“If you ever thought that neuroscience was too boring or complicated for pleasurable reading, “Behave” will change your mind. You’ll find yourself guffawing at Sapolsky’s quirky humor.”
Featured in Washington Post’s Best 10 Books of 2017.
At some point, everyone asks that question ‘why do we do what we do’. Sapolsky answers this question in Behave by first looking at what influences a person to react the way they do to a particular behavior and then traces it backward till he reaches our species’ history and the legacy of its evolution.
He starts off by first looking at the neurobiological explanation in which he asks what the person was thinking about seconds before the reaction. Then he casts a wider net and looks at what senses triggered the behavior. He then looks at hormonal activity over the past few hours and days, expanding our field of vision.
He then continues to a wider subset of questions related to changes in the nervous system over recent months, the person’s adolescence, his or her childhood, his or her fetal life and finally the genetic makeup. Once this is done, he looks at more significant factors such as cultural mores, millennia-old ecological factors and even evolutionary factors from millions of years ago.
All this combines to form a deep and path-breaking work that examines the nuances and layers which determine why we do what we do. He accesses a range of disciplines and uses cutting-edge research on all of them to shore up his explanations. Sapolsky uses this work to address questions that leave us uncomfortable – questions about peace, war, free will, morality, competition, hierarchy, and xenophobia. The work is full of wisdom, humanity and a good sense of humor making it one of the most compelling reads on the subject.