LIARS, LOVERS, AND HEROES: What the New Brain Science Reveals About How We Become Who We Are

Steven R. Quartz, Author, Terrence J. Sejnowski, Joint Author
Steven R. Quartz, Author, Terrence J. Sejnowski, Joint Author . Morrow $26.95 (352p) ISBN 978-0-688-16218-4
Ebook - 352 pages - 978-0-06-202866-2
Paperback - 336 pages - 978-0-06-000149-0
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Why do humans fall in love, create art, make war? Quartz, director of the Social Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory at Cal Tech, and Sejnowski, director of the Computational Neurobiology Laboratory at the Salk Institute, argue that these and other capabilities are the result of biology and culture working together. Challenging the view that human brains are hardwired for certain behaviors, they believe instead that "[y]our experience with the world literally helps build your brain." In this wide-ranging and relatively nontechnical overview, the authors show how the human brain evolved to maximize flexibility, enabling us to thrive in a wide variety of circumstances. They discuss intelligence and learning, emotions, motivation, violence, and the importance of social bonds, linking cutting-edge neuroscience with social history and popular culture. Starting each chapter with an intriguing case history and spinning off into fascinating, if sometimes sketchily developed, presentations of related material, the book reads a bit like a made-for-TV serial documentary that concedes to short attention spans by highlighting the dramatic. As a result, some topics—among them the discussion of violence—receive useful but less than thorough treatment. Quartz and Sejnowski conclude with a thought-provoking chapter on the challenges of postmodern culture and globalization, suggesting that the findings of cultural biology can point the way toward creating societies that better meet our basic needs for positive social engagement. Their views, engagingly presented if sometimes controversial, will open up a hitherto specialized subject for a wider audience. (Nov. 12)

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