate us as human beings? Why do we choose to do what we do?

At last we have the answers to these and other timeless questions about human nature.

In this groundbreaking book, Paul Lawrence and Nitin Nohria, two Harvard-based researchers, take a multidisciplinary approach that bridges the gap between the latest findings from evolutionary biology and insights about human behavior derived from social science. Driven compellingly sets forth the authors’ scientific theory for understanding human nature and behavior.

Lawrence and Nohria conclude that the way we act is a result of the conscious choices we make. These deliberate choices are fueled by the internal battle constantly raging among our four innate, subconscious, brain-based drives:

  • The drive to acquire objects and experiences that improve our status relative to others
  • The drive to bond with others in long-term relationships of mutual care and commitment
  • The drive to learn and make sense of the world and of ourselves
  • The drive to defend ourselves, our loved ones, our beliefs, and our resources from harm.

Driven offers a workable model to help make sense of the human experience-- at the dinner table, the card table and the conference table — and reveals the common heritage of humans, no matter how diverse our cultural or social backgrounds.

The authors — knowing that humans will always be contentious and never reach the idealized goal of total balance and agreement — urge us to attend to the well-being of our souls. If we attempt to balance our four drives, we can find the way forward to the next stage of our evolution as human beings.

  • Part One: Bridging Gaps
    Setting the Stage for Understanding Human Nature
    1. Toward a Unified Understanding of Human Nature
    2. How the Modern Human Mind Evolved
    3. Innate Drives and Skills
  • Part Two: The Four Drives Behind Human Choices
    1. The Drive to Acquire (D1)
    2. The Drive to bond (D2)
    3. The Drive to Learn (D3)
    4. The Drive to Defend (D4)
  • Part Three: The Drives in Action
    How Human Nature Works in Context
    1. Culture, Skills, Emotions: Other Pieces of the Puzzle
    2. Origins of the Social Contract
    3. Why So Much Diversity?
  • Part Four: Human Nature and Society
    1. Human Nature in Organizational Life
    2. The Road Forward
  • Afterword: Future Research Proposals



Reviewed by Roland Buresund

Outstanding ********* (9 out of 10)

Last modified: May 21, 2007, 3 a.m.

This is one of the few books that may in fact change your outlook on life. Enough said, buy it and read it, you may not agree with the authors, but it will for sure get you thinking seriously.


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