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34+ Works 5,346 Members 102 Reviews 14 Favorited

About the Author

Robert M. Sapolsky is a Professor of Biology & Neurology at Stanford & a Research Associate with the Institute of Primate Research, National Museums of Kenya. He is the author of "The Trouble with Testosterone" & "Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers", both Los Angeles Times Book Award finalists. A regular show more contributor to Discover & The Sciences & a recipient of a MacArthur Foundation genius grant, Sapolsky lives in San Francisco, California. (Bowker Author Biography) show less
Image credit: Photograph by Lisa Share


Works by Robert M. Sapolsky

Stress and Your Body {DVDs} (2010) 60 copies

Associated Works


Africa (62) animal behavior (22) animals (42) anthropology (77) autobiography (27) baboons (43) behavior (34) biography (33) biology (306) currently-reading (19) ebook (22) essays (61) evolution (80) genetics (26) goodreads (21) goodreads import (17) health (71) human behavior (33) human biology (18) Kindle (29) medicine (21) memoir (75) nature (38) neurobiology (20) neuroscience (124) non-fiction (398) own (22) philosophy (18) popular science (32) primates (50) primatology (39) psychology (235) read (28) science (393) self-help (19) sociology (20) stress (91) to-read (608) unread (24) zoology (18)

Common Knowledge



This is an amazing book; I don't think I have ever learned as much from one book as I did from this one. As a non-scientist, it was not an easy read, despite an eminently readable (and frequently very funny) prose style. It was well worth the effort, however. So much for the matter of the book, what about the conclusion? That is very challenging, as the author acknowledges. I find myself in the odd position of intellectually accepting his arguments, but emotionally ignoring them. I think the idea of no free will may take quite a while to move from my head to my heart, if it ever does.… (more)
annbury | 3 other reviews | Feb 24, 2024 |
Monumental book. It definitely opened up new mental doors for me.

It is rare to find such a generous book these days.

For being non-fiction the thread is clear and captivating. You peel each layer of behavior (from the brain signals all the way to your culture). The last few chapters, the author makes observations and social commentary with strong ideas.
The one that struck me the most is that after understanding how much all the biological factors play into our behavior (you have to read the book), do we still have free will? is it still fair to shame and guilt-trip people for their shortfalls? The whole notion of “punishment” is re-examined and questioned.… (more)
Bloum | 23 other reviews | Feb 23, 2024 |
I got lost in the neuroscience but understand the genes versus the environment debate and am all the more puzzled about free will.
BookListener | 23 other reviews | Feb 21, 2024 |
With Robert Sapolsky you are never far from the outlandish and funny asides he makes on the place of humans in the animal kingdom.

In one footnote he ponders the origins and progress of goodwill as he sits on the john at a Starbucks waiting for the barista to bring him a fresh roll of toilet paper.

I can’t remember a comparable book which so ably itemizes that which affects human behaviour. From genetics and epigenetics, to gene expression, the role of life in the womb, evolution, how the brain shares tasks between lobes, how neutrons, synapses, and chemistry affect thought, the huge role that hormones play, to the sociology of hunter-gatherers and early farmers.

For all our research of the brain and the mind, though, science has thus far provided this means to predict the best and the worst in human behaviour. And it is clearly the worst in human behaviour that troubles Sapolsky the most.

I did not know before reading this book the extent of honour killings in society; that between 5,000 and 20,000 honour killings are perpetrated on mostly young woman and children around the globe every year. They are largely perpetrated by male relatives, and they are not just perpetrated in the far reaches of Asia. They happen in our own backyards. (I somehow knew this last point, but conveniently hid it away.)

It is no secret to Sapolsky that it is not the unequal distribution of wealth that builds resentment in our communities as much as the way we treat each other under these conditions.

Nor is it much of a secret that the one of the fastest ways to rectify imbalances in society is to improve educational opportunities for the poor.

Humans created poverty. It exists nowhere else in the animal kingdom.

Only humans commit genocide. Only humans characterize other humans as cockroaches or other low vermin.

And yet it is also only humans who can sometimes take the lead and inspire societies to greater levels of understanding and better the lives of the downtrodden. Think of Martin Luther King, Jr., anti-slavery activist William Wilberforce, Nelson Mandela, and Mahatma Gandhi.
… (more)
MylesKesten | 23 other reviews | Jan 23, 2024 |



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