4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Patrick A. Stewart
- Published on Amazon.com
The term "Business Sciences" historically has been a misnomer, if not an oxymoron, as business schools have tended to take an applied approach to educating their students through a focus on proximate problems, methods, and results. This emphasis on pragmatism over theoretical synthesis and sophistication lends itself to "flavor of the month" trends and fads at the expense of in-depth studies searching for integrated insight into how and why homo economicus make their consumption and production decisions. Even when theory rears its head, much like a whack-a-mole, it is divorced from an over-arching framework and as a result is curiously flawed in understanding why humans do what they do. The field of economics, the flag bearer for theoretical approaches to business decision making (so much so, departments vacillate between belonging with their scientific brethren in the colleges of liberal arts and sciences, or with the financially remunerative endeavors of B-schools), has staunchly adhered to theoretical models that are dismal fictions of human behavior - specifically that humans are rational decision makers. As pointed out by Monica Capra and Paul Rubin in their chapter in this edited volume, "(E)conomists had been heavily influenced by physics, which aims at finding unified theories for understanding the physical world." (p. 322) When advances have been made in the field of economics (and Nobel Prizes awarded), it occurs when deviations from this rational choice model of individual decision making are pointed out and modeled. While this does not deny the contributions rational choice theory has made to the understanding of consumption and business decisions, mainly at the aggregate level, the stubborn adherence to this theoretical model by fields contained within business schools, as well as proximate fields of inquiry such as public administration and political science, is dispiriting. This adherence to models that continue to fail in accurately describing behavior - even when it is constrained to self-interested competitive behaviors predominantly seen in the business world - is at the very least disappointing, if not distressing, especially when a more powerful, robust, and integrated option exists. Furthermore, it suggests a blind dedication to delusions about human behavior that at best is inefficient and at worst is harmful by prioritizing misanthropic behavior.
Into this void steps Gad Saad, Professor of Marketing and Concordia University Research Chair in Evolutionary Behavioral Sciences and Darwinian Consumption, with a collection of twelve chapters contributed by eminent scholars from around the globe. Saad, whose apostolic zeal for applying evolutionary psychology to the business sector is evidence by a multitude of articles, TED talks, the books "The Consuming Instinct" and "The Evolutionary Bases of Consumption" and a popular blog on the Psychology Today website, brings together twenty-eight contributors representing a broad range of academic disciplines and problem sets dealt with. The high quality contributions suggest not only the unifying power evolutionary theory has in bringing together such diverse scholars, but also signals evolutionarily-based theory's ascendance as not just grand unifying theory but also as the eminently pragmatic approach to solving real-world problems faced by businesspersons across the world. Specifically, by understanding that human behavior is selected for based upon problems posed in our distant evolutionary past, and as a result, such behavior helped humans survive, reproduce, and thrive, might help us understand current behaviors that are not necessarily beneficial in the modern world. For instance, ultimate causation suggests that humans who were able to find and consume fatty, sweet, and/or salty foods were better able to survive and reproduce in ancestral environments; however, in the modern world the abundance of foods with fat, sugar, and salt, as well as the mimicry of these qualities by foods deficient in them, leads to maladaptive proximate behaviors such as obesity, and concurrent health problems.
In conclusion, the wide-ranging collection addresses a range of issues through the unified lens of evolutionary theory in a manner accessible to not just academics, but intellectually curious students of the business world. Although scholars may disagree on the specifics of evolutionary theory, this edited volume provides an integrated framework by which a broad array of business-related concerns may be fruitfully addressed, as well as provide a means by which those who wish to gain the upper hand in the applied world of business can obtain the necessary edge. In this sense, Evolutionary Psychology in the Business Sciences is a worthy successor to Jerome Barkow, Leda Cosmides and John Tooby's "The Adapted Mind: Evolutionary Psychology and the Generation of Culture," which introduced students and scholars to applications of evolutionary theory to a broad range of social issues. If this collection finds the audience it deserves, it likewise has the potential to alter a disjointed field of business sciences by providing order and growth to not just research, but also practical application of lessons learned. (Note: This review is extracted from a larger review to be published in the journal "Politics and the Life Sciences.")