“I, Mammal” and “Meet Your Happy Chemicals” – Book Reviews

Have you ever thought about why us, humans, are so interested in boosting our social status? What kind of attributes do we relate with the “status” concept and why do we feel so good when we reach certain hierarchical milestones?


Dr. Loretta Graziano Breuning, Ph.D. – Professor Emerita of Management at California State University, East Bay, and a docent at the Oakland Zoo – explains the mammal search for status and happiness in two captivating books – “I, Mammal” and “Meet your Happy Chemicals”.

I believe these two books should be read together because they complement each other so well and are fit for both professionals and enthusiasts in the fields of animal and human cognition and behavior and neurochemistry.

“I, Mammal” will answer so many questions regarding human behavior in social contexts once you understand Dr. Breuning’s view, that we all have a mammalian brain directed towards survival and any behavior that will take us closer to achieving our goal (as individuals or species) will be rewarded with a flow of our “happy chemicals” (endorphins, oxytocin, serotonin, and dopamine).

The book’s chapters address subjects like understanding the mammalian brain created by means of natural selection and the evolutionary purposes of our happy chemicals, the concept of status in a “mammalian environment”, the sex-status relation, the way neural circuits are generated by our life experience, self-destructive status seeking pattern and reframing losses into wins.

“I, Mammal” ‘s message also has a personal growth or self-help value generated by the author’s suggestion that in order to live a happy life we need to make peace with our mammalian brain, which will help us understand our decisions better and have a more internal view of the world and individual life path.

The book is dotted with anecdotes that will help the reader better understand the scientific inference and it features an epilogue that addresses the way the brain’s interest in status is portrayed in movies. The examples include Pride and Prejudice (2005) -(Well done, Mr. Darcy!), Young Victoria (2009), Goodfellas (1990), and Mean Girls (2004). I have always enjoyed psychological analysis and interpretations of movies, books, or fictional characters, so this chapter was a very pleasant surprise for me.


“Meet Your Happy Chemicals” is really easy to read and yet an information-consistent neurochemistry book. The happy chemicals featured in the book are dopamine, endorphin, oxytocin, and serotonin. The premise of the book can be summed up as follows: Our happy chemicals are rewards or reinforcements we receive from our brain when we perform behaviors that support survival; Each type of survival behavior is motivated by a different happy chemical.

While reading this book one gets a better understanding of how life experience shapes our neural circuits and unique ways of turning on the happy chemicals and the author also provides strategies to create new happy circuits.

“Meet Your Happy Chemicals” also takes on subjects like cognitive distortions (from the happy chemicals view), free will, and the burden of choice and provides great insight into „unhappy chemicals” too, like cortisol or dealing with disappointment regarding happy chemicals expectations.

Both books – “I, Mammal” and “Meet Your Happy Chemicals” feature a writing style that is appropriate for a wide range of readers, both professionals, and the general public. Although some readers may find the content to be repetitive at times, I think it helps the assimilation of information and it provides different media in order to convey the message.

In conclusion, I am really happy to have accepted the invitation to read and review “I, Mammal” and “Meet Your Happy Chemicals” and I hope you will also find them to be a great read and source of information and that you will find for yourself new perspectives regarding the individual and social life we all try to improve.

P.S. This is not a commercial endorsement deal.

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