- Hardcover: 224 pages
- Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; First Edition edition (February 22, 2010)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 039306848X
- ISBN-13: 978-0393068481
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 8.6 inches
- Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #237,924 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Supernormal Stimuli: How Primal Urges Overran Their Evolutionary Purpose Hardcover – February 22, 2010
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About the Author
Deirdre Barrett is an evolutionary psychologist at Harvard Medical School’s Behavioral Medicine Program. She is the author of several books, including Waistland, Trauma and Dream, and Supernormal Stimuli. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
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Top Customer Reviews
And you know how, in the last chapter, the author often takes some license, loosens up a bit, and gets a little speculative? That last chapter is mostly the author's own ideas, and not grounded in solid research (their own or anyone else's). It's a different read from the rest of the book, and you know that some of it might be a little off base, but you forgive them because they've really done their homework and have earned the right to take a chapter to do their own thing thing.
Well, Supernormal Stimuli by Deirdre Barrett isn't like that. This book is kind of like the speculative closing chapter of those other books, without all the heavy research to back it up. Sure, there's footnotes and facts, and the author obviously has done some background reading, but the book just doesn't work. It's more like having a beer with somebody who recently READ a good science book, and can't talk about anything else. They'll tell you a lot of things that are mostly correct, but that doesn't mean they really know what they're talking about. Supernormal stimulus is an important and interesting thing to think about, and but Barret doesn't really add much to the conversation.
Read the back of the book or the electronic sample, google up a review or two that rehashes some of her points, or read ANY quick summary of this topic, and you'll know as much as you would from reading this entire book. I read the chapter on Niko Tinbergen -- available in an electronic sample -- and though that the rest of the book would be of similar quality. Not even close. Don't make the same mistake as me; save your money and your time.
It's an important insight that affords an "aha" experience. It explains much self-defeating, self-destructive human behavior.
The book is both scholarly and entertaining, and here Barrett joins the top tier of outstanding scientific writers for a wide audience. She has a flair for witty analogies between animal follies and their human counterparts. The New Yorker cartoons and photos of animals and people caught in goofy acts complement the text.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to think scientifically about human behavior.
It is a fascinating book, very well-written. The concepts are explained in a way that makes them easy to grasp. The animal to human metaphors are truly illuminating. The main point of the book is supernormal stimuli, which are exaggerated versions of natural stimuli to which there are existing instinctual responses. Barrett discusses how our evolved instincts are overwhelmed by technological advances, population density, and other facets of modern society. She explores how pornography, unhealthy diets, and even the quest for nuclear energy as opposed to wind or solar energy can be explained by supernormal stimuli. One reader said he liked the early chapters which are closer to standard evolutionary psychology better than the later more speculative ones. I disagree: I think the ideas in the later chapters are novel and exciting and offer ideas about how to deal with problems of our modern world that I haven't heard anywhere else. Excellent book; I recommend it highly!