New by Winifred Gallagher
Understanding Our Need for Novelty and Change

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Ms. Gallagher eventually meanders to the conclusion...
-WSJ online


Why are we attuned to the latest headline, diet craze, smartphone, fashion statement?  Why do we relish a change of scene, eye attractive strangers, develop new interests? 

How did Homo sapiens survive near-extinction during an environmental crisis 80,000 years ago, while close cousins very like us have died out?


Why is your characteristic reaction to novelty and change the key to your whole personality?


Why do we enjoy inexpensive pleasures, like fresh flowers or great chocolate, more than costly comforts, like cars or  appliances?


How can a species genetically geared to engage with novelty cope in a world that increasingly bombards us with it?




Follow a crawling baby around and you’ll see that right from the beginning, nothing excites us more than something new and different. Our unique human brains are biologically primed to engage with and even generate novelty, from our ancestors’ first bow and arrow to the latest tablet computer. This “neophilia” has enabled us to thrive in a world of cataclysmic change, but now, we confront an unprecedented deluge of new things, from products to information, which has quadrupled in the past 30 years and shows no sign of slowing. To prevent our great strength from becoming a weakness in today’s fast-paced world, we must re-connect with neophilia’s grand evolutionary purpose: to help us learn, create, and adapt to new things that have real value and dismiss the rest as distractions.


In New: Understanding Our Need for Novelty and Change, Winifred Gallagher, acclaimed behavioral science writer and author of Rapt, takes us to the cutting-edge laboratories and ancient archeological sites where scientists explore our special affinity for novelty and change. Although no other species can rival our capacity to explore and experiment with the new, we individuals vary in how we balance the conflicting needs to avoid risk and approach rewards. Most of us are moderate “neophiles,” but some 15 per cent of us are die-hard “neophiliacs,” who have an innate passion for new experiences, and another 15 per cent are cautious “neophobes,” who try to steer clear of them—a 1-5-1 ratio that benefits the group’s well-being. Wherever you sit on the continuum, New shows you how to use this special human gift to navigate more skillfully  through our rapidly changing world by focusing on the new things that really matter.


About Winifred Gallagher

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WINIFRED GALLAGHER'S books include Rapt: Attention and the Focused Life, House Thinking, Just the Way You Are (a New York Times Notable Book), Working on God, and The Power of Place. She has written for numerous publications, such as Atlantic Monthly, Rolling Stone, and The New York Times. She lives in Manhattan and Dubois, Wyoming.
Published December 29, 2011 by Penguin Books. 271 pages
Genres: Health, Fitness & Dieting, Self Help, Professional & Technical. Non-fiction
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WSJ online

Below average
Reviewed by Eric Felten on Jan 09 2012

Ms. Gallagher eventually meanders to the conclusion...

Read Full Review of New: Understanding Our Need f... | See more reviews from WSJ online


Below average
Reviewed by Alice Gregory on Jan 05 2012

For a book about novelty, New is weirdly repetitive, due largely to Gallagher's vague, past-three-decades time frame...New does not read as new at all, in fact. If anything, it reads as old.

Read Full Review of New: Understanding Our Need f... | See more reviews from NPR

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