Cover image for Behave : the biology of humans at our best and worst / Robert M. Sapolsky.
Title:
Behave : the biology of humans at our best and worst / Robert M. Sapolsky.
ISBN:
9781594205071
Publication Information:
New York : Penguin Press, 2017.
Physical Description:
790 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm
Abstract:
"Why do we do the things we do? Over a decade in the making, this game-changing book is Robert Sapolsky's genre-shattering attempt to answer that question as fully as perhaps only he could, looking at it from every angle. Sapolsky's storytelling concept is delightful but it also has a powerful intrinsic logic: he starts by looking at the factors that bear on a person's reaction in the precise moment a behavior occurs, and then hops back in time from there, in stages, ultimately ending up at the deep history of our species and its evolutionary legacy. And so the first category of explanation is the neurobiological one. A behavior occurs--whether an example of humans at our best, worst, or somewhere in between. What went on in a person's brain a second before the behavior happened? Then Sapolsky pulls out to a slightly larger field of vision, a little earlier in time: What sight, sound, or smell caused the nervous system to produce that behavior? And then, what hormones acted hours to days earlier to change how responsive that individual is to the stimuli that triggered the nervous system? By now he has increased our field of vision so that we are thinking about neurobiology and the sensory world of our environment and endocrinology in trying to explain what happened. Sapolsky keeps going: How was that behavior influenced by structural changes in the nervous system over the preceding months, by that person's adolescence, childhood, fetal life, and then back to his or her genetic makeup? Finally, he expands the view to encompass factors larger than one individual. How did culture shape that individual's group, what ecological factors millennia old formed that culture? And on and on, back to evolutionary factors millions of years old. The result is one of the most dazzling tours d'horizon of the science of human behavior ever attempted, a majestic synthesis that harvests cutting-edge research across a range of disciplines to provide a subtle and nuanced perspective on why we ultimately do the things we do ... for good and for ill. Sapolsky builds on this understanding to wrestle with some of our deepest and thorniest questions relating to tribalism and xenophobia, hierarchy and competition, morality and free will, and war and peace. Wise, humane, often very funny, Behave is a towering achievement, powerfully humanizing, and downright heroic in its own right"-- Provided by publisher.
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Summary

Summary

"It's no exaggeration to say that Behave is one of the best nonfiction books I've ever read." -- David P. Barash, The Wall Street Journal

From the celebrated neurobiologist and primatologist, a landmark, genre-defining examination of human behavior, both good and bad, and an answer to the question: Why do we do the things we do?

Sapolsky's storytelling concept is delightful but it also has a powerful intrinsic logic: he starts by looking at the factors that bear on a person's reaction in the precise moment a behavior occurs, and then hops back in time from there, in stages, ultimately ending up at the deep history of our species and its evolutionary legacy.

And so the first category of explanation is the neurobiological one. A behavior occurs--whether an example of humans at our best, worst, or somewhere in between. What went on in a person's brain a second before the behavior happened? Then Sapolsky pulls out to a slightly larger field of vision, a little earlier in time: What sight, sound, or smell caused the nervous system to produce that behavior? And then, what hormones acted hours to days earlier to change how responsive that individual is to the stimuli that triggered the nervous system? By now he has increased our field of vision so that we are thinking about neurobiology and the sensory world of our environment and endocrinology in trying to explain what happened.

Sapolsky keeps going: How was that behavior influenced by structural changes in the nervous system over the preceding months, by that person's adolescence, childhood, fetal life, and then back to his or her genetic makeup? Finally, he expands the view to encompass factors larger than one individual. How did culture shape that individual's group, what ecological factors millennia old formed that culture? And on and on, back to evolutionary factors millions of years old.

The result is one of the most dazzling tours d'horizon of the science of human behavior ever attempted, a majestic synthesis that harvests cutting-edge research across a range of disciplines to provide a subtle and nuanced perspective on why we ultimately do the things we do...for good and for ill. Sapolsky builds on this understanding to wrestle with some of our deepest and thorniest questions relating to tribalism and xenophobia, hierarchy and competition, morality and free will, and war and peace. Wise, humane, often very funny, Behave is a towering achievement, powerfully humanizing, and downright heroic in its own right.

Behave makes a great Father's Day gift!


Author Notes

Robert M. Sapolsky is a Professor of Biology & Neurology at Stanford & 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 Los Angeles Times Book Award finalists. A regular contributor to Discover & The Sciences & a recipient of a MacArthur Foundation genius grant, Sapolsky lives in San Francisco, California.

(Bowker Author Biography)


Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

Sapolsky (Monkeyluv), professor of biology at Stanford, looks at human behavior from myriad interrelated perspectives, endeavoring to explain humans' strange and often contradictory behavior. He predominantly focuses on exploring "the biology of violence, aggression, and competition" through the lenses of neuroscience, anthropology, psychology, genetics, evolutionary biology, political science, and communication theory. Sapolsky takes complex ideas from the scientific literature, including his own research, and attempts to balance the pros and cons of every conclusion. He weaves science storytelling with humor to keep readers engaged while advancing his main point about the complexity and interconnectedness of all aspects of behavior. For Sapolsky, context is everything. For example, in discussing genetics he urges readers to "repeat the mantra: don't ask what a gene does; ask what it does in a particular context." Understanding such complexity can potentially lead toward a more just and peaceful society, Sapolsky says. He recognizes that this ambition may "seem hopeless" but argues that it is essential. Finally, he contends and demonstrates that "you don't have to choose between being scientific and being compassionate." Sapolsky's big ideas deserve a wide audience and will likely shape thinking for some time. Agent: Katinka Matson, Brockman Inc. (May) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


Library Journal Review

Sapolsky (biology, neurology & neurological sciences, & neurosurgery, Stanford Univ.; A Primate's Memoir) takes a far-reaching look at the biological underpinnings of violence and related human behaviors and their antitheses such as altruism and compassion. Sapolsky examines individual acts of harm or help, starting on the level of neurobiology the moment the event occurs. He then takes a step back, focusing on the preceding minutes, days, and lifetime to explore the role of hormones, genes, memories, upbringing, environment, genes, culture, and evolution. When sociobiology and psychology are so intertwined and multifactorial, the effects are nuanced and context dependent. Each piece presents a partial explanation, with no bit of biology offering complete causality. The latter chapters then consider practical implications as applied in the realms of morality, criminal justice, politics, and war and peace. The author does an excellent job of bringing together the expansive literature of thousands of fascinating studies with clarity and humor, though some readers may choose to skim the extensive discussions of brain regions. Appendixes give primers on neuroscience, endocrinology, and proteins that provide background for some of the early chapters. VERDICT A tour-de-force survey of what is known about why we behave the way we do, for students of human interaction in any discipline. [Prepub Alert, 11/21/16.]-Wade M. Lee, Univ. of Toledo Lib. © Copyright 2017. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Table of Contents

Introductionp. 1
1 The Behaviorp. 15
2 One Second Beforep. 21
3 Seconds to Minutes Beforep. 81
4 Hours to Days Beforep. 99
5 Days to Months Beforep. 137
6 Adolescence; Or, Dude, Where's My Frontal Cortex?p. 154
7 Back to the Crib, Back to the Wombp. 174
8 Back to When You Were Just a Fertilized Eggp. 223
9 Centuries to Millennia Beforep. 266
10 The Evolution of Behaviorp. 328
11 Us Versus Themp. 387
12 Hierarchy, Obedience, and Resistancep. 425
13 Morality and Doing the Right Thing, Once You've Figured Out What That Isp. 478
14 Feeling Someone's Pain, Understanding Someone's Pain, Alleviating Someone's Painp. 521
15 Metaphors We Kill Byp. 553
16 Biology, The Criminal Justice System, And (Oh, Why Not?) Free Willp. 560
17 War and Peacep. 614
Epiloguep. 671
Acknowledgmentsp. 676
Appendix 1 Neuroscience 101p. 679
Appendix 2 The Basics of Endocrinologyp. 707
Appendix 3 Protein Basicsp. 711
Glossary of Abbreviationsp. 718
Notesp. 721
Illustration Creditsp. 774
Indexp. 775

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