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Behave : The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst - Robert M. Sapolsky


The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst


Published: 19th June 2017
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Why do we do what we do?

Behave is at once a dazzling tour and a majestic synthesis of the whole science of human behaviour. Brought to life through simple language, engaging stories and irreverent wit, it offers the fullest picture yet of the origins of tribalism and xenophobia, hierarchy and competition, morality and free will, war and peace.

Robert Sapolsky’s ingenious method is to move backwards in time from the moment at which a behaviour occurs, layer by layer through the myriad influences that led to it:

  • We begin with the split-second reactions of the brain and nervous system…
  • Then we consider our response to sight, sound and smell in the minutes and seconds beforehand…
  • Next he explains the interactions of hormones, which prime our behaviour in the preceding hours and days…
  • He proceeds through the experiences of adolescence, childhood and foetal development that shape us over our lifespans…
  • And continues over centuries and millennia through the profound influences of genetic inheritance, cultural context and ultimately the evolutionary origins of our species.
Throughout, Sapolsky considers the most important question: what causes acts of aggression or compassion? What inspires us to terrible deeds and what might help foster our best behaviour?

Wise, humane, often very funny, Behave is a towering achievement, powerfully humanizing, that is unlikely to be surpassed for many years.

About the Author

Robert M. Sapolsky holds degrees from Harvard and Rockefeller Universities and is currently a Professor of Biology and Neurology at Stanford University and a Research Associate with the Institute of Primate Research, National Museums of Kenya. He is the author of The Trouble with Testosterone, Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers (both finalists for the LA Times Book Award), and A Primate's Memoir. Sapolsky has contributed to Natural History, Discover, Men's Health, and Scientific American, and is a recipient of a MacArthur Foundation genius grant.




Richly informative, truly dense with case examples and riddled with witty contextual humour. A joy to read, and a must for anyone with any sort of interest in behaviour.

Brighton, Melbourne


5.0 1


"Awe-inspiring ... This is the best scientific book written for non-specialists that I have ever read. You will learn more about human nature than in any other book I can think of, and you will be inspired" -- Henry Marsh, author of Do No Harm
"It's no exaggeration to say that Behave is one of the best nonfiction books I've ever read" * Wall Street Journal *
"Behave is the best detective story ever written, and the most important. If you've ever wondered why someone did something - good or bad, vicious or generous - you need to read this book. If you think you already know why people behave as they do, you need to read this book. In other words, everybody needs to read it. It should be available on prescription (side effects: chronic laughter; highly addictive). They should put Behave in hotel rooms instead of the Bible: the world would be a much better, wiser place" -- Kate Fox, author of Watching the English
"Magisterial ... This extraordinary survey of the science of human behaviour takes the reader on an epic journey ... Sapolsky makes the book consistently entertaining, with an infectious excitement at the puzzles he explains ... a miraculous synthesis of scholarly domains" -- Steven Poole * Guardian *
"Truly all-encompassing ... detailed, accessible, fascinating" * Telegraph *

ISBN: 9781847924711
ISBN-10: 1847924719
Audience: General
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 800
Published: 19th June 2017
Publisher: Vintage Publishing
Country of Publication: GB
Dimensions (cm): 23.3 x 15.4  x 4.3
Weight (kg): 1.16