The Chimp Paradox, by Prof Steve Peters

Monkey looking quizzical
Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on reddit
Share on pocket
Share on email
Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on reddit
Share on pocket
Share on email

According to The Chimp Paradox, we’re not so different to monkeys and computers – and understanding that is the key to being contented.

Is crazy-eyed rage your party trick? Do you leave passive aggressive sticky notes for colleagues? Feel discontented, but don’t know why? That’ll be your ‘inner chimp’ – and The Chimp Paradox aims to show you how embrace the ape.

What IS the ‘Chimp Paradox’?

In a theory that’ll enrage creationists everywhere, Peters suggests we’re all still a little bit monkey: part of our brains haven’t evolved beyond animal instincts, urges and irrational fears.

When we feel our responses get the better of us, or we’re left with unwelcome emotions, that’s the chimp shouting to be heard. Sometimes that literally results in adults shouting and screaming when they don’t get their way, or “going ape-shit” over petty parking disputes. Gorilla warfare, right?

While that doesn’t sound ideal, Peters says that it’s possible to accept, nurture and manage the inner chimp and – in turn – to understand other people’s monkeying around. Once you’ve mastered this, the theory goes, you’ll be happier, more contented and more successful.

It’s not a difficult read – though some will either love or hate the cack-handed illustrations, endless imagined social dilemmas, and astrology-tinged metaphors (“The Planet Success”, “The Moon of Chronic Stress”).

“Imagine that you are going for a coffee with a friend and the friend says, ‘Would you like a piece of cake with your coffee?’ If you are trying to watch your weight then the Human will answer, ‘No, thanks.’ However, if you happen to like cake, then the Chimp will answer, ‘Yes, please.’ Who will actually answer then, the Human or the Chimp?”

It is, however, a very long read at 300+ pages, although there’s something ‘can-do’ about the whole thing – a bit like being locked in a motivational Powerpoint presentation for a couple of weeks. Considering few of us learn (effectively) how to be productive social animals or manage feelings as children, however, it’s hard to knock the overall ethos.


Prof Steve Peters, The Chimp Paradox. Vermillion, 2012

Other books like The Chimp Paradox
  • Happy, by Derren Brown (self help)
  • Counselling for Toads, by Robert de Board (self knowledge, animal metaphors)

Picture credit: Kelly Sikkema