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JESSE BERING was born in 1975. He is a frequent contributor to Scientific American, Slate and Das Magazin. His work has also appeared in New York Magazine, the Guardian and New Republic, and been featured on NPR, the BBC, Playboy Radio, and more. Formerly director of the Institute of Cognition and Culture at Queen's University, Belfast, and professor at the University of Arkansas, he is the author of the forthcoming WHY IS THE PENIS SHAPED LIKE THAT? (Scientific American/Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 3 July 2012) and is currently working on a book on human sexuality and deviance. He lives near Ithaca, New York. His website is at



Jesse Bering's website

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Featured titles


The Sexual Deviant In All Of Us


A New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice


As informative as it is entertaining... Bering's latest is a delightful, intelligent, and thought-provoking addition to the growing body of our sexual knowledge of self — PUBLISHERS WEEKLY (starred review)


Bering's a supple, witty writer, and praiseworthy terms like wry and irreverent suggest themselves readily. The book is a humane flirtation with the often-strange intimacies that drive people's lives — Michael Washburn, BOSTON GLOBE


A master craftsman at refashioning reproductive biology into provocative composition, Bering nimbly probes 'the darkest corners of our sexual nature' with no illicit aftertaste – KIRKUS REVIEWS


Against a colorful backdrop of science, history, and psychology, Bering calls on human society to stop judging people's sexual preferences based on a personal belief about what's normal or natural, instead asking what is harmful. [He] throws a bucket of ice-cold water on topics that often become overheated by the fires of morality, religion, and politics – THE SCIENTIST

A lively exploration of sexual perversion... Bering has a very entertaining writing style, but don’t let that distract you from the serious stuff he’s talking about: this isn’t just a list of so-called perversions but, instead, an exploration of the way the human mind and body work and the way we are all just a little bit unusual

Like a slightly kinky friend, Perv is sometimes weird, often revelatory, and always enthralling. You’d expect a book about sexual perversions to be at least interesting, but in Jesse Bering’s hands it’s also smart, humorous, and eminently humane – Florence Williams, author of BREASTS: A Natural and Unnatural History

A deeply fascinating and surprisingly insightful peek into the weird world of human sexuality. With his shocking examples and unique evolutionary approach, Jesse Bering provides perhaps the best testament out there to Mark Twain's immortal quip that man is the only animal that blushes – or needs to
– Laurie Santos, Associate Professor of Psychology and Director of the Comparative Cognition Laboratory, Yale University

Come to gawk, stay to learn. Jesse Bering has written a fascinating, funny, and scientifically literate book about all the aspects of sex you didn’t want to think about. PERV will change the way you see yourself and everyone around you – Art Markman, PhD, author of SMART THINKING and HABITS OF LEADERSHIP

If truth be told – and Jesse Bering urges us to be honest – we're all perverts. And if you're not, then most around you are. Bering pulls no punches in this engrossing romp through the history, cultural relativism, politics, and science of sexuality. He brings shadowy taboos out to the front stage for a juicy, humorous, and nonjudgmental outing. PERV is a page-turner that is hard to put down
– Bruce Hood, Chair of Developmental Psychology in Society, University of Bristol, and author of THE SELF DELUSION

A copiously researched, scientifically solid, fascinating and fun ride through a museum of sexual oddities that makes a strong argument for why we need to ease up on our sneers at the 'erotic outliers' and admit the reality: To perv is human
–Amy Alkon , author of I SEE RUDE PEOPLE

In this unusual and wonderful book, Jesse Bering makes a persuasive case that we are all perverts. Bering is funny, brave, and deeply compassionate toward those whose desires cause suffering to themselves and others. This brilliant book will appeal to anyone who wants to learn more about the most unruly and intimate aspects of our lives
– Paul Bloom, Brooks and Suzanne Ragen Professor of Psychology, Yale University, and author of JUST BABIESL The Origins of Good and Evil


As a sex writer, Jesse Bering is fearless – and peerless – Dan Savage


In this eye-opening book, psychologist Jesse Bering argues that we are all sexual deviants on one level or another. He introduces us to the young woman who falls madly in love with the Eiffel Tower, a young man addicted to seductive sneezes, and a pair of deeply affectionate identical twins, among others. He challenges us to move beyond our attitudes towards 'deviant' sex and consider the alternative: what would happen if we rise above our fears and revulsions and accept our true natures?


With his signature wit and irreverent style, Bering pulls back the curtains on the history of perversions, the biological reasons behind our distaste for unusual sexual proclivities and the latest research on desire. Armed with reason, science and an insatiable appetite for knowledge, he humanises deviants while asking some provocative questions about the nature of hypocrisy, prejudice and when sexual desire can lead to harm.


A groundbreaking look at our complex relationship with our carnal urges and the ways in which we disguise, deny and shame the sexual deviant in all of us, PERV brings hidden desires into the spotlight.


Publisher: Scientific American Books/Farrar, Straus & Giroux (US)/Transworld (UK)

Pub Date: 8 October 2013 (US)/13 February 2014 (UK)

Length: 288 pages


World rights: Scientific American Books/Farrar, Straus & Giroux


The Psychology of Souls, Destiny and the Meaning of Life

Top 25 Books of 2011 by the American Library Association, Choice Reviews


Named one of the 11 Best Psychology Books of 2011 by The Atlantic


Bering's writing is witty, crammed with pop-culture references, and he employs examples and analogies that make his arguments seem like common sense rather than the hard-earned scientific insights they really are Michael Brooks, NEW SCIENTIST


Since God didn’t exist, our human ancestors found it necessary to invent him. In this scintillating book, Jesse Bering explains, with characteristic wit and wisdom, how, in the course of human evolution, God returned the compliment – by helping individuals, despite themselves, lead better livesNicholas Humphrey, author of SEEING RED: A Study in Consciousness


Taking a balanced and considered approach to this often inflammatory topic, Bering explains why this religious trait has evolutionary benefits and why it sets us apart from other animals NATURE

Jesse Bering is a brilliant young psychologist, a gifted storyteller, a careful reader of Jean-Paul Sartre, and a very funny man. And his first book is a triumph – a moving, provocative and entertaining exploration of the human search for meaning Paul Bloom, Professor of Psychology, Yale University, author of HOW PLEASURE WORKS


Bering's own clever research on children’s perceptions of the supernatural is the centerpiece in his rich portrayal of the newly unfolding science of belief in God  Daniel M. Wegner, Harvard University, author of The ILLUSION OF CONSCIOUS WILL


A startling new take on why we believe in God and how this belief ensured human survival.

God is not merely an idea to be entertained or discarded based on the evidence. Nor is God a cultural invention, an existential Band-Aid, or an opiate of the masses. Instead, Jesse Bering argues, belief in God evolved in the human species as an ‘adaptive illusion’.


Drawing on groundbreaking research in cognitive science, Bering unravels the evolutionary mystery of why we grapple for meaning, purpose and destiny in our everyday lives. He argues that the strangely deep-rooted sense that some intentional agent created us as individuals, wants us to behave in particular ways, observes our otherwise private actions and intends to meet us after we die would also have been felt by our ancestors, leading them to behave in ways that favoured their reputations – and thus saved their genes. But in today’s world, these psychological illusions have outlasted their evolutionary purpose, and Bering points out a whole new challenge: escaping them.


His own experiments have revealed that the perceived presence of a supernatural being can affect a person’s behaviour – although in this case the being was not God, but the ghost of a dead person. He has also conducted studies that indicate that religion promotes fitness by promoting collaboration within groups. A sense of being watched by a god might be useful, he says: it might encourage cheats to detect and police themselves.


By concentrating on such psychological foundations of supernatural belief, THE BELIEF INSTINCT provides a timely, thoughtful, controversial counterpoint to recent books on science and religion.

Publisher: Nicholas Brealey (UK)*/Norton (US)
Pub Date: 4 Nov 2010 (UK)/7 Feb 2011 (US) 
Length: 288 pages

All rights available excluding:
UK & Commonwealth, US & Canada, Brazil (Zahar), Germany (Piper), Italy (Rizzoli), Japan (Kagaku-Dojin ), Korea (Purun Communication), Netherlands (Nieuw Amsterdam), Portugal (Temas e Debates), Spain (Paidós), Taiwan (Apocalypse)

*Published in the UK as THE GOD INSTINCT