New: Understanding Our Need for Novelty and Change

Image of New: Understanding Our Need for Novelty and Change
Release Date: 
December 29, 2011
Penguin Press HC
Reviewed by: 

At today’s pace something “new” comes along every hour. Our ability to respond to the new and different is what saved us from extinction. Human emotions allowed us to decipher danger by thinking: approach, avoid, or maybe.

Since the dawn of our species 200,000 years ago, we have had to adapt to conditions or migrate to a more fitting environment. New: Understanding Our Need for Novelty and Change traces our development as a species from Africa to Europe and Asia, as we slowly adapted and built tools in response to our changing environment. We make the decision to move toward the next new thing on this basis. Our willingness to move toward new and different experiences, neophilia refers to our tendency to be attracted to or to avoid novelty.

In New, Ms. Gallagher teaches you how to find your place on the spectrum of neophilia (love of the new), based on your response to novelty and change, as it relates to your life quest for balance. At times, we may be a neophiliac (an extreme novelty seeker), or a neophobe (one who is resistant to change).

While a true neophiliac is the first to jump at any new excitement, most of us are likely moderate neophiliacs: inclined to be “neither scared stiff by too much novelty and change nor bored by too little.”

In part one, New discusses origins of neophilia and the mind/body mechanics. Parts two and three discuss our capacity to embrace new, and ways in which our environment shapes our attitude toward novelty and change.

With all the inventive technology we have in the 21st century, New encourages we think beyond consumerism and electronics addictions. Instead, the bigger perspective of embracing the new can help turn our bounty into opportunities that may improve our behavior and choices.

Since newness now arrives with every web screen and email ping, many of us are weary of information overload. Yet people high on the neophilia spectrum thrive in this culture, exploring, learning, and creating new ideas, while others experience feelings of anxiety and become risk-averse.

Ms. Gallagher cites Eleanor Roosevelt as an inspiring example of someone who changed from a neophobe to a neophile, morphing from a shy girl to a powerful force as First Lady during Franklin Roosevelt’s U.S. Presidency.

Overall, New is enjoyable on several levels, from the fascinating elements of cultural history to the serious reader’s interest in areas covering human intellectual development through the centuries.