The startling new science behind sudden acts of violence committed by ordinary, sane people from a leading neurobiologist
According to R. Douglas Fields, PhD, we all have a rage circuit we can’t fully control once it is engaged. 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, barroom brawl, 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. Something in our environment can unexpectedly unleash an automatic and complex rage response.
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. The sad truth is that the right trigger in the right circumstance can unleash a fit of rage in almost anyone. And as Dr. Fields reveals and details for the first time, there are precisely nine triggers.
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.
“Neuroscientist Fields provides insight into the seemingly inexplicable… highly readable… a thoughtful and essential light on one of the darkest aspects of human behavior.”
“The interplay between conscious and unconscious cognition is not unfamiliar territory, as readers of Daniel Kahneman or Malcolm Gladwell will recognize, but Fields' personal experience adds a fresh viewpoint to an intriguing subject.”
“R. Douglas Fields illuminates the intricate neural processes involved in the common human experience of ‘flipping our lid’ as we snap out of clear thinking and into states of rage. By carefully documenting the brain science beneath the complex states of fury and illustrating with examples of real life stories of those who've ‘lost it’, our expert guide reveals how we can both understand the mechanisms and the triggers for such states and use this new knowledge in practical ways to minimize the potential damage of going down ‘the low road’ with ourselves and others. This is a fine example of applied neuroscience for the benefit of our common humanity. Bravo!”
—Daniel J. Siegel, MD, author of Brainstorm and Mindsight, Clinical Professor, UCLA School of Medicine, Executive Director, Mindsight Institute
“This book is a riveting journey into your brain’s most mysterious, dangerous, and possibly redemptive territory. Douglas Fields guides us into the core of rage, and offers us a blueprint for understanding—and perhaps remedying—the explosions of violence that can mar our world and our lives.”
—Dan Coyle, author of The Talent Code
“Doug Fields explores the dark matter of the soul engrained in a the web of neurons in our brain. This is a superbly told investigation into the question of why we snap with urgent, useful implications for our personal lives as well as for the wider world. Everyone should know about the triggers of the rage circuit Doug Fields has defined.”
—Daniela Schiller, PhD, Neuroscientist, Icahn School of Medicine at Mt. Sinai
“A superb must-read for anyone hoping to understand the common neural roots of spontaneous acts of violence, rage, and, yes, heroism. The argument is both riveting and convincing; the implications are profound, from rethinking the relationship between violence and personal responsibility to possible ways to temper the 'snap' response.”
—Robert Burton, M.D. author of On Being Certain
“The interplay between conscious and unconscious cognition is not unfamiliar territory, as readers of Daniel Kahneman or Malcolm Gladwell will recognize, but Fields’ personal experience adds a fresh viewpoint to an intriguing subject.”
About the Author:
R. Douglas Fields is senior investigator at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland. He became head of the Neurocytology and Physiology Unit, NICHD in 1994 and chief of the Nervous System Development and Plasticity Section, NICHD in 2001. He is editor in chief of Neuron Glia Biology and a member of the editorial board of several other journals in the field of neuroscience. He lives in Silver Spring, Maryland.