Extreme Fear: The Science of Your Mind in Danger (MacSci) Kindle Edition

4.5 out of 5 stars 31 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0230103481
ISBN-10: 0230103480
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Editorial Reviews


"Jeff Wise has a knack both for gripping accounts of real adventure and an impressive understanding of cutting-edge science."--Robert Young Pelton, author of The World's Most Dangerous Places

About the Author

Jeff Wise is a science writer, outdoor adventurer and pilot of airplanes and gliders. He is a contributing editor at Popular Mechanics, Travel + Leisure, Outside’s GO, and Fortune Small Business. He has also written for The New York Times Magazine, Esquire, Details, Popular Science, National Geographic Adventure, and many others. In the course of his journalism career he has surfed in Alaska, scuba dived the South China Sea, piloted a WWII fighter plane, and mushed a dog team in Montana. He lives in New York City.

Product Details

  • File Size: 770 KB
  • Print Length: 257 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press; Reprint edition (December 8, 2009)
  • Publication Date: December 8, 2009
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0033SA54C
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #279,338 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Victor A. Vyssotsky on December 7, 2010
Format: Hardcover
This book does an excellent job of describing the brain mechanisms involved in extreme fear, provides numerous anecdotes about occasions on which someone experienced it, and provides a good deal of military lore and experimental evidence about how fear works and what it does and how it can be limited. But I find myself wondering whether it will offer insight or assistance to anyone who may be suddenly confronted with a fear-inducing situation.

There are more variations in human reaction to extreme fear than the author acknowledges. Although I'm not an expert on the topic, I have experienced extreme fear on a few occasions, and have watched others experience it on many more occasions. My personal belief is that aside from the most basic brain-body mechanisms, well described in this book, a person's reaction to an obviously life-threatening situation (or one that seems life-threatening) is largely determined by the whole accumulation of experiences and situations to which the person has been exposed from childhood on. If this is so, it's more than a little difficult to reshape an individual's reactions to such situations, although quite possible to reshape reactions to such specific fears as fear of combat. I have known people who seemed almost immune to fear (although of course they really weren't) and I have known others who yield to fear so readily that one cannot count on them to perform in any dangerous situation. For example, when somebody quite unexpectedly receives a serious electrical shock (1000 to a few thousand volts at high amperage), which I have seen happen perhaps a dozen times, their reactions vary dramatically, from near-complete psychological collapse at one extreme to a few minutes of shaking and cursing, followed by acceptance of treatment and/or return to work.
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Format: Hardcover
Everyone feels fear. It is inherent to the human condition.

For some, fear is a stimulant driving them to extraordinary feats. For others, fear is paralyzing.

Humankind has struggled with fear since the dawn of time, trying to overcome or at least control it. Fear has been the subject of philosophers, priests, aristocrats, generals and psychologists, all trying to understand it. And now scientists have entered the picture and fear is giving up its secrets.

In this fascinating and engrossing book, fear gets the pop-science treatment from Jeff Wise, who brings a varied background as "science writer, outdoor adventurer and pilot of airplanes and gliders" to the task. Actually, his accomplishments seem pretty thin for the task, but he is no less qualified than other pop-science writers like Malcolm Gladwell.

In fact, Wise does, in my opinion, a better job than Gladwell.

He successfully merges contemporary scientific investigations into the nature of fear with medial analysis and real life stories of people both trapped and motivated by fear. Wise writes well and he has structured his book to be fast-moving, even though it is packed with information including more than a few scientific terms the reader is likely to be unfamiliar with. His examples are particularly well chosen to illustrate his points. For example, he describes scuba diving in underwater caves and how divers are faced with situations where fear and panic appear to be = and in fact are - the only "rational" responses, such as being lost and alone in an underwater cave.
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Format: Hardcover
I truly enjoyed this book. The pages flew by and I got through it very quickly, a testament to the literacy and skill of the author. Wise has taken on an interesting subject and explicated it clearly, convincingly, and in an entertaining way. The anecdotes (many scrapes with death) were often thrilling. The portions on physiology and psychology, particularly those on brain chemistry, could have been a bore in the hands of a lesser writer, but the author presents them in an easy-to-understand and lucid way. The section on stage fright was worth the price of the book for me; I'm a former professional actor and champion public speaker who now gets a case of nerves speaking in front of others. It was fascinating to know how and why this happens, and that I'm not alone (Laurence Olivier suddenly got terrible stage fright in the middle of his career!) Finally, the author had some suggestions for overcoming fear which may be of value to you. In all, this was a compelling read, both entertaining and informative.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Simply one of the best written books I've come across in a long time. The author's ability to take you to a first-hand experience across a variety of dramatic events is thrilling. Even better, he ties these anecdotes cleanly to the science that underpins the core distinctions of humans in fear. The result is like a good mnemonic where the science is easy to recall because the story it represents makes sense. For example, story: a Russian Physician escapes certain death by operating on himself; result: the force of human will power involving control of the reflexive system to override the self-preservation instinct of our reflective system.

Where this work tries to take us in the last 3 chapters failed to satiate my interest: application. The lessons are glazed over and could themselves be a sequel to this book that I would eagerly read and apply. Further, it left open some questions like to what extent do we fear for our physical lives compared to made-up circumstances like failure to perform. Most people are more likely to have a debilitating Laurence Olivier-style case of the nerves than be tested to land a commercial jet liner on the Hudson River without a single fatality.
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