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Human: The Science Behind What Makes Us Unique

4.03  ·  Rating details ·  2,573 ratings  ·  66 reviews
One of the world's leading neuroscientists explores how best to understand the human condition by examining the biological, psychological, and highly social nature of our species within the social context of our lives.

What happened along the evolutionary trail that made humans so unique? In his widely accessible style, Michael Gazzaniga looks to a broad range of studies to
Hardcover, 464 pages
Published June 24th 2008 by Ecco (first published 2008)
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 ·  2,573 ratings  ·  66 reviews

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May 16, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: psychology, medicine
This is a brilliant overview of all the research work that has gone into deciding what makes human beings unique (if we are, but the evidence is strong that we are, among Earth's creatures).

It covers everything from the evolution of our social awareness and moral standards to the debate over whether intelligence must remain embodied -- that is, do you need a physical body to develop the kind of consciousness and intelligence that humans have? -- or whether it can be disassociated from the flesh
Aug 26, 2009 rated it it was ok
I have always enjoyed and benefited from Gazzaniga's works, both those written with Michael Sperry and those like Nature's Mind which he has done on his own. I fully expected to love this book as well, but it typifies all that is the worst in supposedly scientific exploration. What is good about this, and all his books, is that he presents studies that show where emotions, thinking, and language are localized in the human brain.

Because this book concerns itself specifically with the uniqueness
Nov 10, 2008 rated it really liked it
I wrote this paper for a girl once (English was her second language and she wore nice pants, so I did her a favor). It was on the biochemical nature of love. I learned about the physical components and the evolutionary benefits of affection. It wasn’t particularly in depth, but it gave me an outline of the machinery behind what people feel. And it took some mystery out of the experience of love, gave it a cold name in science. This kind of discovery doesn’t diminish the sensation, but it does re ...more
Jun 24, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Human by Michael S. Gazzaniga

Human is the fascinating book about what makes us uniquely human. Dr. Gazzaniga, a neuroscientist, uses his expertise in neuroscience and related fields to explain what makes human brains unique. This 464-page book is composed of the following four parts: 1. The Basics of Human Life, 2. Navigating the Social World, 3. The Glory of Being Human, and 4. Beyond Current Constraints.


1. A very-accessible, enjoyable, educational and informative book.
2. This boo
Bob Nichols
Jan 06, 2010 rated it did not like it
Gazzanigia writes about how humans are unique. But as all animal species are unique, what he is really saying is that humans are special. What makes us special is mind and our capacity for self-consciousness and capacity to control our animal natures. In making his case, the author does a good job of surveying the various scientific studies that are well known.

The author's second chapter asks the question, "Would a chimp make a good date?" This is intended to make his point that there are obviou
Cassandra Kay Silva
May 11, 2009 rated it really liked it
I am not sure if the author fully addressed his thesis in this book. He asserts to help the reader understand the nature of his own consciousness and what sets us apart, in terms of brain function from other species. It reads somewhat like a psychology lecture, going through different aspects of brain function and what is known at the time. He compares us to a handful of other species. Most notably chimps. I guess the "magic" of being human was lost in the text. The things that we are able to ac ...more
Oct 09, 2012 rated it liked it
There's a lot of good information crammed into this book. But that's sort of the problem, too. It all just feels kind of crammed together, lacking any appropriate cohesion. Gazzaniga will end each chapter by saying humans are/are not unique in regards to the topic at hand, sure, but there's still no feeling of continuity between the chapters. It's almost as if each chapter could just be its own separate little novella. Also, he's constantly trying to inject humor into almost every page, but it m ...more
нєνєℓ  ¢ανα
Mar 22, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Excellent stuff and quite appealing logic from it! Captivating!
Ami Iida
Jun 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: neuroscience
the book's theme is 2what is humanity?"

Metacognition is important concept in neuroscience.
Buzdugan Alexandru
Jan 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Well, this book surprised me in multiple ways. I wanted to learn in a nonformal way about the human brain, the processes that make us who we are, and all the mechanisms that help live our daily lives.

It turned out to be quite the big brain book, not in the way that is was difficult to understand but more in a way that it was difficult to cope with all the knowledge inside. The book is packed with quality content, ranging from humoristic comments about chimps making a good date to multiple studie
محمد  الخواص
May 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
Humans will sit behind a computer and try to figure out the meaning of life. Animals live life. the question is who is better off, the human or the animal?
Feb 21, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, biology
Determined this year to read and learn from more non-fiction works, I picked this book up as it blended evolutionary biology and behavioural psychology which I was interested in.

Its prologue was succinct and stuffed full of interesting facts (such as the discovery that rats have metacognition). Throughout, Gazzaniga asserted his view very clearly: that although humans and animals share many similarities we are not the same, as our abilities are on a completely different scale and league to those

William Schram
May 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This book is quite good. It describes recent (circa 2008) developments in neurology, neuroscience, anthropology and other fields of interest to describe the differences between people and animals. It tries to answer the question of what makes human beings unique. Michael S. Gazzaniga describes most of the current theories and either tears them apart or supports them with evidence. Of course, this book is a bit old and neuroscience is pretty far on the edge of new science, so it is probably alrea ...more
Jul 21, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2012, science, pop-science
I find Gazzaniga a very engaging writer, even in textbook, and this volume is no exception. As the title states, what Gazzaniga is after is precisely what is that makes our special kind of primate human. Answering this question is by no means trivial, of course, and you need to know a lot about animals to navigate among what characteristics are uniquely human: is it empathy? or possessing a theory of mind? or is it enjoying art?

Gazzaniga goes over this skilfully and pleasantly - the only aspect
Andrea Patrick
Dec 07, 2008 rated it it was amazing
If you read a lot of cognitive science, you see Gazzaniga's name all over the place, but this is the first of his books that I've read, and it's flat-out wonderful.

I learned a ton of interesting stuff about the brain, but the book is about more than just intelligence. Theory of mind, ethics, language and more are explored, and all in a very accessible style. Gazzaniga often explains things by giving voice to brain structures and other inanimate objects. I was thoroughly engaged by the whole boo
Ian Tymms
There's a lot happened in cognitive neuroscience since I studied it 25 years ago. Gazzaniga's style may not be for everyone (judging from other reviews it's not), but it certainly works for me. He's got a nice mix of expertise and informality as he explains both what is known and what is speculated about and what this might mean for humanity's future. The most powerful take-away for me was a reminder of just how much of the clever functioning of the brain happens outside our conscious control. O ...more
Brea Grant
Nov 17, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: people curious about themselves but not in a vain way
Recommended to Brea by: the new york times
i thought i already wrote a review for this but i guess not.

i really enjoyed this book - it's a science book but not too science-y so you don't have to put it down every few pages for a comic book break.
gazzaniga talks about how we are who were are compared to animals and explains things like gossip, in group/out group behavior, and doing each other favors with evolution.

good read! if you're feeling like a smarty pants.

Jul 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: neuroscience
Definitely one of the most readable and informative books on neuroscience I've read,so far.The author draws together the findings of many researchers in the field and presents their core theories in a lively and accessible manner.If you haven't the time or inclination to read Damasio,Pinker or a host of other popular authors then this is the one to read. ...more
Jul 30, 2008 rated it liked it
Heard about this book an interview with the author on NPR. Piqued my curiosity.
Hal Brodsky
Apr 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: kindle
A little long winded on basic science, but in the second half of the book the author reports on studies and subjects with pathological brain defects, and suddenly the reader is presented with an insight into the human sole.... and it is unsettling indeed.
Let's just say that if you read this book with an open mind, it will change your outlook on the World and out place within it.
Feb 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
I am not sure if the author fully addressed his thesis in this book. He asserts to help the reader understand the nature of his own consciousness and what sets us apart, in terms of brain function from other species. It reads somewhat like a psychology lecture, going through different aspects of brain function and what is known at the time. He compares us to a handful of other species.
Sarah Mck
May 02, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction, brain
For anyone heavily into neruo-psych and neurology. Skimmed most of it past half way. Enjoyable but certainly not a light read. Which isn't a bad thing, just wasn't what I was after. ...more
Michael Anderson
Nov 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Outstanding book, bringing together Biology, Neuroscience, and Anthropology to describe our unique Human behavior.
Lysane Fréchette
Apr 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A very good read for people who would like to know more about our brains.
Mar 08, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: own
I picked up this book because I had heard of Michael Gazzaniga before, through my Honors Intro to Neuroscience class (yes, I was a neuroscience major!) and the premise of the book intrigued me. Are humans unique and distinct from all animals that came before us or are we merely on an evolutionary continuum with even more evolved species to follow us?

Gazzaniga believes that humans are unique and sets about convincing his audience through explaining what is known (and still not known) about differ
Aug 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book is really awesome.
Gregg SAPP
Dec 22, 2015 rated it really liked it
Neuroscientist and prolific science popularizer Michael Gazzaniga examines the biological, cultural, psychological and technological features of homo sapiens that, individually or collectively, define human beings as being unique among species. The question arises: do the things that make us human differ in kind, or just degree from comparable qualities found among our animal brethren (especially primates). After all, chimps share 97% of our DNA. Several primates, as well as even some insect spe ...more
Eric Connelly
Mar 16, 2013 rated it liked it
So far this book is very easy to read (big plus for non-fiction books) and does not assume any expertise of the reader (something I also really like). Gazzaniga describes many interesting experiments and traits of the human brain/psychology, which of course is stuff I love. And I think he has a very good amount of summary/review throughout the chapters to keep me focused on his objective in the book, and his progress throughout in showing how Humans work (especially the brain), and how they are ...more
Kirk Lowery
Jul 24, 2011 added it
Shelves: science
If you're going to read this book, bring a map of the brain's various areas, names and associated functions. Otherwise, it's hard to track all the research that the author summarizes. Gazzaniga is a confirmed materialist, with the belief that what the brain does physically is all there is. He assesses what we know of animal brain function and asks how humans are different and unique. He understands self-awareness as an "emerging" from the complex of lower level functions of consciousness. In thi ...more
Stephie Iris Williams
Apr 12, 2015 rated it really liked it
I would say that this book is pretty good. Gazzaniga presents a lot of neuroscience to show where the human brain differs from other animals, especially mammals. He throws in evolutionay psychology as well. Along the way he discusses our sociability, morality, empathy, sense of beauty, theory of mind, and consciousness. He wraps it all up with a chapter on bionics, artificial intelligence, and genetic engineering. The book has some very interesting things in it. One item I found to be quite fasc ...more
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Michael S. Gazzaniga, one of the premiere doctors of neuroscience, was born on December 12, 1939 in Los Angeles. Educated at Dartmouth College and California Institute of Technology, he is a professor of psychology at the University of California, Santa Barbara, where he heads the new SAGE Center for the Study of the Mind.

His early research examined the subject of epileptics who had undergone surg

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