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The Domesticated Brain

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What makes us social animals?
Why do we behave the way we do?
How does the brain influence our behaviour?

The brain may have initially evolved to cope with a threatening world of beasts, limited food and adverse weather, but we now use it to navigate an equally unpredictable social landscape. In The Domesticated Brain, renowned psychologist Bruce Hood explores the relationship between the brain and social behaviour, looking for clues as to origins and operations of the mechanisms that keep us bound together. How do our brains enable us to live together, to raise children, and to learn and pass on information and culture? Combining social psychology with neuroscience, Hood provides an essential introduction to the hidden operations of the brain, and explores what makes us who we are.

256 pages, Paperback

First published July 1, 2014

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About the author

Bruce M. Hood

7 books105 followers
I was born in Toronto, Canada, and my middle name is MacFarlane. This a legacy of my Scottish heritage on my father's side. My mother is Australian and has the very unusual first name of Loyale. I used to believe for many years that she had two sisters called Hope and Faith, but that was just my fertile imagination. Why Toronto I hear you ask. My father was a journalist and plied his art on various continents. By the time I had finally settled in Dundee, Scotland, at 8 years of age, I had already lived in Australia, New Zealand, and Canada. If you are wondering, I support Scotland during the Rugby World Cup. I have an older brother who was also born in Toronto, but he doesn't have a mid-Atlantic accent like I do. He is sensible. He is a lawyer.

In Dundee, I went to school and then university where I studied psychology and socializing. I then went to Cambridge to conduct research on visual development in babies. Not because they are cute, but because their visual system is so interesting. I completed my Ph.D. in two years in 1991. That year I got married with a "Dr." in front of my name to my wife who is a real doctor and would not marry me until I was doctored. After a brief research period in London, we both set off to Boston, Massachusetts, to sample some U.S. academic life for a year. By the time we were ready to travel, we were now three, as my eldest daughter had been born. When my wife wasn't paying attention, I applied for and was given an associate professorship at Harvard. I interviewed without telling her. What was supposed to be just one year abroad in the United States turned into five. I do stuff like that all the time.

We decided that we wanted to raise our daughter in the U.K. because we did not want her to call us "Mom" and "Pop," or by our first names. So, 10 years ago, we moved back to the countryside just south of Bath. If you have ever been there, you'll know why. I work in the psychology department at the University of Bristol nearby. I conduct research, teach, and of course, write books. We have a second daughter now, and we all live in a medieval barn with mice. I also bought that without telling my wife. That's where I am up to now.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 32 reviews
Profile Image for Mehmet.
Author 2 books410 followers
January 19, 2022
Kitabı beğendim, kesinlikle boş bir kitap değil. Genelde bu tip popüler bilim kitaplarında pek dipnot kaynakça göremezsiniz ama bu kitap cömert bir kaynakçaya sahip. Kitapta en çok beğendiğim bölüm rutin kişisel ilişkilerimizin beyindeki kaynaklarına odaklanmış son bölüm oldu. Bu bölüm sayesinde yalan, kendini kandırma, aldatma, dedikodu gibi unsurların beyindeki temelleri üzerine önemli fikirler edindim.
Profile Image for Mehtap exotiquetv.
343 reviews235 followers
September 12, 2022
Warum ist das menschliche Gehirn so weit entwickelt und was waren die Hauptfaktoren für den Fortschritt der Entwicklung? Ist es das Sammeln von Informationen? Die Verwendung von Werkzeug? Die Art und Weise wie wir Kultur forttragen, Kinder erziehen?

Die Wahrheit liegt in einer Mischung von all diesen genannten Faktoren.
Profile Image for Uyar.
119 reviews6 followers
January 20, 2018
Aslında zevkle okudum Kesinlikle tavsiye ederim okuyun... her ne kadar sosyalleşmeyi (sosyal bir hayvan olmayı) evcilleşme olarak değerlendirilmiş olsa da yazar çok geniş olarak ve bilimsel verilere dayanarak teorisini ispatlamaya çalışıyor.. Özellikle altıncı bölüm çok başarılı

Ancak çeviri yapan arkadaşa 1-2 lafım var doğrusu okuyabilmek ve iyi anlayabilmek için kitabın İngilizcesini de bakmak zorunda kaldım... tamam Türkçe yazacaksın ama biraz abartı olmamış mı? Yorum sizin:

dirimsel-biologic; dirimbilim-biology;
Dizge-system; dizgesel-systematic;
Özerk sinir dizgesi-autonom nervous system;

Yaşantılamışızdır; kim olmaklığımız; duyumsallarız... kendimizi iyi duyumsamamız gerekir ama niye iyi hissetmemiz gerekir değil??

Tözcü usavurma konusunda çalışmak nedir?
Profile Image for GONZA.
6,262 reviews103 followers
May 18, 2014
It seems that the domestication produces a reduction in the brain in terms of mass, ie it shrinks and this goes for both men and animals, although in our case we prefer to speak of "ability to live in society more or less extended" . Clearly socialization brings with it the ability of communication and is therefore the researcher's idea that our brain has evolved to be "social", which implies thus the ability to feel various emotions and to empathize and this would also explain the really exceptional lasting time, compared to that of other animals, of our childhood. It is during childhood that we learn to understand others and especially to control ourselves and our reactions, because this is a prerequisite for living in a society.

Sembra che l'addomesticamento produca una riduzioni del cervello in termini di massa, cioé si rimpicciolisce e questo vale sia per gli uomini che per gli animali, anche se nel nostro caso si preferisce parlare di "capacitá di vivere in societá piú o meno allargate". Chiaramente la socializzazione porta con sé la capacitá di comunicazione ed é quindi idea del ricercatore che il nostro cervello si sia evoluto per "essere sociale", il che comporta quindi anche la capacitá di empatizzare e di provare emozioni varie e questo spiegherebbe anche la durata veramente eccezionale paragonata a quella degli altri animali, della nostra infanzia. È proprio durante l'infanzia che impariamo a comprendere gli altri e soprattutto a controllare noi stessi e le nostre reazioni, proprio perché questa é una conditio sine qua per vivere in una societá.

Profile Image for Karen.
4 reviews
August 10, 2016
Why do we need brains? Your first thought must be that we need brains to stay alive. But we also need other organs to stay alive. Hood opens The Domesticated Brain with various intriguing thoughts, even for someone who has taken an introductory psychology course. Nonetheless, as the book goes on, much of the content seems to be an aggregation of past knowledge. In other words, it would be a great book if you're looking for an introduction to humans as social animals and why we behave in certain ways. Hood touches on a variety of subjects, from psychology to biology, allowing the reader to better understand human behaviour.

However, he focuses mainly on developmental psychology and children (well, he is a developmental psychologist after all) but perhaps touching more on adults would be more useful to the general reader. Because of the wide variety of topics he touches on, I feel that the content seems to jump here and there, with a weak theme within each chapter, with the except of the last chapter. Regardless, it was a pretty good introduction to psychology and human behaviour which also touches on epigenetics. Many of the "must-know" famous psychology studies are used as examples and a lot of his claims are cited with studies to back them up. Overall, it was a great read.

Disclaimer: I received this copy under the Goodreads First Read Program.
193 reviews
November 13, 2014
This is one of the best books in the field of Psychology. I enjoyed reading this tremendously and it is a refresher to my rusty knowledge about Psych as it has been a few years since I was minor-ed in Psych at school lol. Having said that, people who are new to the field of Psychology should give this a go because the concepts are easy to comprehend. Hood has also provided a plethora of examples, which made the reading all the more enjoyable and fascinating. Thumbs-up!
Profile Image for Jose.
343 reviews17 followers
December 25, 2014
I loved how succinctly and simply the author crammed so much into such a small tome. I was genuinely pleased by the way he spelled out the chapters on prejudice, the need to belong and act "for others" and social media. Those final two chapters made me rethink many of my own attitudes, smug and clever as i think i am ;)
Profile Image for Francisco.
456 reviews12 followers
July 15, 2019
Bruce Hood - The Domesticated Brain (2014)

Bruce Hood explores how the human brain has adapted throughout the last few millennia to the life of a social animal with a complexity beyond that of any other animal. We start off with the surprising idea that our brains have actually gotten progressively smaller losing some 20% of their mass as our societies have gotten progressively more complex and integrated. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but we have adapted to have the surrounding social world that we created be an essential part of our survival to the point that it actually replaces some of the brain functions that we needed when we were loners or in small groups.

From here we get an interesting mix of evolutionary biology, neuroscience and social psychology in a really readable format. It is actually a bit of a page turner. Nothing I read here was exactly something I didn't know or a great discovery, but it's set out in a plain, interesting and convincing way. Hood is a pretty good writer of nonfiction.

So it's a bit of a pager-turner exploring why we behave the way we do in society, why society is important, how it's an essential part of being human. This explores all facets of life, from what happens when you get drunk to why you have mass killings in schools, from the first human societies to the internet and social networking. A fun, quick read. Recommended.
Profile Image for Nikolaos.
96 reviews2 followers
May 26, 2017
This is a fun read on the evolution of the human brain and, most importantly, social behaviour. The author recites an abundance of research findings and proven behavioral biases, although, to his credit, he refrains from admitting closure for topics that still evoke contradictory interpretations. This book does not serve as a mere encyclopedia of facts to be regurgitated during dinner parties; it immerses the reader in the uncomfortable sea of the (relatively) nascent area of behavioral neuroscience, reminding one that any material finding is only an intermediary step towards the next discovery and never the final stop. The reader will identify with several studies explaining (and therefore predicting) social behavior; the experience of understanding the limitations of uniqueness is sanguinely humbling.

I would recommend this book to everyone interested in the human factor and understanding more about oneself as a member of a species, not an individual.
Profile Image for Metin Tiryaki.
149 reviews13 followers
June 28, 2018
Bruce Hood yazmış bir kitap, aslına bakılırsa ne akar, ne kokar, orta hallice. Ama çevirmen işi resmen batırmış. TDK ‘ya uygun çevireyim diye uğraşırken pek çok yerde “ne diyor bu yahu !” diye düşünüyorsunuz. Örnek vermek gerekirse: kıtkısal, sığa, edim, oydaşma, görüngü, ilkinki, ulam, tözcü, tepke... gibi günlük hayatta kullanılmayan bir sürü kelime mevcut. Kitabın bütünlüğüne ve anlaşılmasına zarar vermiş açıkçası.
Kitabı çok fazla beyin üzerine kitap okumuş biri olarak vasat bulduğumu belirtmeliyim; beyinle pek alakası yok, daha çok insanın sosyalleşmesi ve evcilleşmesi üzerine bir kitap.
Profile Image for Mòrag.
37 reviews
May 6, 2018
I borrowed this book from a friend who is working on a PhD in neuroscience in an attempt to understand the science behind human social interaction. A lot of the ideas in the book I was already familiar with, but - for me- it was the first time I learnt how the brain controls our social nature (which was interesting). The book was definitely for beginners and wouldn't be suitable for anyone after in-depth analysis but it was still a decent read.
8 reviews
March 25, 2017
Clear and covers a variety of material without oversimplifying (much).
The central thesis is that as human digestive systems, intelligence and technology, and lastly climate, led to lifestyle changes from small nomadic tribes to larger settled groups, there was selection for traits facilitating coexistence, and thus we became self-domesticating.
It's fairly convincing, although much of the book concerns peripheral issues and there's not much new here for anyone with basic knowledge in the areas around evolutionary biology.
Profile Image for Navi.
7 reviews
April 12, 2021
um livro que devia ser essencial a todos aqueles que ousam filosofar acerca da natureza humana. científico, sensível e extremamente interessante, é produto duma profunda pesquisa que se consegue reunir em palavras leigas, de fácil compreensão, e que nos oferece uma visão madura sobre aquilo que se poderão considerar os instintos do animal humano.
32 reviews
May 18, 2019
An interesting book though I am not sure that I believe in all of the summaries and conclusions. Worth reading though. Dipped in and out of during a year so a lot of the pretext was admittedly vague by then.
December 26, 2019
This book was extremely interesting and provides exciting perspective on why humans interact the way they do. If like you Sapiens you will enjoy this read.
Profile Image for George Russell-Stracey.
131 reviews1 follower
November 24, 2021
Real slow burner for me but picked it up last week and loved it. Interesting look at how we operate as humans and why. Digestible, accessible and insightful.
Profile Image for Tim.
555 reviews78 followers
December 20, 2015
In dit kleine boekje schetst Bruce Hood, pyscholoog (geweest?) aan de universiteiten van Cambridge en Harvard en tegenwoordig Director of the Cognitive Development Centre van de universiteit van Liverpool, het beeld over onze hersenen, over hoe domesticatie z'n invloed heeft (gehad) op ons doen en laten.

Hij begint met de vergelijking van de hersenen van onze voorouders met de onze, hoe die eerste groter waren en de onze kleiner. Dat zou o.a. te maken hebben met adaptatie, met het wegvallen van functies die we door de jaren heen niet meer nodig bleken te hebben. Maar ook omgevingsfactoren, voeding, taal, en meer spelen een rol.

Ook het gedrag van baby's en kinderen wordt besproken, vooral dan in de context van met elkaar omgaan, delen, bezitten, handelingen/gedragingen/gezichtsuitdrukkingen/... overnemen van anderen (al dan niet volwassenen). Dit trekt hij dan door - niet altijd, soms moet je zelf die conclusie trekken - naar volwassenen.

Hood heeft het bijvoorbeeld ook over mindreading, over hoe we soms "weten" wat of hoe een ander denkt, al dan niet gezichtsuitdrukkingen, lichaamstaal, enz. Ook liegen komt aan bod, vooral dan of je vasthoudt aan je eigen overtuiging of je laat leiden door de groep, ook al is de groep fout.

Natuurlijk blijft het opvoedingsaspect niet onbesproken. Een goeie thuis blijft belangrijk, niet alleen voor de opvoeding, maar ook naar de toekomst toe.

Bij de groep horen is iets wat we allemaal willen. De mens is een sociaal dier, ook al is er de behoefte om af en toe de eenzaamheid op te zoeken. En om bij die of die groep te behoren, kan men tot veel in staat zijn. Uitgesloten worden is een erge straf, een die te vaak onderschat wordt, omdat men de implicaties niet kan meten. De repercussies kunnen soms desastreus zijn.

Hoods betoog is up-to-date, niet alleen omdat het in 2014 verscheen, maar omdat selfies, sociale media en het Internet in zijn huidige vorm ook aan bod komen.

Ondanks dat het een introductie betreft, bevat dit boekje toch veel informatie en voorbeelden (ook over het gedrag van dieren) over hoe de mens zich in een gedomesticeerde omgeving gedraagt, hoe niet altijd de omgeving of de cultuur allesbepalend is. Er zit meer achter dan dat. Bepaalde kenmerken zouden aangeboren zijn, al van bij de start in onze genen ingebakken zitten. Het geheel wordt opgeleukt met tekeningen en foto's.

The Domesticated Brain: A Pelican Introduction is zeer leesbaar (het is dan ook voor een breed publiek bedoeld), ook al gebruikte de heer Hood hier en daar wat technische woordenschat, die niet altijd uitgelegd wordt. Maar in de totaliteit is dit aandeel slechts triviaal.

Samengevat: aanrader!
Profile Image for Leland LeCuyer.
2 reviews2 followers
August 2, 2014
Like all Pelican Introduction books, Bruce Hood's The Domesticated Brain is targeted at a general audience. But that doesn't belie the fact that this accessible and well-written book presents an awful lot of cutting-edge information about the rapidly expanding understanding of the brain, consciousness, its evolution, and human nature as a domesticated social animal. What initially drew me to examine this volume was a nagging question about the trade-offs we humans have made along the path to civilization. Clearly we experience amazing benefits — not least of which is the miraculous ability that I can share what I think with you through the intermediation of Goodreads, the internet, the English language we share in common — because you and I have been domesticated; but these benefits have been purchased not without cost.

Just prior to my discovery of Prof. Hood's brief survey of neuroscience, I had come across a lecture by Toby Hemenway where he lamented the loss of a way of life, the destruction of "the freeest people on earth," as just one cost of the eleven thousand year domestication program that began with the invention of agriculture.

Prof. Hood does not dwell upon the dark side of domestication. For better or worse, it is human nature to belong as much as it is human nature to desire to be free. For better or worse, we accept our chains and submit to acculturation not so much because of what we gain by doing so, but because it is our very nature to do so. The Domesticated Brain goes a long way explaining why. This is worth reading.
Profile Image for Michael Moseley.
339 reviews3 followers
May 14, 2016
What has been the effect of man becoming a domesticated animal on our brain? Well the simple answer is that it has shrunk. The long answer is the basis of this book. We have developed new ways of thinks and new brain functions because the needs of a social society (one that advances by cooperation). Many of the things that we perhaps see as quite trivial, like gossip, allegiances and social status are key to this shift in our development and our domination of the world, unlike any other animal. Lots of thought provoking discussion about this fascinating subject. A really good read that posses some interesting questions about what the enormous technological changes that are happing now will have on our future development.
Profile Image for Twi.
13 reviews22 followers
July 17, 2014
I usually don't write reviews about books, I simply can't find much to say about them. However, this time I was determined I'd write one, since I received this book in a giveaway.

I used to think that books like this one can't be really light but in the same time gripping reading. In my mind they were meant to educate people although not as seriously as textbooks in schools.
Yet I found Domesticated Brain funny and entertaining. There were many moments I had to force myself to put the book down so reading wouldn't interfere with my duties and life in general. There were thing I knew, things I wasn't that deeply interested into, but I took it all in and I enjoyed it. And what I liked the most- it provoked more than one speculation in my mind about humans and their ways.
Profile Image for Danny.
47 reviews
November 22, 2022
To be domesticated is to understand how to 'behave' in a social setting. But how much of these understanding are part of genetics? and how much of these are influenced by our upbringing? Nature or Nurture? And we born knowing what is morally right and wrong? And are we born racists and sexists? Or are our judgement shaped by the people we are surrounded with? To answer these questions, the book presents results from behavioural and psychology observations of toddlers in different scenarios. They are presented in a straightforward and compelling manner. This is one of the books that I know I will have a re-read just before parenthood.
Profile Image for Vladimir Belov.
21 reviews5 followers
August 5, 2015
Отличная книга про то, как приобретение цивилизованности изменило человеческий мозг, выдвинув социальные связи в обществе между отдельными индивидуумами на самое приоритетное место, даже местами отодвинув физические потребности. Особо понравился эпилог про социальную революцию, которая происходит прямо сейчас.
Profile Image for Sukriti Goyal.
42 reviews1 follower
May 22, 2014
The domesticated brain is one of those books that puts the facts on our platter and slowly let them sink in. I loved the answers that I got about Brain. I certainly recommend everyone to get the answers that we never knew or thought of. Right from the beginning to the end i kept me engrossed :)
Profile Image for Sarah Mck.
116 reviews2 followers
April 1, 2015
Found this fascinating on so many levels. I shake my head in wonder why more people don't read these types of books instead of gossip magazines. Entertaining, informing, thought provoking, educating. Ahhhh.
Profile Image for Caterina .
70 reviews1 follower
August 4, 2014
Absolutely brilliant. A great read for those who wish to know a little more about how our brains are just hard-wired to escape rationality.
Profile Image for David Bakker.
27 reviews15 followers
April 2, 2015
Hood presents compelling arguments that reframe many psychological theories and principles in terms of evolutionary domestication and associated social changes.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 32 reviews

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