A Psychologist Investigates How Evolution, Cognition, and Complexity are Revolutionizing Our View of Human Nature

“Douglas Kenrick is one of the most important scientists studying the evolutionary shaping of human drives and emotions. —Steven Pinker, Harvard University; Author of How the Mind Works


“Kenrick writes like a dream...” — Robert Sapolsky,  Stanford University, Author of A Primate’s Memoir


One part academic, one part comedian, and one part street fighter from Queens, Kenrick has ruffled a few feathers in his time. His crisp and witty writing, and his willingness to put scientific correctness before political correctness, will make readers think, laugh, and blush all at the same time.” —Noah Goldstein, UCLA, author of Yes! 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive


Sex, Murder, and the Meaning of Life is a disturbing and fascinating read. It will make you wonder who you are.” —Richard Wrangham, Harvard University; author of Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human


  1. What do sex and murder have to do with the meaning of life?

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  3. In Sex, Murder, and the Meaning of Life, social psychologist Douglas Kenrick exposes the selfish animalistic underside of human nature, and shows how it is intimately connected to our greatest and most selfless achievements.  Masterfully integrating cognitive science, evolutionary psychology, and complexity theory, this intriguing book paints a comprehensive picture of the principles that govern our lives. As Kenrick divulges, beneath our civilized veneer, human beings are a lot like howling hyenas and barking baboons, with heads full of homicidal tendencies and sexual fantasies. But, in his view, many ingrained, apparently irrational behaviors—such as inclinations to one-night stands, racial prejudices, and conspicuous consumption—ultimately manifest what he calls “Deep Rationality.” Although our heads are full of simple selfish biases that evolved to help our ancestors survive, modern human beings are anything but simple and selfish cavemen.  Kenrick argues that simple and selfish mental mechanisms we inherited from our ancestors ultimately give rise to the multifaceted social lives that we humans lead today, and to the most positive features of humanity, including generosity, artistic creativity, love, and familial bonds. And out of those simple mechanisms emerge all the complexities of society, including international conflicts and global economic markets.  By exploring the nuances of social psychology and the surprising results of his own research, Kenrick offers a detailed picture of what makes us caring, creative, and complex—that is, fully human.

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  5. Illuminated with stories from Kenrick’s own colorful experiences -- from his criminally inclined shantytown Irish relatives, his own multiple high school expulsions, broken marriages, and homicidal fantasies, to his eventual success as an evolutionary psychologist and loving father of two boys separated by 26 years -- this book is an exploration of our mental biases and failures, and our mind’s great successes. Idiosyncratic, controversial, and fascinating, Sex, Murder, and the Meaning of Life uncovers the pitfalls and promise of our biological inheritance.


  6. What do sex and murder have to do with the meaning of life?  Everything.

Click here to read additional praise from:

Kirkus Reviews,

John Alcock,

Dan Ariely,

John Bargh,

Pascal Boyer,

David Buss,

Robert Cialdini,

Steven Gangestad,

Bert Hölldobler,

Sonja Lyubomirsky,

& Jeff Simpson

Also by Doug Kenrick

(with Steve Neuberg and Bob Cialdini)

Social Psychology: Goals in Interaction

(5th edition)

For interviews or other media information contact:


Andrea.Bussell@perseusbooks.com