The WEIRDest People in the World: How the West Became Psychologically Peculiar and Particularly Prosperous
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,...more
So proto-WEIRDness does not exist -though perhaps it did in Roman times as there was vibrant political life in Roman cities.
Historians have tried to find glimmers of individualism in English villages in medieval times but they have been disputed.
Where is European democracy, the D, before the nineteenth century ( at a time when there was still intense opposition to it)? Where was wealth -the R -without the European domination of the globe from the eighteenth century? Where was mass education (the E) before the late nineteenth century? I cannot understand why Henrich has to go back to medieval times when the masses were subservient, beset by poverty, famine and plague, and almost certainly worse off than they had been in Roman times. (Some economists say it was not until 1800 that Europeans were as well-off as they had been under the Romans.)
And my original question is still unanswered- how does a society's psychology be transmitted down the generations? Henrich claims that the Church's marriage policies led to urbanisation and industrialisation. Sadly he has not even read the many sophisticated works by historians that find other explanations. I must have read hundreds of books on European history ,especially church history, but none makes more than a passing reference to the consanguinity rules and then explain that most marriages and cohabitation arrangements took place outside the Church.
Industrialisation led to the mass exploitation of the population so, if WEIRDness existed for the majority, it went backwards.Yet Henrich talks of it growing!!
So why not follow the mass of historical evidence and see the components of WEIRDness as post 1800 as European societies exploited the industrial masses and extended their global reach to exploit other societies (as most historian believe) ?
One of the major problems of this book is that, shall I be generous?, Henrich knows little of the the diversity of European societies but somehow convinces his readers that the mass of different ethnic groups and languages did not hinder 'the European collective brain'. I am saddened that he bypasses so much work on European history without even knowing that it is there. And he could have trotted round to history departments in Harvard to have found out!!
This book will go down like a lead balloon with anyone who knows the immense amount on work done on the components of what Henrich calls WEIRDness. As said above, they are largely post -1800. (less)
There can’t be any doubt that the language we speak contributes to the way we perceive and judge the world. The words we use are defined by other words, all of which have connotations and associations unique not just to the language but to particular subsets of language users. This we call culture and feel justified in making the distinction between, say, European and Asian cultures in which attitudes toward and the meanings of things like trust, guilt, loyalty and rat ...more
Most psychology experiments have been done on Western university students, and we think that what those studies show about people is the norm for everyone everywhere and at all times.
However, as the author of The WEIRDest people in the world: How the West Became Psychologically Peculiar and Particularly Prosperous explains, it's we Westerners who ...more
I sent these observations and more (5 pages worth) to Mr. Henrich before posting this review. He informed me that the first item, which I thought was a typo, was correct, and my second point was not "on target," so he stopped reading. So much for intellectual cu ...more
1) He shows that the West is more psychologically different from other parts of the world than is usually assumed.
2) He argues that Western psychology was a major cause of the Scientific and Industrial Revolution, and why the West came to dominate the world.
3) He gives an explanation of how Western psychology developed. His theory is that the Catholic Church's rules against cousin marriage and a range of other customs that sustained "intensive k ...more
This nonfiction masterpiece is one I was put onto by the IMPECCABLE recommendations of The New York Times Book Review Podcast. At this point all I can truly muster with any true succinct-brev ...more
I put this book on my list after Henrich's appearance on Michael Shermer's Science Salon podcast, which I enjoyed.
Joseph Henrich :
The WEIRDest People in the World is a very in-depth dive into social psychology that expands upon its subtitle. It is a very long book: the versions I have clocked in ...more
I read something from all chapters and studied the chartings to understanding. At times I don't much disagree with many of these, but at the same time I don't fall for what he is doing in the equivocations.
Other reviewers have detailed exactly what I oppose as both "psychological" and "historic" absolute definitions and generalizations he c ...more
Henrich previously wrote one of the best books of the last decade. Normally, I expect such an author's future books to, at best, exhibit regression toward the mean. But Henrich's grand overview of humanity's first few million years was merely a modest portion of the ideas that he originally tried to fit into this magnum opus. Henrich couldn't quite explain in one volume how humanity got all the way to industrial empires, so he split the explanation into two books.
The cartoon version of the i ...more
My main problem with this book is the author’s huge oversight of the centrality of racism and imperialism to Western civilization (the “W” in WEIRD should stand for white supremacist, and the “I” for imperialist). In no way can psychology fully explain the domination of Western nations—you have to look to exploitation, genocide, and colonialism, which this author does not. ...more
Here's the basic causal sketch that Henrich fleshes out in the book:
Christian church randomly stumbles on norms that undermine kinship intensity, e.g. strict rules against cousin marriage and polygyny
communities with norms that foster cooperation between unrelated people outcompete others, we see increasing individua ...more
The provocative book on the WEIRD does this and far worse. The author spends almost no effort on sugarcoating by highlighting any of the WEIRD culture ...more
1. Its premise is that the psychological differences found by those living in western culture were caused by the Catholic church's marriage and family program dating back to early middle ages. This was an interesting ...more
This book is another entry in that pile and to my mind makes an interesting and unique contribution.
In his 2015 book, "The Secret of Our Success", Henrich argued that the key quality that makes humans different from other animals is our biological ability and inclination to IMITATE each other. This CULTURAL evolution allows us to change much more rapi ...more
Henrich's main research topic is however the study of WEIRD people: Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich and Democratic. The starting point for this research agenda was the realization that a lot of empirical psychological research is based on the observation of college students in American. For a long time, it was j ...more
Even more rare is the book that melds two disciplines into a combined theory to explain the world. Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond combined Anthropology with Hi ...more
Joseph Henrich's research focuses on evolutionary approaches to psychology, decision-making and culture, and includes topics related to cultural learning, cultural evolution, culture-gene coevolution, human sociality, prestige, leadership, lar ...more