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Supernormal Stimuli: How Primal Urges Overran Their Evolutionary Purpose Hardcover – Bargain Price, February 22, 2010
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Top Customer Reviews
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!
Still ... only a third of the way through, I'm concerned about some inaccuracies in the book:
(1) she refers to dominant gorillas as "graybacks" where the standard term is "silverbacks" (p. 48)
(2) she offers a table of "Children Found Living with Animals 1900-2004" (p. 57) and recounts at relative length the story of Amala and Kamala (the Mindnapore "wolf girls"). Barrett is either unaware of or hides the fact that many (if not most) of the cases on her chart are suspect. The Wikipedia entry on the girls summarizes french scholar Serge Aroles's fairly solid argument that the entire Amala and Kamala story is a hoax.
(3) BTW, Barrett's account of Amala and Kamala are based on two sources ... one a chapter from McCrone's 1993 book and the other a 1966 source.
Granted, these problems don't impact her main argumment. And I realize that this book is slightly outside Barrett's specailty area. Okay, fine. But ... things like this suggest to me a book that is a little too fast and loose with scholarly standards of care.
So as I continue to read the book, I'll be a little more cautious. Which is probably ALWAYS a good thing when reading popularizations of biological evolution ....
But anyone reading the book would do well to be similarly careful .....
Iowa City, Iowa
I am thoroughly enjoying reading this book and will sure to check out her other books.
King Solomon's Ring (Routledge Classics)
Most Recent Customer Reviews
But I wish it could have been longer and more detailed about our evolved psychology. That being said, it is written in coherent and clear style. Read morePublished on June 14, 2014 by bowen zhao
If you want to understand why people do such crazy things like eat fast food on a regular basis its a must!Published on May 28, 2013 by dannym6four
With the advantage of hindsight, the bird feathers on the cover of this book are appropriate, as it falls into the featherweight category. Read morePublished on July 8, 2012 by P. Troutman
I read this book over a year ago so I can't recall vivid details about why I liked it, but it definitely made a positive impression on me. Read it, if you have some free time.Published on June 10, 2012 by A. C. Fontenot
Have you ever read a really good science book? A book that takes serious science and makes it accessible? Read morePublished on August 7, 2011 by R. Ezinga
After reading this book I gave it to my fifteen year-old son to read, to try to stimulate an interest in evolutionary psychology. Read morePublished on July 10, 2011 by Mark Twain
I got this book from the library, but liked it so much that I decided to buy it. Regardless of whether supernormal stimuli come to be accepted as an explanation for why human... Read morePublished on January 18, 2011 by Amazon Customer