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  • Cited by 3
Cambridge University Press
Online publication date:
July 2021
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Book description

The eureka moment is a myth. It is an altogether naïve and fanciful account of human progress. Innovations emerge from a much less mysterious combination of historical, circumstantial, and accidental influences. This book explores the origin and evolution of several important behavioral innovations including the high five, the Heimlich maneuver, the butterfly stroke, the moonwalk, and the Iowa caucus. Such creations' striking suitability to the situation and the moment appear ingeniously designed with foresight. However, more often than not, they actually arise 'as if by design.' Based on investigations into the histories of a wide range of innovations, Edward A. Wasserman reveals the nature of behavioral creativity. What surfaces is a fascinating web of causation involving three main factors: context, consequence, and coincidence. Focusing on the process rather than the product of innovation elevates behavior to the very center of the creative human endeavor.


‘This is a delightful embrace of evolutionary thinking; one trial, one error, and one human achievement at a time.’

Gregory J. Madden - co-author of An Introduction to Behavior Analysis, and Editor-in-Chief of the APA Handbook of Behavior Analysis

‘Edward Wasserman's fascinating book provides compellingly fresh insights into the meaning, nature, and process of invention and design.’

Henry Petroski - author of Design Paradigms

‘Edward Wasserman's original book is about the way in which new habits emerge: through the law of effect. This book is stuffed full of intriguing and lively stories about everything from violins to high jumps, all pointing to a valuable insight: that people do more of things that work and less of things that don't, thus causing human society to evolve.’

Matt Ridley - author of How Innovation Works

‘The book provides a series of vignettes to explain how apparently complex behaviors and outcomes are the result of simpler forces. It is a must-read for anyone interested in why we behave the way we do. Fascinating, beautifully written, and gets you thinking!’

Anna Wilkinson - Professor of Animal Cognition, University of Lincoln, UK


R. M. Davis Source: CHOICE

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