Extreme: Why Some People Thrive at the Limits

ISBN : 9780199668588

Emma Barrett; Paul Martin
296 Pages
168 x 241 mm
Pub date
Oct 2014
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Why do some people risk their lives regularly by placing themselves in extreme and challenging situations? For some, such as astronauts, the extreme environments are part of the job. For others, they involve the thrill and competition of extreme sports, or the achievement of goals such as being the first to reach the South Pole or climb Everest. Whether for sport or employment, all these people have made the personal choice to put themselves in environments in which there is significant risk. What drives such people? And what skills and personality traits enable the best to succeed? What abilities are shared by the successful mountaineer, astronaut, caver, or long-distance solo sailer? And are there lessons the rest of us can learn from them? The psychology of those who have to cope with extreme conditions has been a matter of much research. It is important, for example to those planning manned space programmes or the makeup of teams who will spend months in an isolated or hostile environment such as Antarctica, to understand the psychological pressures involved, and to recognize those best equipped to handle them. In Extreme, Emma Barrett and Paul Martin explore the challenges that people in extreme environments face, including pain, physical hardship, loneliness, and friction between individuals, and the approaches taken to overcome them. Using many fascinating examples and personal accounts, they argue that we can all benefit from the insights gained.


1. Life at the Edge
2. Bravery
3. Hardship
4. Bad Sleep
5. Monotony
6. Alone
7. Other People
8. Teamwork
9. Knowhow
10. Focus
11. Resilience
12. Choosing Extremes
13. Staying and Leaving
Appendix: Studying the Psychology of Extreme Environments

About the author: 

Dr Emma Barrett holds a PhD in psychology from the University of Birmingham and is Honorary Researcher in Psychology at Lancaster University. For more than a decade she has led a behavioural science research team that collates, conducts, and communicates research for a wide range of public sector customers. She has also run popular blogs on deception and on forensic psychology for the general public. In 2010 she was awarded the OBE, partly in recognition of her achievements in translating research findings into practical advice and guidance for non-specialist audiences.; Dr Paul Martin was educated at the University of Cambridge and at Stanford University, where he was Harkness Fellow in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. He subsequently lectured and researched in behavioural biology at Cambridge and was a Fellow of Wolfson College. He is an honorary Fellow at Imperial College London. Paul is author or co-author of several science books including Measuring Behaviour, The Sickening Mind, Counting Sheep and Making Happy People.

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