Thursday, December 29, 2011

New: Understanding Our Need for Novelty and ChangeNew: Understanding Our Need for Novelty and Change by Winifred Gallagher
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Exploring our unique human genius for responding to the new with curiosity and creativity, the bestselling author of Rapt shows us how to embrace our changing world while living a fuller, saner life.
In today's fast-paced world, it's easy to feel overwhelmed by the mind-boggling number of new things-whether products, ideas, or bits of data-bombarding us daily. But adapting to new circumstance is so crucial to our survival that "love of the new," or neophilia, is hardwired into our brains at the deepest levels. Navigating between our innate love of novelty and the astonishingly new world around us is the task of New: helping us adapt to, learn about, and create new things that matter, while dismissing the rest as distractions.
With wit and clarity, acclaimed behavioral science writer Winifred Gallagher takes us to the archaeological sites and neuroscience laboratories exploring our species' special affinity for novelty. All of us are attuned to things that are new or unfamiliar because they convey vital information about potential threats and resources. As individuals, however, we vary in how we balance the sometimes conflicting needs to avoid risk and approach rewards.
Some 15 percent of us are die-hard "neophiliacs" who are biologically predisposed to passionately pursue new experiences, and another 15 percent are "neophobes" who adamantly resist change.
Most of us fall squarely in the spectrum's roomy middle range. Whether we love change, avoid change, or take the middle path, neophilia plays a crucial role in all of our lives. No matter where we sit on neophilia's continuum, New shows us how to use it more skillfully to improve our lives.
At this time of unprecedented change- when the new information we handle daily has quadrupled in the past thirty years, with no sign of slowing-we must look beyond such secondary issues as voracious consumerism, attention problems, and electronics addiction to refocus on neophilia's true purpose: to learn about and create the new things that really matter. This big-picture perspective has long been missing, and New will jump-start that discussion by offering the tools we need to control our love of the new-rather than letting it control us.

As Homo Sapiens, we are hardwired to seek change and adapt. From our very first ancestors on the African continent, through the changes of the earth's and climate cycles, they adapted or faced obliteration. The Neanderthal, our cousins, had large brains and knew how to use tools. However, they were resistant to change and traveled little more than 15 kilometers during their lifetimes. When water dried up or the climate changed, they refused to change with it and died off. Meanwhile, our African ancestors, upon meeting the same challenges, migrated and eventually found themselves on every continent linking each of our human family together with this capacity to seek out new and better for the sake of survival.

Today's homo sapiens share the innate desire to survive but no longer need the skills of days of yore (that's a long, long time ago). The author deconstructs the different studies done by sociologists, anthropologists, and psychologists while providing modern day (within the past couple hundred years) examples of neophiles. While the societies consist of approximately 15% neophiles (actively seeking new thrills or change), 15% neophobes (resistant to change), the majority of people lie somewhere in the middle. The author explores the biological, cultural and individual reasons for our places on the continuum.

This is not the most interesting book for a person without leanings toward anthropology, psychology or sociology. On the other hand, there were parts that I found fascinating although much of it is theory and not hard science (hence the above stated studies). I enjoyed it in the way that I am a neophile in regards to sociology, anthropology and psychology. Always seeking the next thrill, I am. Kind of like a college professor. Just a thrill a minute.

If you are looking for a book to answer the questions of how much is too much and discuss the evils of technology and techno-addicts, this is not the book you want. The book simply discusses the way we seek out new information and why along with application to our own lives.

Well written and researched.

1 comment:

trish said...

Are you not into psychology? I find it fascinating!

Glad you ended up enjoying the book. Thanks for being on the tour!