Character. We want it in our leaders, we look for it in our spouses and friends, we try to teach it to our children. The prevailing view is that it comes from hard work and due diligence. It’s cultivated; it’s stable. But if character is so stable, then why do we so often disagree over who’s got it and who doesn’t? Why do we so often see paragons of virtue fall, see supposedly honest people deceive, and find ourselves surprised when those without a good bone in their body engage in acts of humility and generosity?
In Out of Character: The Surprising Truths About the Liar, Cheat, Sinner (and Saint) Lurking in All of Us, we attempt to turn the prevailing wisdom upside down by showing that character, nobility, and goodness are all shaped to a high degree by forces outside of our awareness. We’ll take readers into our lab to provide first-hand accounts of how the best and worst of humanity arise from the interplay of these hidden forces and the emotions they evoke. From jealousy and bigotry to compassion and altruism, from cheating and hypocrisy to honesty and loyalty, from self-indulgence to self-control, we’ll provide a unique window into the forces that shape our character from moment to moment by watching these phenomena unfold before our very eyes.