Why Does Self-Help Work?
Last Updated: 2019-08-08 18:04

One thing I've been thinking about is why self-help works at all. In conjunction with the blog right below this one, why is it the case that doing anything at all works?

In other words, one way to think about the core argument of self-help is that there's something else you could be doing, which would have beneficial effects. But why might this be the case? What's wrong with the stuff you're already doing?

Ah, well, here we get to the evo-psych argument: Humans can be thought of as executing adaptations which helped out previous humans in the ancestral environment. But today’s world has changed up a lot faster than our brains have. Which means that there are a lot of low-hanging fruit to improve our actions.

(i.e. we have cognitive biases and it's our default)

But what about all the stuff we’ve learned since birth? Does that not count? Well, maybe it isn’t enough? To what extent does the environment select for behaviors, ala classical conditioning / learning?

(And even if so, does the environment select for optimal behaviors, or just things that sustain themselves? Probably just the sustaining stuff, methinks.)

Overall, this is just a quick intuition pump to remind myself that it's quite plausible that, given human goals and a natural environment, there can be a lot of room for improvement.