The Social Leap: The New Evolutionary Science of Who We Are, Where We Come From, and What Makes Us Happy | William von Hippel
William von Hippel Evolutionary Psychology Medical Cognitive Psychology Medical Social Psychology & Interactions Evolution Evolutionary Psychology Biological Sciences Evolution & Genetics Social Psychology
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In the compelling popular science tradition of Sapiens and Guns, Germs, and Steel, a groundbreaking and eye-opening exploration that applies evolutionary science to provide a new perspective on human psychology, revealing how major challenges from our past have shaped some of the most fundamental aspects of our being.
The most fundamental aspects of our lives—from leadership and innovation to aggression and happiness—were permanently altered by the "social leap" our ancestors made from the rainforest to the savannah. Their struggle to survive on the open grasslands required a shift from individualism to a new form of collectivism, which forever altered the way our mind works. It changed the way we fight and our proclivity to make peace, it changed the way we lead and the way we follow, it made us innovative but not inventive, it created a new kind of social intelligence, and it led to new sources of life satisfaction.
In The Social Leap, William von Hippel lays out this revolutionary hypothesis, tracing human development through three critical evolutionary inflection points to explain how events in our distant past shape our lives today. From the mundane, such as why we exaggerate, to the surprising, such as why we believe our own lies and why fame and fortune are as likely to bring misery as happiness, the implications are far reaching and extraordinary.
Blending anthropology, biology, history, and psychology with evolutionary science, The Social Leap is a fresh and provocative look at our species that provides new clues about who we are, what makes us happy, and how to use this knowledge to improve our lives.
“The Social Leap is a rollicking tour through humanity’s evolutionary past, and William von Hippel is the consummate tour guide. With equal parts wisdom, humor, authority, and charm, von Hippel shows how our past explains the present and why our well-being rests on an understanding of how our minds evolved.” -- Adam Alter, New York Times bestselling author of Drunk Tank Pink and Irresistible
“Forget gold toilets and private jets. The key to happiness may just lie in a cheeseburger—or a sandbox. Full of insight into human character, von Hippel’s book provides a stimulating program for measuring success without material yardsticks.” -- Kirkus Reviews
“The Social Leap is one of the best books I have read in years. Its examination of the evolutionary roots of modern human behavior is both profound and revelatory. Seamlessly weaving captivating stories, rich science, and beautiful prose, von Hippel offers an unparalleled glimpse into the lives of our ancestors and, thereby, into our selves.” -- Sonja Lyubomirsky, New York Times bestselling author of The How of Happiness
“The Social Leap is a rollicking tour through humanity’s evolutionary past, and William von Hippel is the consummate tour guide. With equal parts wisdom, humor, authority, and charm, von Hippel shows how our past explains the present and why our well-being rests on an understanding of how our minds evolved.” -- Roy Baumeister, New York Times bestselling author of Willpower
“This book is for everybody. Everybody, that is, who has a shred of curiosity about how we came to become human. von Hippel’s panoramic view prompts us to ask ourselves: what do we wish to do with the miracle that we are now here?” -- Mahzarin R. Banaji, Richard Clarke Cabot Professor of Social Ethics, Department of Psychology, Harvard University
From the Back Cover
An engrossing exploration of how the last six million years of human evolution have forged our modern lives — from work and relationships to leadership and innovation and, above all, our quest for happiness
Human psychology is rife with contradictions: We work hard to achieve our goals, but when we succeed, our happiness is fleeting compared with our efforts. We hope our friends will do well in life but can’t help but feel jealous if they do too well. We’re aghast at the thought of people we know being murdered, even if we despise them, but are unconcerned when our armed forces kill enemies who are strangers to us. We complain about difficult bosses but are often just as bad when we’re in charge.
These inconsistencies may seem irrational, but each of them has evolved to serve a vital function in our lives. Indeed, the most fundamental aspects of our psychology were permanently shaped by the “social leap” our ancestors made from the rainforest to the savannah. In their struggle to survive on the open grasslands, our ancestors prioritized teamwork and sociality over physical prowess, creating an entirely new kind of intelligence that would forever alter our place on this planet.
In The Social Leap, leading psychologist William von Hippel traces our evolutionary history to show how events in our distant past continue to shape our lives today. From the everyday, such as why we exaggerate, to the exotic, such as why we believe our own lies, the implications are far-reaching and extraordinary.
Blending anthropology, biology, history, and psychology with evolutionary science, The Social Leap is a fresh, provocative look at our species that provides new clues about who we are, why we do what we do, and how to live the good life.
About the Author
William von Hippel grew up in Alaska, got his B.A. at Yale and his PhD at the University of Michigan, and then taught for a dozen years at Ohio State University before finding his way to Australia, where he is a professor of psychology at the University of Queensland. He has published more than a hundred articles, chapters, and edited books, and his research has been featured in The New York Times, USA Today, The Economist, the BBC, Le Monde, El Mundo, Der Spiegel, and The Australian. He lives with his wife and two children in Brisbane, Australia.
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