Behave - Robert M. Sapolsky


By Robert M. Sapolsky

  • Release Date: 2017-05-02
  • Genre: Biology
4.5 Score: 4.5 (From 96 Ratings)


Why do we do the things we do?

Over a decade in the making, this game-changing book is Robert Sapolsky's genre-shattering attempt to answer that question as fully as perhaps only he could, looking at it from every angle. Sapolsky's storytelling concept is delightful but it also has a powerful intrinsic logic: he starts by looking at the factors that bear on a person's reaction in the precise moment a behavior occurs, and then hops back in time from there, in stages, ultimately ending up at the deep history of our species and its genetic inheritance.

And so the first category of explanation is the neurobiological one. What goes on in a person's brain a second before the behavior happens? Then he pulls out to a slightly larger field of vision, a little earlier in time: What sight, sound, or smell triggers the nervous system to produce that behavior? And then, what hormones act hours to days earlier to change how responsive that individual is to the stimuli which trigger the nervous system? By now, he has increased our field of vision so that we are thinking about neurobiology and the sensory world of our environment and endocrinology in trying to explain what happened.

Sapolsky keeps going--next to what features of the environment affected that person's brain, and then back to the childhood of the individual, and then to their genetic makeup. Finally, he expands the view to encompass factors larger than that one individual. How culture has shaped that individual's group, what ecological factors helped shape that culture, and on and on, back to evolutionary factors thousands and even millions of years old.

The result is one of the most dazzling tours de horizon of the science of human behavior ever attempted, a majestic synthesis that harvests cutting-edge research across a range of disciplines to provide a subtle and nuanced perspective on why we ultimately do the things we do...for good and for ill. Sapolsky builds on this understanding to wrestle with some of our deepest and thorniest questions relating to tribalism and xenophobia, hierarchy and competition, morality and free will, and war and peace. Wise, humane, often very funny, Behave is a towering achievement, powerfully humanizing, and downright heroic in its own right.


  • From the brain to the World

    By rrubio@99
    This book is amazing.
  • Life-changing

    By Eleanor J Kaufman
    The best book I have ever consumed. Biological context for some of the worlds most contentious issues. Every opinion I may have had about the world has changed. Extremely understandable. Will be listening to the full 26 hours again, and again… and again.
  • Excellent

    By MagnusLevy
    A window into Sapolsky’s wonderful mind
  • Excellent

    By Go otter
    A humorous, fun and well written book on the intricacies of human nature and biology, without becoming polemical:) Highly recommend!
  • Hmmm

    By 4488662
    I doubt anyone has read every word in this tome. The editor must have departed early on. Start with the’s all you really need. If your in advertising you kind of know all this info.
  • Behave

    By Pd1664
    Well written journey through the human mind
  • Fascinating

    By bguy714
    Loved the organizing principal for describing the latest research on the brain
  • You’ll learn something totally new ... and enjoy it!

    By cabandor
    This book is written engagingly well and you will have learned at least 1000 new factoids after finishing the book. The concepts can get complex and a little challenging - perfect if you’re looking to learn something new. It’s a really thoughtful piece with scientific terminology and the implications of recent findings about the brain. Look the words up, take notes, and enjoy with a cup of (tea).
  • Exuberant

    By Vinambur
    A seminal work on behavior. Thank you sir.
  • Transformative

    By SDWill
    “Behave” has forever changed the filters that inform my universe.