An Open Letters Review Best Book of the Year
A leading expert in animal behavior takes us into the wild to better understand and manage our fears.
Fear, honed by millions of years of natural selection, kept our ancestors alive. Whether by slithering away, curling up in a ball, or standing still in the presence of a predator, humans and other animals have evolved complex behaviors in order to survive the hazards the world presents. But, despite our evolutionary endurance, we still have much to learn about how to manage our response to danger.
For more than thirty years, Daniel Blumstein has been studying animals’ fear responses. His observations lead to a firm conclusion: fear preserves security, but at great cost. A foraging flock of birds expends valuable energy by quickly taking flight when a raptor appears. And though the birds might successfully escape, they leave their food source behind. Giant clams protect their valuable tissue by retracting their mantles and closing their shells when a shadow passes overhead, but then they are unable to photosynthesize, losing the capacity to grow. Among humans, fear is often an understandable and justifiable response to sources of threat, but it can exact a high toll on health and productivity.
Delving into the evolutionary origins and ecological contexts of fear across species, The Nature of Fear considers what we can learn from our fellow animals—from successes and failures. By observing how animals leverage alarm to their advantage, we can develop new strategies for facing risks without panic.
Clearly, The Nature of Fear is a book for this moment. Dread is all around, manifold and constant during the coronavirus pandemic, of course. But a particular theme of our escalating anxieties comes to the fore with Blumstein’s book in hand: the fear of belonging to nature…As the pandemic brings into focus our biological fragility, the time seems apt to examine the nature of human fear through the lens of, well, nature.
A revelatory and masterful work by the world’s authority on fear in animal societies. Blumstein focuses the lenses of animal behavior and evolution on very human anxieties and fears. The result is a beautifully written book rich in crucial insights, with salience for scientists, students, policy makers, and every human being navigating their way through our sometimes frightening world.
Blumstein has studied fear in the animal kingdom for more than 30 years. In this highly readable book, he explains how related insights can help us do everything from composing scary music to managing biodiversity and imposing effective public health measures…Embrace your fears, and give it a read!
The Nature of Fear’s main province is the fluttering pulse-rates of the broader animal kingdom, and that makes for mind-changing reading.
This terrific book is a reminder that when we are afraid, we are not alone. Lizards have fear. Mice have fear. Marmots have fear. This feeling is ancient, and for many millions of years, it has guided animals’ actions. If you want to understand the roots of fear, and also make more sense of your own life, read this book.
Blumstein shows us how fear can be a positive force. When equipped with the knowledge of fear’s origin, we have a blueprint for conquering it. Informed by animals and evolution, The Nature of Fear is a biological thriller that everyone needs to read.
In this lively and informative book, Blumstein takes the study of fear from the laboratory into the wild to emphasize the costs and benefits of fear responses and their evolution. This novel approach has much to offer as we try to understand the origin of our own fears.
In this fascinating book, Daniel Blumstein explores the causes and consequences of fear for human and nonhuman animals, providing important insights into the ways that we all recognize and cope with risks in the course of our daily lives.
The feature making this project most compelling is the thesis that fear can be chronic, inappropriate, and very costly…An enjoyable book.
In this slim but packed book, Daniel Blumstein explores many facets of an emotion all animals feel: fear in all its different faces, broadening the discussion in ways that will challenge readers to re-examine the values of a trauma nobody likes.
- 256 pages
- 5-1/2 x 8-1/4 inches
- Harvard University Press
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