‘Top Line’ Book Corner: David Brooks’ ‘The Social Animal’

By Kristina

Mar 11, 2011 2:57pm

ABC News’ Rick Klein reports:

New York Times columnist David Brooks’ new book bridges science and culture to deliver a portrait of American society – along with the assumptions and mistakes we make in interpreting success.

On ABC’s “Top Line,” we chatted with Brooks about “The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character, and Achievement,” with a particular focus on its implications for politics.

 

“We have an official story we tell about politics, that people are weighing each party's health care plan and making a decision. I personally have never met a person who did that,” Brooks said. “What we tend to do is we look … for is people who feel like us. And who we relate to. So sometimes consciously, sometimes unconsciously, who we bond with.”

In judging likely success, Brooks said, we make a mistake if we focus on things like scores on standardized tests.

“One of the things that we're learning is that, you know, IQ matters, but if you really want to know who's going to do very well in life, go into a Kindergarten and ask kids, 'Who's friends with who in this classroom?' Some people have an awareness of social networks, and if you're aware of who's friends with who, you can read people, you're probably going to do okay.”

All of which makes Brooks’ current favorite in the Republican presidential field, Gov. Mitch Daniels, R-Ind., a more curious choice. Daniels’ talents as a politician probably do not include people assuming he has the most friends.

“The word that comes up in some of the research is ‘competence.’ When we hire a plumber, when we look at a teacher, when we go to the dentist, we have an image in our head of what is competence. So it doesn't mean we're necessarily election the most gregarious person on earth. I mean, Richard Nixon was elected twice…”

“And so I think, especially for the Republicans this year, if they're counter-programming against such an elegant figure as [President] Obama, I think Mitch Daniels happens to be the right kind of person. He looks kinda nerdy and he's not the most charismatic guy, but he does exude that kind of, ‘Okay, I'm going to get the job done.’ ”

Watch the interview with David Brooks HERE.

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