Synopses & Reviews
Most humans don't realize that when they exchange emails with someone, anyone, they are actually exhibiting certain unspoken rules about dominance and hierarchy. The same rules regulate the exchange of grooming behavior in rhesus macaques or chimpanzees. Interestingly, some of the major aspects of human nature have profound commonalities with our ape ancestors: the violence of war, the intensity of love, the need to live together.
While we often assume that our behavior in everyday situations reflects our unique personalities, the choices we freely make, or the influences of our environment, we rarely consider that others behave in these situations in almost the exact the same way as we do. In Games Primates Play, primatologist Dario Maestripieri examines the curious unspoken customs that govern our behavior. These patterns and customs appear to be motivated by free will, yet they are so similar from person to person, and across species, that they reveal much more than our selected choices.
Games Primates Play uncovers our evolutionary legacy: the subtle codes that govern our behavior are the result of millions of years of evolution, predating the emergence of modern humans. To understand the rules that govern primate games and our social interactions, Maestripieri arms readers with knowledge of the scientific principles that ethologists, psychologists, economists, and other behavioral scientists have discovered in their quest to unravel the complexities of behavior. As he realizes, everything from how we write emails to how we make love is determined by the legacy of our primate roots and the conditions that existed so long ago.
An idiosyncratic and witty approach to our deep and complex origins, Games Primates Play reveals the ways in which our primate nature drives so much of our lives.
"Maestripieri (Macachiavellian Intelligence), professor of evolutionary biology and related sciences at the University of Chicago, explores behavioral similarities between humans and other primates in his engaging but flawed book. Such an analysis is important, he writes, because 'human nature is a particular, specialized version of a more general primate nature.' Drawing on his own work with rhesus macaques as well as broader primate literature, Maestripieri offers solid grounding in the basics of animal behavior while discussing the evolutionary roots of complex social patterns. The behaviors he focuses on are both critical and fascinating: sexual choice; dominance relationships; the nature of altruism and selfishness; and coalition building, among others. But when it comes to humans, Maestripieri presents less data and more anecdotes, so his arguments about homologous human-primate behavior are not fully compelling. Furthermore, he can simply ignore issues that contradict his theories. For example, in discussing charitable contribution as status-building activity through the public recognition given to donors, he overlooks contributors who truly wish to remain anonymous. Still, the author brings readers closer to his goal of integrating economic models with evolutionary theory to create 'more predictive models of human decision-making'" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"[E]ngaging... Drawing on his own work with rhesus macaques as well as broader primate literature, Maestripieri offers solid grounding in the basics of animal behavior while discussing the evolutionary roots of complex social patterns. The behaviors he focuses on are both critical and fascinating: sexual choice; dominance relationships; the nature of altruism and selfishness; and coalition building, among others." Publishers Weekly
"[A] fascinating survey. Using wonderful comparative studies and conversational language, Maestripieri brings us back to our primate roots so that we can better understand why we do the things we do." Booklist
[E]ngaging.... Drawing on his own work with rhesus macaques as well as broader primate literature, Maestripieri offers solid grounding in the basics of animal behavior while discussing the evolutionary roots of complex social patterns. The behaviors he focuses on are both critical and fascinating: sexual choice; dominance relationships; the nature of altruism and selfishness; and coalition building, among others.”
[A] fascinating survey. Using wonderful comparative studies and conversational language, Maestripieri brings us back to our primate roots so that we can better understand why we do the things we do.”
Read this if...you want to understand the parallels between all primate societies. Maestripieri illustrates that the behavior of Tony Sopranos family mirrors that of macaque monkeys and explains how to figure out celebrity breakups by studying the mating practices of apes.”
The University of Chicago primatologist begins with a thorough, albeit unsettling, analysis of what we do when we encounter a stranger in an elevator, then guides us through the gamut of common social interactions, relating our behaviour to that of our primate brethren in the wild and in the lab. His observations on our common impulses are fascinating.”
Robert Sapolsky, Professor of Neuroscience, Stanford University, and author of A Primates Memoir
At the end of the day, there is no social interaction of humans that does not bear the imprint of our being a species of animal, of primate, of ape. In this smart and witty book, one of our finest primatologists, Dario Maestripieri, gives a tour of human social behavior and its primate legacy. A fun, insightful read.”
Laura Betzig, author of Despotism and Differential Reproduction
Theres a new maestro on the block, and hes written a great book. When a chimp strays into a strange troop, why is he at risk of getting his testicles ripped off? Whose eyeball is a capuchin monkey most likely to poke? How would a long-tailed macaque take over Microsoft? Read Dario Maestripieri, and capisce.”
Reasoning that social selective pressures are similar in humans and other primatesand roping in rational models such as game theory[Maestripieri] examines everyday situations from multiple perspectives. Whether scoping out the elevator dilemma of sharing a confined space with strangers, the human tendency to nepotism or the economics of love, Maestripieri argues his case compellingly.”
Just how our biology drives behaviour is the subject of numerous books, but Maestripieri does a commendable job of bringing something fresh to his analysis
. Games Primates Play is an interesting, funny and engaging study of human nature. And Maestripieris amusing and often endearing anecdotes add colour and insight.”
Library Journal (starred review)
This informative and provocative work is a major contribution to understanding and appreciating the nature and behavior of humankind.”
A spirited, insightful narrative that explores the ways our interpersonal relationships resemble those of our primate cousins”
By exploring our social lives through the lens of an evolutionary biologist, Maestripieri breaks down the most routine of social interactions into deeply embedded behaviors from our genetic forebears. Just like humans, other primates grapple with questions of dominance, reciprocation, nepotism and fidelity. He demonstrates how his own life, the lives of celebrities, and corporate success strategies all derive from a single, primal need to find our place in a group.”
Matt Ridley, Wall Street Journal
[A] gorgeous little juxtaposition of tales.... Games Primates Play is devoted to ramming home a lesson that we all seem very reluctant to learn: that much of our behavior, however steeped in technology, is entirely predictable to primatologists”
Maestripieri, a veteran monkey investigator, builds a fascinating and occasionally disturbing case for fundamental similarities in the social shenanigans of people, apes and monkeys due to a shared evolutionary heritage.... In the end, Maestripieris theme is hard to deny: Monkey business is everyones business.”
Maestripieri entertains the reader by juxtaposing portrayals of the social behavior of humans with that of other primates.”
The Daily Mail (UK)
Reading [Games Primates Play] will certainly brighten up the longueurs of the working day, now that you know that the unpleasant senior partner who enjoys bullying his juniors in meetings is simply expressing the dominant nature of his inner baboon.”
Tracking us in elevators and on emails, at home and at work, a leading primatologist uncovers the rules that govern the social life of the human animal.
About the Author
Dario Maestripieri is Professor of Comparative Human Development, Evolutionary Biology, Neurobiology, and Psychiatry and Behavioral Neuroscience at the University of Chicago. He received the Distinguished Scientific Award for Early Career Contribution to Psychology from the American Psychological Association in 2000, and a Career Development Award from the National Institute of Mental Health in 2001. He has appeared in many national and international TV and radio shows and his research has been featured in a number of newspapers and magazines including The New York Times, Pravda, LeMonde, Der Spiegel, the Guardian, The Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune, The New Scientist, American Scientist, Nature, and Science. He is the author of Macachiavellian Intelligence and editor of Primate Psychology. He lives in Chicago, Illinois.