- Paperback: 800 pages
- Publisher: Vintage (2018)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 009957506X
- ISBN-13: 978-0099575061
- Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 3.9 x 19.8 cm
- Average Customer Review: 18 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #3,765 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst Paperback – 2018
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"Awe-inspiring … This is the best scientific book written for non-specialists that I have ever read. You will learn more about human nature than in any other book I can think of, and you will be inspired" (Henry Marsh, author of Do No Harm)
"It’s no exaggeration to say that Behave is one of the best nonfiction books I’ve ever read" (Wall Street Journal)
"Behave is the best detective story ever written, and the most important. If you've ever wondered why someone did something – good or bad, vicious or generous – you need to read this book. If you think you already know why people behave as they do, you need to read this book. In other words, everybody needs to read it. It should be available on prescription (side effects: chronic laughter; highly addictive). They should put Behave in hotel rooms instead of the Bible: the world would be a much better, wiser place" (Kate Fox, author of Watching the English)
"Magisterial … This extraordinary survey of the science of human behaviour takes the reader on an epic journey … Sapolsky makes the book consistently entertaining, with an infectious excitement at the puzzles he explains … a miraculous synthesis of scholarly domains" (Steven Poole Guardian)
"Truly all-encompassing … detailed, accessible, fascinating" (Telegraph)
"Rarely does an almost 800-page book keep my attention from start to finish, but Behave is exceptional in its scale, scope, detail and writing style ... Sapolsky places what makes us special in the wider context of humans as animals with brains that are fundamentally similar to those of other species. It is the first book that does so comprehensively enough to qualify as a guide to human behaviour" (Frans de Waal Science)
"A miraculous book, by far the best treatment of violence, aggression, and competition ever. Its depth and breadth of scholarship are amazing, building on Sapolsky’s own research and his vast knowledge of the neurobiology, genetic, and behavioral literature. All this is done brilliantly with a light and funny touch that shows why Sapolsky is recognized as one of the greatest teachers in science today" (Paul Ehrlich, author of Human Natures)
"A great writer and a superb guide to human nature, Sapolsky shows you how all the perspectives and systems connect, and he makes you laugh and marvel along the way. A beautifully crafted work about the biology of morality" (Jonathan Haidt, author of The Righteous Mind)
"One of the best scientist-writers of our time" (Oliver Sacks)
"Behave is like a great historical novel, with excellent prose and encylopedic detail. It traces the most important story that can ever be told" (E O Wilson)
About the Author
Robert M. Sapolsky holds degrees from Harvard and Rockefeller Universities and is currently a Professor of Biology and Neurology at Stanford University and a Research Associate with the Institute of Primate Research, National Museums of Kenya. He is the author of The Trouble with Testosterone, Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers (both finalists for the LA Times Book Award), and A Primate's Memoir. Sapolsky has contributed to Natural History, Discover, Men's Health, and Scientific American, and is a recipient of a MacArthur Foundation genius grant.
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Robert Sapolsky invokes interest and curiosity right from the start - talking about how we are very conflicted in our beliefs – especially we condone many acts of violence, but do support others. I have to admit I have many conflicts I am unable to resolve myself – such as the fact that I find very impressive the progress that science has made as detailed in this book, and yet I am very pained that much of this has come with cruel experiments on animals.
The organisation of the book is very logical – it traces an action from when it happens, to moments before, months/years before and potentially several years earlier in cases. Experiments show that there are several markers in our brain which light up, before we take any action. So the big question (which the book Homo Deus by Yuval Noah Harari explores as well) – do we really have free will? Do we have the ability to stop when the natural instinct kicks in? As it turns out, much of how we act is a result of a multitude of factors – events which have happened at any time previously - sometimes well in the past, our genes, environment, and many others, some of it still to be determined. This has extremely important implications for law enforcement as well.
There are excellent examples: eg: when you compliment a child on good work, telling them they are clever vs telling them they are hardworking invokes very different responses. While we appreciate empathy – the ability to step into and feel the others experience, empathy stalls action. Compassion is more effective. The discussion around how the brain responds to meditation are alluded to – though I think it deserved far more coverage. There are also other interesting lessons around how judges and juries decide punishment based on a number of factors which logic says should have no bearing.
The issues of “Us” vs “Them” is discussed in detail, and deservedly so. Our brain instantly associates some faces as “Us” and some others as “Them”. We develop this categorisation over time and this association is very strong in adulthood and near impossible to get over. While this is true even in animals, our behaviours are more complex. The “Us” categorisation could be based on country, language, religion, colour, and others. The natural tendency is to think in terms of aggregate labels rather than as individuals, accounting for much of our biases.
This is a big book, and one for which I should have taken notes. But I did not. Since there is a wealth of important information, I expect I will have to revisit the book again – when I feel I am forgetting its contents.
The Appendix has information on Brain / Genes / Hormones which is worth taking a look at. This is an exceptional book, though certainly not light reading. Since it packs great amount of detail, it is a more difficult read than for instance “Sapiens” by Yuval Noah Harari. However, I very strongly recommend this – for reading at the earliest possible
A fascinating and entertaining read. I'll highly recommend it to anyone looking for a serious and balanced discussion on behavioral science.
One of the most inspiring books I've ever read.
Wise, humane, often very funny, Behave is a towering achievement, powerfully humanizing, that is unlikely to be surpassed for many years.
It is a great collection of various groundbreaking reseach study on behaviour of humans and other species. Written for those with a prior understanding of highschool biology, this is the work of one of the leading neuroendocrinologist and primatologist of United States, Robert M. Sopolsky of Stanford.
Sopolsky makes a case against the way of explaining behaviour using framework of single academic 'bucket'. To include every 'bucket' the book follows a chronological flow back in time from the point of occurrence of a behaviour.
It turns out that the backwards time-travel is an excellent organising principle. Seconds before our action, it is neuroscience that investigates what is going on in the brain; minutes to days before is the domain of endocrinology (hormonal fluctuations). Days to months before, we focus on the brain’s ability to learn and rewire itself. Sapolsky goes back through adolescence, childhood and gestation (including genetics), and, beyond the birth of the individual, to more distant causes still – those found in culture, evolutionary psychology, game theory and comparative zoology. He makes the book consistently entertaining, with an infectious excitement at the puzzles he explains.
Sopolsky also addresses various controversial issues, notably, always preferring to cite neuroscientists and legal scholars. Every human action is inescapably caused by preceding events in the world, including events in the brain, he establishes. So there can be no such thing as free will. Sapolsky is on the side of Steven Pinker’s argument, in The Better Angels of Our Nature, that humanity is overall getting less violent and nasty and also emphasizes complete overhaul of the justice system.
The thought of extent of compression and simplification of this huge subject shocks me. Sopolsky is truly a hardworking scientist and an inspiring author.
The flabbergasting conclusions drawn in the end of every subsection drives me mad.