The Social Leap: The New Evolutionary Science of Who We Are, Where We Come From, and What Makes Us Happy

William von Hippel. HarperWave, $27.99 (304p) ISBN 978-0-06-274039-7
Von Hippel, a University of Queensland psychology professor, explains the basics of evolutionary psychology over the course of an accessible, enjoyable, but less than revelatory primer. The titular social leap occurred when early humans moved from the rainforest to the savannah, largely due to climate change, and faced severe evolutionary pressure to find new survival methods in an unfamiliar habitat. The solution, von Hippel explains, centered on the species becoming more intelligent and more social, as “cooperation and division of labor expanded our capabilities, transitioning us from prey to top predator.” He struggles between ensuring readers understand that genes are not all powerful (“evolutionary psychology is a story about how evolution shaped our genes, which in turn sculpt our minds, but it is not a genetically deterministic story at all”) and driving home just how much control they can exert (“Young men feel millions of years of evolutionary pressure, emanating from their testicles, pushing them toward risk and competition”). Although he does a credible job of discussing many of the field’s standards—the nature of sexual selection, possible origins of theory of mind—he largely covers topics well explored elsewhere without providing new insights. Agent: Lauren Sharp, Aevitas Creative. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 09/10/2018
Release date: 11/01/2018
Downloadable Audio - 978-0-06-286674-5
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