Survival of the Nicest

Survival of the Nicest : how altruism made us human, and why it pays to get along

3.73 (128 ratings by Goodreads)
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The phrase `survival of the fittest' conjures an image of the most cutthroat individuals rising to the top. But Stefan Klein, author of the international bestseller The Science of Happiness, makes the startling assertion that the key to achieving lasting personal and societal success lies in helping others.

Klein argues that altruism is in fact our defining characteristic: natural selection favoured those early humans who cooperated in groups. With their survival more assured, our altruistic ancestors were free to devote brainpower to developing intelligence, language, and culture - our very humanity. As Klein puts it, `We humans became first the friendliest and then the most intelligent apes.'

To build his persuasive case for how altruistic behaviour made us human - and why it pays to get along - Klein brings together an extraordinary array of material: current research on genetics and the brain, economics, social psychology, behavioural and anthropological experiments, history, and modern culture. Ultimately, his groundbreaking findings lead him to a vexing question: if we're really hard-wired to act for one another's benefit, why aren't we all getting along?

Klein believes we've learned to mistrust our generous instincts because success is so often attributed to selfish ambition. In Survival of the Nicest, he invites us to rethink what it means to be the `fittest' as he shows how caring for others can protect us from loneliness and depression, make us happier and healthier, reward us economically, and even extend our lives.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 272 pages
  • 153 x 234 x 20mm | 368g
  • Carlton North, Australia
  • English
  • New edition
  • New edition
  • 1922247626
  • 9781922247629
  • 540,771

Review quote

'This eloquent and persuasive book shows why in life, like in the movies, the nice guy always wins.' -- Stephen Cave, author of Immortality 'In Survival of the Nicest, Stefan Klein poses three questions central to social science and ethics: (1) How is unselfishness possible? (2) What moves us to help others? And (3) why are some people more helpful than others? His wide-ranging answers to these questions suggest that altruism is born into us and that selflessness actually both makes us happy and will transform the world.' -- Kristen Renwick Monroe, Chancellor's Professor, University of California, Irvine, and author of The Heart of Altruism 'An important contribution to the field of altruism and altruistic behavior and to a better and nicer world. I highly recommend this book.' -- Samuel P. Oliner, PhD, Emeritus Professor of Sociology, Humboldt State University, and founder and director, The Altruistic Personality and Prosocial Behavior Institute `[O]ne of the book's key strengths [is] its breadth. From psychological experiments to anthropological studies and historical events like the Holocaust or 9/11, Klein seamlessly weaves his way through all to present compelling evidence for why humans have evolved to be selfless. Survival of the Nicest entertainingly informs its readers of how they are born to be altruistic ...' 'A thought-provoking and comprehensive review of the research on altruism, Survival of the Nicest validates humanistic principles and has far-reaching implications for today's world - especially for US politics and culture. An inspiration!' -- Rebecca Hale, president, American Humanist Association, and co-owner of 'A scholarly tour de force about why generosity makes good sense, Survival of the Nicest is also compulsively readable. Klein argues convincingly that helping others is one of the best things we can do for ourselves.' -- Elizabeth Svoboda, author of What Makes a Hero?: The Surprising Science of Selflessness 'This wonderful book could be read as a scientific explanation for a moral imperative to be kind to others. But it is so much more! Stefan Klein, an enticing storyteller, marshals the evidence for the value of altruism - not only to one's family but, much more interestingly, to one's self and one's tribe. Altruism is truly contagious!' -- Roald Hoffman, Nobel Laureate, poet, and Frank H. T. Rhodes Professor of Humane Letters Emeritus, Cornell University `A fabulously informative, feel-good book ... Survival of the Nicest makes you want to be good and to feel good about it. Who can argue with that?' -- Bryan Appleyard * The Sunday Times * 'Altruism is responsible for some colourful and mysterious human behaviour, and this book brings to mind a good number of examples ... [M]akes for u[lifting reading' -- Michael McGirr * The Age * '[A] mind-bending book ... if there is a science to winning over readers, Klein has surely mastered it ... The wealth of knowledge here is astounding.' * Publishers Weekly, starred review * `A glowing argument for post-Darwinian co-operation.' -- Sarah Sands * Evening Standard *
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About Stefan Klein

Stefan Klein, PhD, has studied physics and analytical philosophy and holds a doctorate in biophysics. After several years as an academic researcher, he turned to writing about science for a general audience. From 1996 to 1999 he was an editor at Der Spiegel, Germany's leading news magazine, and in 1998 he won the prestigious Georg von Holtzbrinck Prize for Science Journalism. Today Klein is recognised as one of Europe's most influential science writers and journalists. His interviews with the world's leading scientists are a regular feature in Germany's Zeit magazine. His books, which have been translated into more than 25 languages, include the #1 international bestseller The Science of Happiness, The Secret Pulse of Time, and Leonardo's Legacy. A frequent speaker and university guest lecturer, he lives with his family in Berlin. Translator David Dollenmayer is emeritus professor of German at Worcester Polytechnic Institute and the author of The Berlin Novels of Alfred Doeblin. He is the recipient of the 2008 Helen and Kurt Wolff Translator's Prize and often translates for The New York Review of Books.
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Rating details

128 ratings
3.73 out of 5 stars
5 22% (28)
4 41% (52)
3 30% (38)
2 5% (6)
1 3% (4)
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