The WEIRDest People in the World: How the West Became Psychologically Peculiar and Particularly Prosperous

The WEIRDest People in the World: How the West Became Psychologically Peculiar and Particularly Prosperous

by Joseph Henrich
The WEIRDest People in the World: How the West Became Psychologically Peculiar and Particularly Prosperous

The WEIRDest People in the World: How the West Became Psychologically Peculiar and Particularly Prosperous

by Joseph Henrich


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A New York Times Notable Book of 2020
A Bloomberg Best Non-Fiction Book of 2020
A Behavioral Scientist Notable Book of 2020
A Human Behavior & Evolution Society Must-Read Popular Evolution Book of 2020

A bold, epic account of how the co-evolution of psychology and culture created the peculiar Western mind that has profoundly shaped the modern world.

Perhaps you are WEIRD: raised in a society that is Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic. If so, you’re rather psychologically peculiar.

Unlike much of the world today, and most people who have ever lived, WEIRD people are highly individualistic, self-obsessed, control-oriented, nonconformist, and analytical. They focus on themselves—their attributes, accomplishments, and aspirations—over their relationships and social roles. How did WEIRD populations become so psychologically distinct? What role did these psychological differences play in the industrial revolution and the global expansion of Europe during the last few centuries?

In The WEIRDest People in the World, Joseph Henrich draws on cutting-edge research in anthropology, psychology, economics, and evolutionary biology to explore these questions and more. He illuminates the origins and evolution of family structures, marriage, and religion, and the profound impact these cultural transformations had on human psychology. Mapping these shifts through ancient history and late antiquity, Henrich reveals that the most fundamental institutions of kinship and marriage changed dramatically under pressure from the Roman Catholic Church. It was these changes that gave rise to the WEIRD psychology that would coevolve with impersonal markets, occupational specialization, and free competition—laying the foundation for the modern world.

Provocative and engaging in both its broad scope and its surprising details, The WEIRDest People in the World explores how culture, institutions, and psychology shape one another, and explains what this means for both our most personal sense of who we are as individuals and also the large-scale social, political, and economic forces that drive human history.

Includes black-and-white illustrations.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781250800077
Publisher: Picador
Publication date: 10/05/2021
Pages: 704
Sales rank: 90,037
Product dimensions: 5.30(w) x 8.10(h) x 1.30(d)

About the Author

Joseph Henrich is an anthropologist and the author of The Secret of Our Success: How Culture Is Driving Human Evolution, Domesticating Our Species, and Making Us Smarter, among other books. He is the chair of the Department of Human Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University, where his research focuses on evolutionary approaches to psychology, decision-making, and culture.

Table of Contents

Preface xi

Prelude: Your Brain Has Been Modified 3

What God Wants 7

The Histories of Religions, Biologies, and Psychologies 16

Part I The Evolution of Societies and Psychologies

1 WEIRD Psychology 21

Really, Who Are You? 24

Marshmallows Come to Those Who Wait 38

UN Diplomats Get Parking Tickets 41

Obsessed with Intentions 49

Missing the Forest 52

The Rest of the Iceberg 55

2 Making a Cultural Species 59

Evolved to Learn 61

Evolving Societies 68

Avenues into Your Mind 82

3 Clans, States, and Why You Can't Get Here from There 87

How Ilahita Got Big 88

When, How, and Why Did Societies Scale Up? 103

Getting to Premodern States 112

Going End Around 121

4 The Gods Are Watching. Behave! 123

Moralizing Gods and Contingent Afterlives 128

The Evolution of Gods and Rituals 139

Hell, Free Will, and Moral Universalism 146

Persuasive Martyrs and Boring Rituals 148

The Launchpad 151

Part II The Origins of WEIRD People

5 WEIRD Families 155

Dissolving the Traditional Family 159

The Carolinglans, Manorialism, and the European Marriage Pattern 186

Downstream Transformations 191

6 Psychological Differences, Families, and the Church 193

Kinship Intensity and Psychology 194

The Church Altered Kinship and Changed Psychology 224

Opening the Floodgates 230

7 Europe and Asia 233

The Church's Footprints 234

Psychological Differences Within China and India 244

Fertile Ground 252

8 WEIRD Monogamy 255

A "Peculiar" Institution 258

Polygyny's Math Problem 263

A Testosterone Suppression System 268

Trust, Teamwork, and Crime 274

Putting the Pieces Together 281

Part III New Institutions, New Psychologies

9 Of Commerce and Cooperation 287

Market Integration and Impersonal Prosociality 290

"No Hui, No Market Towns" 301

The Commercial and Urban Revolutions 307

Round Up 320

10 Domesticating the Competition 322

War, Religion, and Psychology 322

Europeans Made War, and War Made Them WEIRDer 332

Taming Intergroup Conflict 340

When and Why? 350

Harnessing the Powei of Competition 357

11 Market Mentalities 360

How Work Became Virtuous 367

Be Yourself: The Origins of WEIRD Personalities 379

It's Big, but How Big? 390

Part IV Birthing the Modern World

12 Law, Science, and Religion 395

Universal Laws, Conflicting Principles, and Individual Rights 398

Representative Governments and Democracy 407

The WEIRDest Religion 415

Dark Matter or Enlightenment? 427

13 Escape Velocity 430

Wiring Up the Collective Brain 442

More Inventive? 460

Psychology and Innovation in the Modern World 465

Escaping the Trap 466

14 The Dark Matter of History 469

Guns, Germs, and Other Factors 474

Globalization and Its Discontents 484

Appendix A Milestones in the Marriage and Family Program 491

Appendix B Additional Plots 499

Appendix C The Psychological Impacts of Relational and Residential Mobility 501

Notes 507

Bibliography 585

Index 657

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