Sapolsky has produced a quirky, opinionated and magisterial synthesis of psychology and neurobiology that integrates this complex subject more accessibly and completely than ever ... Behavioral biology is indeed complex, but Sapolsky simplifies the topic with a beautifully organized and well-stocked store of knowledge. He has such a light tone, so imperious a command of data and such a rich fund of anecdotes that we are swept swiftly along to the last third of the book ... Sapolsky proposes 10 strategies for reducing violence, all reasonable but none that justify the notion that science is the basis for societal advances toward less violence and higher morality...In this section Sapolsky becomes a partisan critic, including presenting a skeptical view about the supposed long-term decline of human violence ... If it took an unrealistic connection between science and society to motivate Sapolsky to write Behave, that is a small price. His book offers a wild and mind-opening ride into a better understanding of just where our behavior comes from. Darwin would have been thrilled.
Mr. Sapolsky’s concept is to examine behavior starting at its most immediate neural underpinnings, then trace it to progressively more distant causes, including hormonal, social and developmental ones, and ultimately to search out its evolutionary antecedents. To my knowledge, this hasn’t been done before in one book, and he succeeds magnificently ... The author’s comprehensive approach integrates controlled laboratory investigation with naturalistic observations and study. To his immense credit, he doesn’t omit cultural norms, social learning, the role of peer pressure or historical tradition. He also has a delightfully self-deprecating sense of humor ... It’s no exaggeration to say that Behave is one of the best nonfiction books I’ve ever read.
Sapolsky is that rara avis who’s both eminent scientist and elegant prose stylist ... His new book is his magnum opus, but is also strikingly different from his earlier work, veering sharply toward hard science as it looms myriad strands of his ruminations on human behavior. The familiar, enchanting Sapolsky tropes are here — his warm, witty voice, a sleight of hand that unfolds the mysteries of cognition — but Behave keeps the bar high ... a stunning achievement and an invaluable addition to the canon of scientific literature, certain to kindle debate for years to come.