Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst

Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst

Why do we do the things we do?
More than 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.

Title:Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst
Edition Language:English
ISBN:9781594205071
Format Type:

    Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst Reviews

  • Pouting Always

    Robert Sapolsky is a neuroendocrinologist and has studied primates for decades in Africa, and I love him. If anyone wants to watch it he did a TED talk on what makes human's unique from other animals:...

  • Morgan Blackledge

    Sapolsky is my lord. He's an Olympian god on high. He's a titan. This book is retarded. It's almost impossible to read. It's like 10,000 pages long. But it's next to impossible not to adore.It's basic...

  • Michael

    This is an outstanding and monumental synthesis on the causes of behavior by a talented researcher and teacher. He excels in making the science of the brain and behavior accessible to a wide audience ...

  • Matt

    This book is a masterful distillation of academic research on social behavior. It's creatively organized, clearly written, and always fascinating. I listened on audiobook, but will probably buy a phys...

  • Tony

    I finished this yesterday, but I had to stop first and catch my breath before writing a review. This was a whirlwind, a high-speed ride, exercising my amygdala mightily. No book I’ve read, at least ...

  • David

    What a wonderful book! It is a comprehensive look at all types of behavior, from the magnanimous to the hideous. It is filled with stories that heighten the reader's level of engagement. The book is l...

  • Bharath

    In the shortest possible summary, let me start by saying that Behave is a stupendous book, and among the best science books I have read. While it is a book of science, and very detailed in parts at th...

  • Peter Mcloughlin

    Sapolsky might become one of my new favorite authors. In this work, he surveys the literature on Brains, Genetics, Culture, and puts together a detailed picture of what makes us tick. He takes in a la...

  • HBalikov

    Sapolsky is a gem of a researcher, professor and deep thinker. He has done very well since receiving his MacArthur Foundation “genius grant.” Here he covers neuroscience, cognitive science and phi...

  • Max

    Sapolsky explores the causes of human behavior at every level. Although he throws in some zingers and catchy vernacular, this is a serious work that can read like a textbook. He divides the book in tw...