A leading expert in animal behaviour takes us into the wild to better understand and manage our fears.
Fear, honed by millions of years of natural selection, kept our ancestors alive. Whether by slithering away, curling up in a ball, or standing still in the presence of a predator, humans and other animals have evolved complex behaviours in order to survive the hazards the world presents. But, despite our evolutionary endurance, we still have much to learn about how to manage our response to danger.
For more than thirty years, Daniel Blumstein has been studying animals' fear responses. His observations lead to a firm conclusion: fear preserves security, but at great cost. A foraging flock of birds expends valuable energy by quickly taking flight when a raptor appears. And though the birds might successfully escape, they leave their food source behind. Giant clams protect their valuable tissue by retracting their mantles and closing their shells when a shadow passes overhead, but then they are unable to photosynthesize, losing the capacity to grow. Among humans, fear is often an understandable and justifiable response to sources of threat, but it can exact a high toll on health and productivity.
Delving into the evolutionary origins and ecological contexts of fear across species, The Nature of Fear considers what we can learn from our fellow animals – from successes and failures. By observing how animals leverage alarm to their advantage, we can develop new strategies for facing risks without panic.
1. A Sophisticated Neurochemical Cocktail
2. Beware of Looming Objects
3. Noise Matters
4. Smells Risky to Me
5. Be Very Aware
6. Economic Logic
7. Once Bitten, Twice Shy
8. Listening to Signalers
9. Cascading Effects
10. Minimizing Costs
11. Our Inner Marmot
12. Wisely Living with Fear
Daniel T. Blumstein is Professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and the Institute of the Environment and Sustainability at the University of California, Los Angeles, where he codirects the Evolutionary Medicine Program. He is an elected Fellow of the Animal Behavior Society.
"A revelatory and masterful work by the world's authority on fear in animal societies. Blumstein focuses the lenses of animal behavior and evolution on very human anxieties and fears. The result is a beautifully written book rich in crucial insights, with salience for scientists, students, policy makers, and every human being navigating their way through our sometimes frightening world."
– Barbara Natterson-Horowitz, coauthor of Wildhood and Zoobiquity
"This terrific book is a reminder that when we are afraid, we are not alone. Lizards have fear. Mice have fear. Marmots have fear. This feeling is ancient, and for many millions of years, it has guided animals' actions. If you want to understand the roots of fear, and also make more sense of your own life, read this book."
– Rob Dunn, author of Never Home Alone
"Blumstein shows us how fear can be a positive force. When equipped with the knowledge of fear's origin, we have a blueprint for conquering it. Informed by animals and evolution, The Nature of Fear is a biological thriller that everyone needs to read."
– Brian Hare, coauthor of The Genius of Dogs
"In this lively and informative book, Blumstein takes the study of fear from the laboratory into the wild to emphasize the costs and benefits of fear responses and their evolution. This novel approach has much to offer as we try to understand the origin of our own fears."
– Guy Beauchamp, author of Animal Vigilance: Monitoring Predators and Competitors
"In this fascinating book, Daniel Blumstein explores the causes and consequences of fear for human and nonhuman animals, providing important insights into the ways that we all recognize and cope with risks in the course of our daily lives."
– Tim Clutton-Brock, author of Mammal Societies