Behave by Robert M. Sapolsky
The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst

No critic rating

Waiting for minimum critic reviews

See 4 Critic Reviews

Those answers may not satisfy strict sociobiologists on one hand or Heideggerians on the other, but they’re unfailingly provocative, as is Sapolsky’s closing observation that whenever we talk of human nature or natures, we’re talking about averages in a world of endless variation. An exemplary work of popular science, challenging but accessible.
-Kirkus

Synopsis

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 genetic inheritance.

And so the first category of explanation is the neurobiological one. What goes on in a person's brain a second before the behavior happens? Then he pulls out to a slightly larger field of vision, a little earlier in time: What sight, sound, or smell triggers the nervous system to produce that behavior? And then, what hormones act hours to days earlier to change how responsive that individual is to the stimuli which trigger 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--next to what features of the environment affected that person's brain, and then back to the childhood of the individual, and then to their genetic makeup. Finally, he expands the view to encompass factors larger than that one individual. How culture has shaped that individual's group, what ecological factors helped shape that culture, and on and on, back to evolutionary factors thousands and even millions of years old.

The result is one of the most dazzling tours de 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.
 

About Robert M. Sapolsky

See more books from this Author
Robert M. Sapolsky is the author of several works of nonfiction, including A Primate's Memoir, The Trouble with Testosterone, and Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers. He is a professor of biology and neurology at Stanford University and the recipient of a MacArthur Foundation genius grant. He lives in San Francisco.
 
Published May 2, 2017 by Penguin Press. 799 pages
Genres: Political & Social Sciences, Nature & Wildlife, Professional & Technical, Science & Math, Crime, Health, Fitness & Dieting. Non-fiction
Add Critic Review

Critic reviews for Behave
All: 4 | Positive: 4 | Negative: 0

Kirkus

Excellent
on Mar 07 2017

Those answers may not satisfy strict sociobiologists on one hand or Heideggerians on the other, but they’re unfailingly provocative, as is Sapolsky’s closing observation that whenever we talk of human nature or natures, we’re talking about averages in a world of endless variation. An exemplary work of popular science, challenging but accessible.

Read Full Review of Behave: The Biology of Humans... | See more reviews from Kirkus

Star Tribune

Good
Reviewed by Hamilton Cain on Jun 30 2017

Stories such as this one infuse charm and élan into the book’s complex, frequently dense narrative, illuminating the brain in unprecedented ways. Welcome, then, a stunning achievement and an invaluable addition to the canon of scientific literature, certain to kindle debate for years to come.

Read Full Review of Behave: The Biology of Humans... | See more reviews from Star Tribune

NY Times

Above average
Reviewed by Richard Wrangham on Jul 06 2017

If it took an unrealistic connection between science and society to motivate Sapolsky to write “Behave,” that is a small price. His book offers a wild and mind-opening ride into a better understanding of just where our behavior comes from. Darwin would have been thrilled.

Read Full Review of Behave: The Biology of Humans... | See more reviews from NY Times

Guardian

Good
Reviewed by Steven Poole on Jun 09 2017

You reach out to touch someone’s arm, or perhaps you pull a trigger. What made that happen? In this extraordinary survey of the science of human behaviour, the biologist Robert Sapolsky takes the reader on an epic journey...

Read Full Review of Behave: The Biology of Humans... | See more reviews from Guardian

Reader Rating for Behave
89%

An aggregated and normalized score based on 14 user ratings from iDreamBooks & iTunes


Rate this book!

Add Review
×