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The Human Zoo: A Zoologist's Study of the Urban Animal [Paperback]

Desmond Morris , Philip Turner
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
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Book Description

March 15 1996 Kodansha Globe
How does city life change the way we act? What accounts for the increasing prevalence of violence and anxiety in our world? In this new edition of his controversial 1969 bestseller, The Human Zoo, renowned zoologist Desmond Morris argues that many of the social instabilities we face are largely a product of the artificial, impersonal confines of our urban surroundings. Indeed, our behavior often startlingly resembles that of captive animals, and our developed and urbane environment seems not so much a concrete jungle as it does a human zoo. Animals do not normally exhibit stress, random violence, and erratic behavioruntil they are confined. Similarly, the human propensity toward antisocial and sociopathic behavior is intensified in todays cities. Morris argues that we are biologically still tribal and ill-equipped to thrive in the impersonal urban sprawl. As important and meaningful today as it was a quarter-century ago, The Human Zoo sounds an urgent warning and provides startling insight into our increasingly complex lives.

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About the Author

Desmond Morris is the author of more than thirty books, including The Naked Ape, Intimate Behavior, and Human Animal. He lives in Oxford, England.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Tainted by sexism May 10 2004
By A Customer
I read this when it came out, I was 10 years-old. I've since become a cognitive psychologist and am therefore in a position to appraise the book as an insider.
At one point, Morris claims that if you hand little girls a doll, they will "instinctively" cradle it so that the doll's head lies on the left, close to the heart. He claims this is evidence of the mothering instinct. So, I took a doll to school and experimented on my friends. I experimented on about 35 kids, boys and girls. I found that Morris was wrong. Little girls did not differ from boys as to the way they first held the doll.
So, if you read this book, watch out. It contains many DUBIOUS claims which would lead one to believe that differences in behavior between men and women are "natural" or "instinctive".
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5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing. Aug. 29 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I was referred to this book by my animation professor and it contains knowledge that everyone should know. It's a very good read and the words flow so easily so it is very easy to read it.

It is useful for animator's because it helps us understand human motivations and actions. Why we move the way we do and why we group and think the way we do.

I am really enjoying reading this book.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Naked Truth March 3 2001
There are certain people who just get an enormous kick out of telling the truth; especially when it involves disclosing something that other people don't particularly wish to hear. Desmond Morris fits into this category. The idea that we are just a few, tiny DNA notches above our ape cousins, can't be particularly welcome to most people, especially to the "Brain Luddites" of Christian fundamentalism, but nevertheless it is the truth, and, in this book, Morris seems to take great pleasure in letting us know this.
He writes in a clear, lucid style that avoids unnecessary jargon and gives the attentive reader plenty of time to keep up with the flow of his ideas. One way he does this is to organize the book into 'organic' chapters, focusing on different aspects of human behavior, such as "Sex", "Fighting", "Feeding", etc. Another way is to constantly compare specific human behavior with that of other animals.
Of course some questions remain about the exact evolution of our species, our degree of adaptability, and the complex way our primitive natures tug against our modern conditioning, but so much is revealed or clarified by this book that you won't have time to notice any omissions. Along with Fraser's Golden Bough this is one of the key texts on which to base a clear understanding of human nature and society.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Naked Ape - An Anvil of Reality Feb. 25 2002
The Naked Ape (if you read it) clearly shows the beauty and brilliance of our fundamental nature, a nature still iron-locked to our basic, animal ancestry. The Naked Ape proves that there is no immediate escape from the stronghold our ancient mode of behaviour still plays on us, regardless of our newfound "human intelligence".
After first reading The Naked Ape (at age 25) my judgement on life simplified. Each chapter lifted burdens of heavy confusion and sadness off my shoulders. I read the book five times. Even now, at 37, I go back to it when I'm feeling angry or betrayed or confused. I'm familiar with every paragraph; I absorbing each page almost at once. And with every reading, the truth of The Naked Ape strengthens and clarifies my life.
At the end of the book, Desmond Morris's final message tops anything ever written about the solution to our current, misconstrued "advanced" lifestyle. I won't spoil it and quote him. You'll need to read the book and find out for yourself (or get the book and read the final chapter if you're into short-cuts). But do yourself a gigantic good turn and start fresh from the beginning.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A lengthy, backwards opinion piece March 21 2013
By Elise
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
First of all this is not a "study." An anthropological study would involve observing, gathering data, perhaps setting up experiments. The furthest the author goes in that direction is by listing anecdotes about various zoo animals, none of them backed by references. There is what he calls a "bibliography" at the end, listing things he's read in his life, but nothing is referenced so that you might look it up in the sources. In reality it's an opinion piece, not a study. The author states his opinion of how humans behave, with no sources or data to show whether the behaviour in question is actually happening. Then he gives his opinion of why the behaviour happens, based on his unsubstantiated zoo anecdotes and his sketchy understanding of the state of neuroscience in the 60ies (which was itself sketchy). His theory of why homosexuality happens is a prime example of how far off he is. What's more, the whole thing really deals with his opinion of mankind as a whole and never addresses specifically the sociology of cities, as the subtitle seemed to suggest.

This book might have some value for people who are studying the historical evolution of sociological thought. If you actually want to learn something about sociology, anthropology, human behaviour, or cities, don't bother with it. It's a waste of time.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating analysis of our species Dec 11 2010
I think this book is well worth reading, because it provides many insights into why we behave the way we do. I recommend the book despite the following flaws:
-sloppily written and organized
-some things are likely incorrect
-dated, and it shows
-the author doesn't make it clear enough his theories aren't facts
-bizarre ending
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, insightful and novel
This book is completely absorbing. It begins, where else, but at the beginings of human civilization itself at the site of the first human cities. Read more
Published on Dec 4 2004 by Paul Jorgenson
5.0 out of 5 stars A Zoologist examining human "normal" behaviour
We are so embedded in our modern cities and modern way of life (digital communications, home deliveries, grocery stores... Read more
Published on June 30 2004 by Sergio A. Salazar Lozano
4.0 out of 5 stars Good read and some fasinating information!
I bought this book cheap second hand, and I'm surprised what a good purchase it was. This book is a basic beginners sort of guide into the world of anthropology/zoology but it is... Read more
Published on May 22 2004 by R. van Tonder
5.0 out of 5 stars thenakedape
i can't comment on the validity of the statements made in the book (so i wont), but as for the book itself, it doesn't take much to get into it, i naturally started by reading the... Read more
Published on May 19 2004 by basschicharrones
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating!
I read this book over 30 years ago and it remains one of the most impressive works I've ever read. It was actually I book I got from the book club because I forgot to tell them... Read more
Published on May 16 2004 by Randy Keehn
5.0 out of 5 stars Fallen Angel or Risen Ape?
This book is phenomenally informative. It is organized into eight long chapters, so the good stuff keeps coming fast and furious, making the book hard to put down. Read more
Published on April 29 2004 by Kevin Seeger
5.0 out of 5 stars The truth about man: Like it or not
I don't know if our imagination is a curse, or a gift, but I believe in many ways it clouds our vision, clouds us from the truth, and clouds us from reality. Read more
Published on Dec 12 2003 by Dimitri McKay
5.0 out of 5 stars A Turning point
As a paradigm of the human race it depicts our most unique characteristics, lowest instincts and highest aspirations in a unique way. Read more
Published on June 18 2003 by Roberto Macías
5.0 out of 5 stars How many people go to the zoo everyday?
why we do what we do, why we feel the way we feel are the topics of many good books today but this excellent book takes the questions at hand and approaches them from a unique... Read more
Published on March 12 2003 by Matthew J. Marrinan
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