CHAPTER 3The Healthy Response

The Fork in the Road to Success

So just what is this law, this optimal human response to fear? The best evidence, surprisingly, comes from our observations of chimpanzees both in laboratory studies and in the wild. Why these particular primates? Because they share over 90 percent of human DNA and their emotional brains—their midbrains—are most similar to ours. A baby chimp, when frightened, does not run or burrow or fly or attack. Instead, no matter what the threat might be, it reaches to its mother, leaps onto her back or into her arms, and stays there until the amygdala quiets. Adult chimps are similar in their response. In observations in the wild it’s been noted that, when facing a threat, chimpanzees consistently ...

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