The Jeff Wise Blog

About Extreme Fear

Fear is a mysterious force. It sabotages our ability to think clearly and can drive us to blind panic, yet it can also give us superhuman speed, strength, and powers of perception. Having baffled mankind for ages, fear is now yielding its secrets to scientific inquiry. The simple model of “fight or flight”–that people respond to danger either by fleeing in terror or staying to fight through it–has been replaced by a more complex understanding of the fear response.

Veteran science journalist Jeff Wise delves into the latest research to produce an astonishing portrait of the brain’s hidden fear pathways. Wise, who writes the “I’ll Try Anything” column for Popular Mechanics, favors a hands-on approach, volunteering to jump out of an airplane while wearing sensors and to endure a four-hour simulated missile attack on a Navy destroyer. He returns with a tale that combines lucid explanations of brain dynamics with gripping, true-life stories of mortal danger: we watch a woman defend herself against a mountain lion attack in a remote canyon; we witness a couple desperately fighting to beat back an encircling wildfire; we see a pilot struggle to maintain control of his plane as its wing begins to detach. By understanding how and why these people responded the way they did, Wise argues, we can better arm ourselves against our own everyday fears.

Full of amazing characters and cutting-edge science, Extreme Fear is an original and absorbing narrative that will force you to reconsider the limits of human potential.

Click here for the Extreme Fear blog.

2 Responses

  1. First of all, these are just my thoughts on the whole topic. I’m no psychologist or anything; I don’t even have a degree in anything. I’m just very interested in psychology.
    Maybe the reason we think “time slows down” in extremely fearful situations has to do with the same reason as children time seems to go by slowly. We know that we remember the most emotional times in our lives the best. As kids, we get so distracted by everything and all details because we’re still learning about the world. Also, time goes by slower because we less experiences to compare the ones we’re having now to. In the same sense, we have less amount extreme experiences that relate to the one we just had. Therefore, with any emotional/new experience time seemed like it went by faster. I’m guessing this is also a result of evolution, learning from our mistakes or close calls. It is very useful to remember all details of these experiences to prevent a similar situation.
    I hope it all made sense and I hope to hear a reply on your thoughts. Thanks!

  2. Glad to find your blog. I’m very interested in “fear” and how we humans “scare ourselves” in our everyday lives. I look forward to following your study and sharing what you’re learning about extreme fear.

    Tom Hunting ton

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Thinking About Fear & the Brain

If I find myself in a severe crisis, will I be able to keep it together? How can I control anxiety and panic? Is it possible to lead a life less bounded by fear? These are the sorts of questions that I'll be exploring in this blog, an offshoot of my book, Extreme Fear: The Science of Your Mind in Danger, published on December 8, 2009 by Palgrave Macmillan.

Video Introduction

Also by Jeff Wise

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