Currently Reading: Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst by Robert M. Sapolsky
Best For: Dedicated readers who have an interest in neuro-science. This 700 page beast gets into the gritty basics of what cause people to act the way they do. Basic brain function, hormones (surprise! Testosterone does not cause aggression. And, estrogen is actually a cocktail of several different hormones… who knew!?), and sensory function.
Favorite Quote: This excerpt about the release of dopamine was fascinating to me. Dopamine is associated with pleasure and reward. Now, imagine you are (like the Smashing Pumpkins song) just a rat in a cage, with some scientist guys examining you.
“The rule is that the light comes on, you press the lever, you get the reward. Now things change. Light comes on, press the lever, get the reward … only 50% of the time. Remarkably, once that new scenario is learned, far more dopamine is released. Why? Because nothing fuels dopamine release like the “maybe” of intermittent reinforcement”
This helps explain the reason some people get such a thrill from gambling.
Notes: As mentioned above, this book is very thick. It is also very technical, so it’s dense as well. However, if you are interested in what makes people act in certain ways, you will enjoy this book. It may take me some time to get through because I’m just over 200 pages at time of this writing, and I have taken over 5 pages of notes already. I think Dr. Sapolsky does a good job of keeping the text flowing and offering enough examples (whether with humans, apes, or rats) for readers to grasp the topic. His structure is great too, because he starts the book with a behavior, good or bad, and works backward from there. What happens in the brain at the moment? What happens 1 second before? Minutes, hours, days, and months before? What about in adolescence? Early childhood? How all of the sensory and hormonal inputs shape the brain and ultimately, get to a specific behavior, makes for interesting reading so far.
Previous book read: The Square and the Tower by Niall Ferguson
On Deck: I was planning to get to some old economic classics but I am now leaning towards Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel Pink. This trip into the world of brain science is interesting so far, so I may just continue to pull on this thread for a while.