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Games Primates Play: An Undercover Investigation of the Evolution and Economics of Human Relationships Paperback – May 1, 2012

3.3 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"Publishers Weekly" "[E]ngaging.... Drawing on his own work with rhesus macaques as well as broader primate literature, Maestripieri offers solid grounding in the basics of animal behavior while discussing the evolutionary roots of complex social patterns. The behaviors he focuses on are both critical and fascinating: sexual choice; dominance relationships; the nature of altruism and selfishness; and coalition building, among others.""Booklist""[A] fascinating survey. Using wonderful comparative studies and conversational language, Maestripieri brings us back to our primate roots so that we can better understand why we do the things we do." "Psychology Today""Read this if...You want to understand the parallels between all primate societies. Maestripieri illustrates that the behavior of Tony Soprano's family mirrors that of macaque monkeys and explains how to figure out celebrity breakups by studying the mating practices of apes." "Toronto"" Star" "The University of Chicago primatologist begins with a thorough, albeit unsettling, analysis of what we do when we encounter a stranger in an elevator, then guides us through the gamut of common social interactions, relating our behaviour to that of our primate brethren in the wild and in the lab. His observations on our common impulses are fascinating." Robert Sapolsky, Professor of Neuroscience, Stanford University, and author of "A Primate's Memoir""At the end of the day, there is no social interaction of humans that does not bear the imprint of our being a species of animal, of primate, of ape. In this smart and witty book, one of our finest primatologists, Dario Maestripieri, gives a tour of human social behavior and its primate legacy. A fun, insightful read." Laura Betzig, author of "Despotism and Differential Reproduction" "There's a new maestro on the block, and he's written a great book. When a chimp strays into a strange troop, why is he at risk of getting his testicles ripped off? Whose eyeba

About the Author

Dario Maestripieri is Professor of Comparative Human Development, Evolutionary Biology, Neurobiology, and Psychiatry & Behavioral Neuroscience at the University of Chicago. He received the Distinguished Scientific Award for Early Career Contribution to Psychology from the American Psychological Association in 2000, and a Career Development Award from the National Institute of Mental Health in 2001. He has appeared TV and radio shows around the world, and his research has been featured in a number of newspapers and magazines including The New York Times, Pravda, LeMonde, Der Spiegel, the Guardian, The Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune, The New Scientist, American Scientist, Nature, and Science. He is the author of Macachiavellian Intelligence and editor of Primate Psychology. He lives in Chicago, Illinois.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Perseus Books Group (May 1, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465031676
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465031672
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.1 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,171,078 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I bought this book after reading a positive Wall Street Journal review. By way of background, I am an economist and professional trader - I watch and participate in markets all the time. While I have taken a number of courses in anthropology (biological and cultural), sociology and psychology, I never pursued post-graduate education in any of the subjects. I'm very interested in the topics covered by the author and have read works ranging from Francis Crick's The Astonishing Hypothesis to Geertz's classic Interpretation of Cultures.

As of writing, I am the only person to give this book 2 stars. I expect I will recieve a large number of "unhelpful" votes and be pilloried for not "getting it" or being an amateur. That's fine since I hope to (altruistically, pun intended) save at least a few folks money.

First, the good. The book is well-written and communicates complex ideas in an accessible, funny and warm manner. It draws interesting parallels between human and primate behavior. It provides some real-world examples of "games" or algorithms that have been modified by humans to their current social context but are fundamentally the same as those practiced by primates.

Now, the bad. For those familiar with the topic, the core ideas presented here are neither particularly novel nor terribly exciting. In the first half of the book, the author spends far too much time describing experiments and too little interpreting the results or applying results to human behavior. This is a pity, because the career strategy section is extremely interesting and accessible. In the second half, he seems to reverse course and hypothesize at length with minimal scientific grounding (beyond references to others' works).
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Format: Kindle Edition
This book is a combination of evolutionary psychology, primate behavior, and behavioral economics. Unfortunately, it's also a bit of a mish-mash. The author really doesn't do a good job integrating these different disciplines. It seems more like he picks one up, puts it down, picks up another, puts it down, etc. He never really ties them together that well. And if you're a fan of any of these disciplines, you may be disappointed with the rather shallow treatment he gives your favorite.

Though some of the writing is quite good, there were also spots I didn't care for. One reviewer really liked the chapter on Italian academics and nepotism. For me, it went on and on, rather like a shaggy dog story. I also found the next-to-last chapter on behavioral economics very boring, with a really leaden, extremely abstract style. Yes, I realize he's an academic, and not Malcolm Gladwell, but ...

Finally, the cover promises this book is an "undercover" investigation of human behavior. Except for his observations about elevator etiquette, there's really not much of that.

Hmm ... That all sounds awfully negative. It's really not that bad a book. There are some really interesting ideas (his thoughts on French kissing, for example) and it's much more readable than a textbook.

I guess I've just read a lot of these books (there are plenty out there). So, if you've never been exposed to this field before, you'll probably find this book (really, this field) fascinating. There are better books out there though.
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Format: Hardcover
Maestripieri, a Professor of comparative human development and evolutionary biology at the University of Chicago, argues that the inheritance by humans of behavioural patterns from distant, non-human ancestors is as real as the inheritance of structural items - that, just as we can spot the traces of a common ancestor in the structure of some relatively complex organ, so we can see behavioural patterns in human beings that reflect responses that have proved to be behaviourally useful to the common ancestry that we share with our cousins, the apes. Some more basic reactions, like the fear response, almost certainly take us further down the tree of life to even more distant ancestors.

Maestripieri obviously feels the need to prove his point: apparently some scientists argue that the very recent and dramatic development of the human brain means that 'all bets are off' - that our recently gained mental complexity means that we can ignore any possible influence of ancient behaviour patterns: human behaviour, on this analysis, will transcend, or is, at least, capable of transcending, any evolutionary influences. Maestripieri argues, at the conclusion of his book, that 'our new mental powers have not replaced the psychological and behavioural dispositions that we have inherited from our primate ancestors.'

Not being an expert in the field, I rather thought that we had crossed this bridge some time ago. Konrad Lorenz did a good job of popularising ethology, the science of animal behaviour, and I thought that Desmond Morris, in The Naked Ape, had argued compellingly for a link between primate behaviour and human behavioural traits.
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