The Unpredictable Species: What Makes Humans Unique

Princeton University Press
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The Unpredictable Species argues that the human brain evolved in a way that enhances our cognitive flexibility and capacity for innovation and imitation. In doing so, the book challenges the central claim of evolutionary psychology that we are locked into predictable patterns of behavior that were fixed by genes, and refutes the claim that language is innate. Philip Lieberman builds his case with evidence from neuroscience, genetics, and physical anthropology, showing how our basal ganglia--structures deep within the brain whose origins predate the dinosaurs--came to play a key role in human creativity. He demonstrates how the transfer of information in these structures was enhanced by genetic mutation and evolution, giving rise to supercharged neural circuits linking activity in different parts of the brain. Human invention, expressed in different epochs and locales in the form of stone tools, digital computers, new art forms, complex civilizations--even the latest fashions--stems from these supercharged circuits.

The Unpredictable Species boldly upends scientifically controversial yet popular beliefs about how our brains actually work. Along the way, this compelling book provides insights into a host of topics related to human cognition, including associative learning, epigenetics, the skills required to be a samurai, and the causes of cognitive confusion on Mount Everest and of Parkinson's disease.

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About the author

Philip Lieberman is the George Hazard Crooker University Professor Emeritus at Brown University. His books include Toward an Evolutionary Biology of Language and Eve Spoke: Human Language and Human Evolution.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Princeton University Press
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Published on
Apr 21, 2013
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Pages
272
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ISBN
9781400846702
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Language
English
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Genres
Psychology / Cognitive Psychology & Cognition
Science / Cognitive Science
Science / Life Sciences / Evolution
Science / Life Sciences / Genetics & Genomics
Science / Life Sciences / Neuroscience
Social Science / Anthropology / Physical
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Read Aloud
Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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Philip Lieberman
Few people have done as much to change how we view the world as Charles Darwin. Yet On the Origin of Species is more cited than read. Some of it is considered outdated; in some ways, it has been consigned to the nineteenth century. In The Theory That Changed Everything, the renowned cognitive scientist Philip Lieberman demonstrates that there is no better guide to the world's living things than Darwin, as the phenomena that he observed are still being explored at the frontiers of science.

In a wide-ranging voyage from Darwin's transformative trip aboard the Beagle to Lieberman's own sojourns in the remotest regions of the Himalayas, this book relates contemporary findings to the major concepts of Darwinian theory. Drawing on his own research into the evolution of human linguistic and cognitive abilities, Lieberman explains the paths that adapted human anatomy to language, the acrobatics of the lungs and larynx and a tongue that facilitates speech at the cost of the peril of choking. He demystifies the role of recently identified transcriptional and epigenetic factors encoded in DNA, explaining how nineteenth-century Swedish famines alternating with years of plenty caused survivors' grandchildren to die many years short of their life expectancy. Lieberman is equally at home decoding supermarket shelves and climbing with the Sherpas as he discusses how natural selection explains features from lactose tolerance to ease of breathing at Himalayan altitudes. With conversational clarity and memorable examples, Lieberman relates the insights that led to groundbreaking discoveries in both Darwin's time and our own while asking provocative questions about what Darwin would have made of controversial issues today.
Kevin Dutton
In this engrossing journey into the lives of psychopaths and their infamously crafty behaviors, the renowned psychologist Kevin Dutton reveals that there is a scale of "madness" along which we all sit. Incorporating the latest advances in brain scanning and neuroscience, Dutton demonstrates that the brilliant neurosurgeon who lacks empathy has more in common with a Ted Bundy who kills for pleasure than we may wish to admit, and that a mugger in a dimly lit parking lot may well, in fact, have the same nerveless poise as a titan of industry.

Dutton argues that there are indeed "functional psychopaths" among us—different from their murderous counterparts—who use their detached, unflinching, and charismatic personalities to succeed in mainstream society, and that shockingly, in some fields, the more "psychopathic" people are, the more likely they are to succeed. Dutton deconstructs this often misunderstood diagnosis through bold on-the-ground reporting and original scientific research as he mingles with the criminally insane in a high-security ward, shares a drink with one of the world's most successful con artists, and undergoes transcranial magnetic stimulation to discover firsthand exactly how it feels to see through the eyes of a psychopath.

As Dutton develops his theory that we all possess psychopathic tendencies, he puts forward the argument that society as a whole is more psychopathic than ever: after all, psychopaths tend to be fearless, confident, charming, ruthless, and focused—qualities that are tailor-made for success in the twenty-first century. Provocative at every turn, The Wisdom of Psychopaths is a riveting adventure that reveals that it's our much-maligned dark side that often conceals the trump cards of success.

John Medina
Most of us have no idea what’s really going on inside our heads. Yet brain scientists have uncovered details every business leader, parent, and teacher should know—like the need for physical activity to get your brain working its best.

How do we learn? What exactly do sleep and stress do to our brains? Why is multi-tasking a myth? Why is it so easy to forget—and so important to repeat new knowledge? Is it true that men and women have different brains?

In Brain Rules, Dr. John Medina, a molecular biologist, shares his lifelong interest in how the brain sciences might influence the way we teach our children and the way we work. In each chapter, he describes a brain rule—what scientists know for sure about how our brains work—and then offers transformative ideas for our daily lives.

Medina’s fascinating stories and infectious sense of humor breathe life into brain science. You’ll learn why Michael Jordan was no good at baseball. You’ll peer over a surgeon’s shoulder as he proves that most of us have a Jennifer Aniston neuron. You’ll meet a boy who has an amazing memory for music but can’t tie his own shoes.

You will discover how:

Every brain is wired differently
Exercise improves cognition
We are designed to never stop learning and exploring
Memories are volatile
Sleep is powerfully linked with the ability to learn
Vision trumps all of the other senses
Stress changes the way we learn

In the end, you’ll understand how your brain really works—and how to get the most out of it.
Philip Lieberman
Few people have done as much to change how we view the world as Charles Darwin. Yet On the Origin of Species is more cited than read. Some of it is considered outdated; in some ways, it has been consigned to the nineteenth century. In The Theory That Changed Everything, the renowned cognitive scientist Philip Lieberman demonstrates that there is no better guide to the world's living things than Darwin, as the phenomena that he observed are still being explored at the frontiers of science.

In a wide-ranging voyage from Darwin's transformative trip aboard the Beagle to Lieberman's own sojourns in the remotest regions of the Himalayas, this book relates contemporary findings to the major concepts of Darwinian theory. Drawing on his own research into the evolution of human linguistic and cognitive abilities, Lieberman explains the paths that adapted human anatomy to language, the acrobatics of the lungs and larynx and a tongue that facilitates speech at the cost of the peril of choking. He demystifies the role of recently identified transcriptional and epigenetic factors encoded in DNA, explaining how nineteenth-century Swedish famines alternating with years of plenty caused survivors' grandchildren to die many years short of their life expectancy. Lieberman is equally at home decoding supermarket shelves and climbing with the Sherpas as he discusses how natural selection explains features from lactose tolerance to ease of breathing at Himalayan altitudes. With conversational clarity and memorable examples, Lieberman relates the insights that led to groundbreaking discoveries in both Darwin's time and our own while asking provocative questions about what Darwin would have made of controversial issues today.
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