What are the defining dynamics at the core of human behaviour? How are our expressions of love, anger, happiness and sadness determined? How are the thoughts and actions, that make us what we are, forged? Leading behavioural biologist, Robert Sapolsky, has been looking for answers to these questions, for almost half a century. He tries to explain his findings to the public through
books and seminars, not least the acclaimed lectures he gave at Stanford University. If you want to understand why you behave in a certain way, Sapolsky’s interdisciplinary course titled, Human Behavioural Biology – an amalgamation of biology, neuroscience, endocrinology, socio-biology and psychology – is bound to open new horizons.
Born in New York, in 1957, Sapolsky’s family had immigrated from the Soviet Union. He is an extraordinary researcher, who has felt compelled to work with primates, since the start of his academic career. After completing degrees at Harvard and Rockefeller University, he specialised in endocrinology, neurobiology, physiology, and biological anthropology, spending twenty-five years of his career studying ba- boons. Sapolsky stands out from his contemporaries, in his ability to relate complex scientific subjects to the wider public in a simple and understandable way. Besides writing esteemed academic papers, this ability won Sapolsky the Carl Sagan Prize for Science Popularization, an award given to scientists who contribute to the dissemination of various research disciplines.
Sapolsky’s books have also helped the scientific community gain a broader audience. His international bestseller, Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst, was published in 2017 and translated into fifteen languages. Determined: A Science of Life Without Free Will, is Sapolsky’s eagerly-awaited new book, due to be released on 17 October 2023. He tells us that he questions the existence of free will, from beginning to end, in every scientific discipline he works in. In Determined, Sapolsky claims that humans are essentially biological machines, devoid of free will. The acclaimed scientist answers our questions in this interview for the promotion of his new book.