- Hardcover: 800 pages
- Publisher: Penguin Press (May 2, 2017)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1594205078
- ISBN-13: 978-1594205071
- Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.5 x 9.6 inches
- Shipping Weight: 2.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #164 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst
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“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
“If anyone can save evolutionary biology from TED talkers and pop-science fabulists, it might be Sapolsky…. Behave ranges at great length from moral philosophy to social science, genetics to Sapolsky’s home turf of neurons and hormones — but all of it is aimed squarely at the question of why humans are so awful to each other, and whether the condition is terminal.”— Vulture
“Robert Sapolsky's students must love him. In Behave, the primatologist, neurologist and science communicator writes like a teacher: witty, erudite and passionate about clear communication. You feel like a lucky auditor in a fast-paced undergraduate course, where the implications of fascinating scientific findings are illuminated through topical stories and pop-culture allusions.” —Nature
“Behave is like a great historical novel, with excellent prose and encyclopedic detail. It traces the most important story that can ever be told.” —Edward O. Wilson
“A wide-ranging, learned survey of all the making-us-tick things that, for better or worse, define us as human…. An exemplary work of popular science, challenging but accessible.” —Kirkus Reviews, starred
“[Sapolsky] weaves science storytelling with humor….[His] big ideas deserve a wide audience and will likely shape thinking for some time.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“[Sapolsky] does an excellent job of bringing together the expansive literature of thousands of fascinating studies with clarity and humor….A tour-de-force.” —Library Journal (starred review)
“Sapolsky finds not the high moral drama of the soul choosing good or evil but rather down-to-earth biology….a remarkably encyclopedic survey of the sciences illuminating human conduct.”
“Read Robert Sapolsky’s marvelous book Behave and you’ll never again be surprised by the range and depth of our own bad behavior. We all carry the potential for unconscious biases, to be damaged by our childhoods and map that damage onto our own loved ones, and to form the tribal ‘Us’ groups that treat outsiders as lesser ‘Thems.’ But to read this book is also, marvelously, to be given the hope that we have much more control of those behaviors than we think. And Behave gives us more than hope—it gives us the knowledge of how to act on that aspiration, to manifest more of our best selves and less of our worst, individually and as a society. That’s very good news indeed.”
—Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit and Smarter Faster Better
"As wide as it is deep, this book is colorful, electrifying, and moving. Sapolsky leverages his deep expertise to ask the most fundamental questions about being human--from acts of hate to acts of love, from our compulsion to dehumanize to our capacity to rehumanize." —David Eagleman, PhD, neuroscientist at Stanford, author, presenter of PBS's The Brain
"Behave is a beautifully crafted work about the biology of morality. Sapolsky makes multiple passes at the target, using different time scales and systems. He shows you how all the perspectives and systems connect, and he makes you laugh and marvel along the way. Sapolsky is not just a leading primatologist; he’s a great writer and a superb guide to human nature." —Jonathan Haidt, New York University, author of The Righteous Mind
“This is a miraculous book, by far the best treatment of violence, aggression, and competition ever. It ranges from how neurons and hormones interact, how emotions are an essential part of decision making, why adolescents are more likely to be violent than adults, why genes influence cultures and vice-versa, and the ins and outs of “we versus them,” all the way to “live and let live” truces in World War I and the My Lai massacre. Its depth and breadth of scholarship are amazing, building on Sapolsky’s own research and his vast knowledge of the neurobiology, genetic, and behavioral literature. For instance, Behave includes fair evaluations of complex debates (like over sociobiology) that I was involved in, and tackles controversial questions such as whether our hunter-gatherer ancestors warred on each other. He even takes on “free will” with a clarity usually absent from the writings of philosophers on the subject. All this is done brilliantly with a light and funny touch that shows why Sapolsky is recognized as one of the greatest teachers in science today.”
—Paul R. Ehrlich, author of Human Natures
About the 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 with his wife, two children and dogs.
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Top Customer Reviews
Robert Sapolsky is nothing if not engaging in his writing style. He knows how to present complicated subject matter in easily digestible and logically coherent portions. And he has a sense of humor which, often enough, hits home. Here’s his take on who reads academic research papers: “The number of times your average science paper is cited can be counted on one hand, with most of the citations by the scientist’s mother.”
As an academic, all I can say is “ouch,” but it’s an ouch of recognition, not objection.
This quote, by the way, is part of a thorough discussion of the work of three of the most cited social scientists in history - Solomon Asch, Stanley Milgram and Philip Zimbardo - a discussion which, by itself, is almost worth the purchase price of "Behave."
So, if you’re interested in the latest research on what people-and-the-things-they-do are all about, and would also appreciate having a valuable source for future reference on a wide array of topics in this area, Professor Sapolsky’s latest book is just the thing. Strongly recommend.
For me a difficult read. Lots of unfamiliar terms and territory. The wonderful jokes and anecdotes greatly lightened the load. Their inclusion in uber-small type was a disappointment.
The basic message is "it depends." Nature , nurture, early childhood experience (including abuse), and peer pressure all have an impact on behavior. There is no "silver bullet" that explains individual behavior.
This is a scholarly work. The pop culture rewrite probably would run 200 pages without the plumbing and wiring diagrams. The frequent recaps and summaries help keep on on track.
A final irony. We are told that the human brain doesn't reach maturity until the mid-twenties. Many of the cited studies were carried out with students as subjects. Are we studying immature brains?
I bought Behave on May 2, the day it was released, based primarily on a highly effusive recommendation in the Wall Street Journal that day. Now that I have read the book, I cannot highly recommend it myself.
By coincidence, I was about half way through Johnathan Haidt’s The Happiness Hypothesis when Behave arrived. In the first few pages, I could see the overlap. My advice is to read Haidt’s version because he makes all the same essential points in 1/3 as many pages, using many of the same arguments and sources, takes a more balanced approach, seems to be politically neutral, and is easier to read by a logarithmic magnitude. And the same wisdom is half the price.
Sapolsky is a biologist who writes like a biologist. Although many of his numerous footnotes are witty and/or informative, his basic style is to (1) set up a strawman argument he wants to refute, (2) provide 20 to 30 pages to extremely dense biologist minutia, and then, voila! (3) states his main point in one nicely pithy sentence. The problem is, as the old joke goes, you have to be a persistent and patient optimist to find the pony in this pile of … biologist dogma. On many occasions, I was unable to see the value of slogging through the ever-mounting stack of evidence cited in numerous research details that are presented over 20-30 pages to make a sub-point or to take a snipe at some other scientific discipline. Haidt makes many of the same points in 1/10 the space. The points only Sapolsky makes, you will little note nor long remember, as one practitioner of pithiness observed.
Proof that Saplosky has the ability to present dense material in a shorter space are the excellence shorter appendices on Neuroscience 101 (28 pages), The Basics of Endocrinology (4 pages), Protein Basics (7 pages). Contrast these with his 51 pages of Notes, which the publisher chose to present in 4- point type to keep them under 100 pages at 10-point type. Here are some clues in these comparisons.
Also, from the outset, I was put off by a sixth sense that his not-so-hidden agenda was to convert us unwashed masses to his neo-progressive worldview through deep Baptism in the Holy waters of contemporary biological doctrine which largely follows the scientism philosophy.
My best advice: Put Behave in your bookcase or on your desk as a totem of your intellectual adventures and read Haidt so you can answer questions about what you got out of reading Behave. Thus applying the key message in Behave.