My last few weeks have involved fielding numerous requests for articles and interviews, following up UK publication last week and in anticipation of the US publication of Extreme in a few days.
In a new book, Extreme: Why Some People Thrive at the Limits, psychologists Emma Barrett and Paul Martin analyze stories and characters past and present to shed light on why some people are drawn to dangerous, even life-threatening challenges like spelunking (cave exploration), BASE jumping (parachuting off a cliff), skydiving, or polar exploration.
Alice Robb: What motivates people to undertake extreme challenges?
Emma Barrett: Most people are motivated by more than one thing. Some of the more common include the desire to master skills and achieve high levels of performance, challenging the limits of their ability, as a social experience and as escape from personal problems or everyday tedium.
Another common motive is scientific curiosity: New discoveries are often made in the world’s hard places. To understand how life might have existed in historic conditions on Mars, geologist Nathalie Cabrol explores analogues on Earth: high-altitude volcanic lakes in the Andes. As well as scientific prowess, she needs exceptional diving skills; she holds a world record for high-altitude free-diving.