Monday 16 May 2022

Book Review: Expressly Human by Mark Changizi & Tim Barber (Non-Fiction)

Title: Expressly Human
Author: Mark Changizi & Tim Barber
Publisher: BenBella Books
Publication Date: 26 July 2022
Pages: 256
Format: eBook - EPUB
Genre: Non-Fiction
Source: ARC via NetGalley

Good communication, conventional wisdom suggests, is calm, logical, rational. Emotions, we’re told, just get in the way.

But what if this is backwards? What if those emotional overtones are the main messages we’re sending to one another, and all that logical language is just window dressing?

Over billions of years of evolution, animals have become increasingly sophisticated and increasingly sentient. In the process, they evolved emotions, which helped improve their odds of survival in complex situations.

These emotions were, at first, purely internal. But at some point, social animals began expressing their emotions, in increasingly dramatic ways. These emotional expressions could accurately reflect internal emotions (smiling to express happiness)—or they could be quite different (smiling to cover up that you’re actually furious, but can’t tell your boss that).

Why did once-stone-faced animals evolve to be so emotionally expressive—to be us?

The answer, as evolutionary neurobiologist Mark Changizi and mathematician Tim Barber reveal, is that emotional expressions are our first and most important language—one that allows us, as social animals, to engage in highly sophisticated communications and negotiations.

Expressly Human introduces an original theory that explains, from first principles, how the broad range of emotional expressions evolved, and provides a Rosetta Stone for human communication. It will revolutionize the way you see every social interaction, from deciding who gets the last slice of pizza to multimillion-dollar business negotiations, and change your definition of what makes us human.


Expressly Human was a thought-provoking work that presented some interesting ideas on human emotional expression. Those theories were clearly and concisely presented, aided by some cute emoticon diagrams. I particularly enjoyed the consideration given to modern-day communication through social media, and how that affects standard emotional exchange. The index and appendices at the end were also helpful in adding further worthwhile explanations. The only note I'd make is that it would be best to buy this book in print, unless you plan to read the eBook solely on a large computer screen, as on my small e-reader some of the detailed diagrams were hard to make out, the text only just visible.

I received this book as a free eBook ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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