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Why We Snap

Understanding the Rage Circuit in Your Brain

This book can be downloaded and read in iBooks on your Mac or iOS device.


The startling new science behind sudden acts of violence and the nine triggers this groundbreaking researcher has uncovered

We all have a rage circuit we can’t fully control once it is engaged as R. Douglas Fields, PhD, reveals in this essential book for our time.  The daily headlines are filled with examples of otherwise rational people with no history of violence or mental illness suddenly snapping in a domestic dispute, an altercation with police, or road rage attack. We all wish to believe that we are in control of our actions, but the fact is, in certain circumstances we are not. The sad truth is that the right trigger in the right circumstance can unleash a fit of rage in almost anyone.

But there is a twist: Essentially the same pathway in the brain that can result in a violent outburst can also enable us to act heroically and altruistically before our conscious brain knows what we are doing. Think of the stranger who dives into a frigid winter lake to save a drowning child.

Dr. Fields is an internationally recognized neurobiologist and authority on the brain and the cellular mechanisms of memory. He has spent years trying to understand the biological basis of rage and anomalous violence, and he has concluded that our culture’s understanding of the problem is based on an erroneous assumption: that rage attacks are the product of morally or mentally defective individuals, rather than a capacity that we all possess. 

Fields shows that violent behavior is the result of the clash between our evolutionary hardwiring and triggers in our contemporary world. Our personal space is more crowded than ever, we get less sleep, and we just aren't as fit as our ancestors. We need to understand how the hardwiring works and how to recognize the nine triggers. With a totally new perspective, engaging narrative, and practical advice, Why We Snap uncovers the biological roots of the rage response and how we can protect ourselves—and others.

From the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

Oct 26, 2015 – Neuroscientist Fields provides insight into the seemingly inexplicable: sudden switches into violent behavior, an all-too-familiar narrative that often ends in collective tragedy. From road rage to public shootings, he explores manifestations of the human instinct to kill which Fields views as universal and evolutionarily hardwired into our brains. This discussion, for all its relevance to contemporary society, can become unwieldy, but Fields knows when to use stories, including anecdotes from his own life, and when to rely on academic material, such as his own discipline. Even the most scientific passages are personalized and placed in a narrative context, and while his friendly and informative tone can occasionally be excessively digressive, it results in a highly readable survey. Most distinctive is Fields's self-created mnemonic device, LIFEMORTS, an acronym for triggers to violence: life or limb; insult; family; environment; mate; order in society; resources; tribe; stopped. Recognizing these triggers, he claims, can prevent tragedy. Fields shines a thoughtful and essential light on one of the darkest aspects of human behavior.
Why We Snap
View in iTunes
  • $16.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Life Sciences
  • Published: Jan 12, 2016
  • Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
  • Print Length: 416 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.5 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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