Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Book- Behave by Robert Sapolsky

“Avoid categorical thinking!” advises Robert before beginning the book. This book is to be in the question of ‘why do we do what we do?’ We got the answers, the reader may celebrate but, in a twist, the author clarifies how complicated is it to obtain an answer.

Rather than finding the answers, it is fun to be in the question and explore various opportunities/ explanations.

Organizing in a timeline style, at first, we explore seconds before action, hours to day before , days to a month before, and millennia before.

Seconds before:  Nervous system

Hours to days before: Environment and Stimuli

Days to Months before: Endocrinological (Hormones) (heard it after 10th standard bio classes only!)

Thousands of years ago: Genetics

Going back further, there’s a lot about adolescence, childhood, gestation period and we even go further millennia before, a study on gene, gene/environment interaction.

As we are through half of the book, the narrative style is changed from timeline to theme wise. A lot of topics were discussed. Evolution of behaviour, US vs Them, Hierarchy, Obedience and Resistance and a lot more. In these chapters, there’s a lot of references of all the first half of the book that includes the foundations of the book.

Author point out various studies and arguments that convince you of one position, only to pull the carpet out from underneath your feet with an equal compelling counterargument.

Author emphasises that reason and emotion (“cognition and affect”) always interact, and that there are advantages to “combining reason with intuition”.

These places influence these actions accordingly:  

- ventromedial prefrontal cortex/vmPFC (emotion); and

- dorsolateral prefrontal cortex/dlPFC (logic)

They are always in a battle for domination.

The frontal cortex isn’t totally formed until someone is in their mid-20s!

Caution: Everywhere when the author mentioned this kind of statements, he intends of average. 

The most interesting part of the book was the Us vs Them. 

Fifty-millisecond exposure to the face of someone of another race activates the amygdala while failing to activate the fusiform face area as much as same-race faces do- all within a few hundred milliseconds. 

"There are two kinds of people in the world: those who divide the world into two kinds of people and those who don't."

There are more of the first kind says, the Author. Explaining Us vs Them, the author explains how we implicitly think in this manner. "Implicit Association Test" helps us to check where do we stand with our implicit biases. 

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