- Used Books
- Staff Picks
- Gifts & Gift Cards
- Sell Books
- Stores & Events
- Let's Talk Books
Special Offers see all
More at Powell's
Recently Viewed clear list
Ships in 1 to 3 days
More copies of this ISBN
This title in other editions
Curious Behavior: Yawning, Laughing, Hiccupping, and Beyondby Robert R Provine
Synopses & Reviews
Robert Provine boldly goes where other scientists seldom tread-in search of hiccups, coughs, yawns, sneezes, and other lowly, undignified human behaviors. Upon investigation, these instinctive acts bear the imprint of our evolutionary origins and can be uniquely valuable tools for understanding how the human brain works and what makes us different from other species.
Many activities showcased in Curious Behavior are contagious, but none surpasses yawning in this regard-just reading the word can make one succumb. Though we often take it as a sign of sleepiness or boredom, yawning holds clues to the development of our sociality and ability to empathize with others. Its inescapable transmission reminds us that we are sometimes unaware, neurologically programmed beasts of the herd. Other neglected behaviors yield similar revelations. Tickling, we learn, may be the key to programming personhood into robots. Coughing comes in musical, medical, and social varieties. Farting and belching have import for the evolution of human speech. And prenatal behavior is offered as the strangest exhibit of all, defying postnatal logic in every way. Our earthiest acts define Homo sapiens as much as language, bipedalism, tool use, and other more studied characteristics.
As Provine guides us through peculiarities right under our noses, he beckons us to follow with self-experiments: tickling our own feet, keeping a log of when we laugh, and attempting to suppress yawns and sneezes. Such humble investigations provide fodder for grade school science projects as well as doctoral dissertations. Small Science can yield big rewards.
"Neuroscientist Provine delighted the public with Laughter: A Scientific Investigation. His new book, which is about many instinctive behaviors, could pack a similar punch. We are clearly captivated by our baser instincts, which science has overlooked. Provine 'redresses historic debts' by focusing on such bodily behaviors as 'Farting and Belching.' Tickling, for example, may tap into a neural mechanism for distinguishing ourselves from others, he says (i.e., 'you can't tickle yourself'). Contagious yawns — affecting 55% of those watching yawn videos — may reflect how our brains replicate observed behavior to create empathy. Further evidence for this is that autistic children, who lack empathy, can be immune to contagious yawning. As such areas are understudied, the book by necessity traffics in many hypotheticals, and dutifully cites some research with obvious conclusions, like 'bored people really do yawn a lot.' But there is much to intrigue both general and serious readers, from a passage on herring farts calling fish together, to a study finding men less attracted to women whose tears they have sniffed ('Tear jerkers are not ideal date movies'). The book provides a not-yet definitive, but often fascinating, take on our most curious behaviors. 27 line illus." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Provine boldly goes where other scientists seldom tread--in search of hiccups, coughs, yawns, sneezes, and other lowly, undignified, human behaviors. Our earthiest instinctive acts bear the imprint of our evolutionary origins and can be valuable tools for understanding how the human brain works and what makes us different from other species.
2012 Association of American Publishers PROSE Award for Excellence, Biomedicine and Neuroscience Category
A Library Journal Best Book of 2012
About the Author
Robert R. Provine is Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.
University of Maryland Baltimore County
What Our Readers Are Saying
Other books you might like
Featured Titles » Science