Wired for Culture: Origins of the Human Social Mind

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9780393065879: Wired for Culture: Origins of the Human Social Mind

A fascinating, far-reaching study of how our species' innate capacity for culture altered the course of our social and evolutionary history.

A unique trait of the human species is that our personalities, lifestyles, and worldviews are shaped by an accident of birth―namely, the culture into which we are born. It is our cultures and not our genes that determine which foods we eat, which languages we speak, which people we love and marry, and which people we kill in war. But how did our species develop a mind that is hardwired for culture―and why?

Evolutionary biologist Mark Pagel tracks this intriguing question through the last 80,000 years of human evolution, revealing how an innate propensity to contribute and conform to the culture of our birth not only enabled human survival and progress in the past but also continues to influence our behavior today. Shedding light on our species’ defining attributes―from art, morality, and altruism to self-interest, deception, and prejudice―Wired for Culture offers surprising new insights into what it means to be human.

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About the Author:

Mark Pagel is a Fellow of the Royal Society and a professor of evolutionary biology at the University of Reading. He lives in Oxford, England.

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*Starred Review* Herbert Spencer got it wrong. True Social Darwinism does not mean ruthlessly inhuman competition. Rather, it means the emergence of cooperation and altruism as vital parts of the astounding set of distinctively human adaptations called culture. Arguing this point, Pagel invokes Richard Dawkins’ notion of memes as cultural units that compete for survival in social life in the same way genes compete for reproduction in biological life. Readers soon see how the memes that foster trust, division of labor, and intergenerational learning have flourished in small groups of related individuals. But Pagel also limns the dynamics of kin groups in incubating memes for deceit, prejudice, and violent aggression toward out-groups. Yet by ferreting out the hidden implications of game theory, sociolinguistics, and the mnemonics of music, Pagel shows that cosmopolitan civilizations can transcend such destructive impulses and so sustain very large yet harmonious societies. Some readers, to be sure, will resist the explanation of even religious worship and artistic creativity in terms of biological science. But readers of diverse perspectives will recognize the timely wisdom in Pagel’s concluding reflections on the challenge humans now face in overcoming deeply ingrained ethnic jealousies by developing much more inclusive new conceptions of culture. --Bryce Christensen

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Book Description WW Norton Co, United States, 2012. Hardback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. A unique trait of the human species is that our personalities, lifestyles, and worldviews are shaped by an accident of birth-namely, the culture into which we are born. It is our cultures and not our genes that determine which foods we eat, which languages we speak, which people we love and marry, and which people we kill in war. But how did our species develop a mind that is hardwired for culture-and why? Evolutionary biologist Mark Pagel tracks this intriguing question through the last 80,000 years of human evolution, revealing how an innate propensity to contribute and conform to the culture of our birth not only enabled human survival and progress in the past but also continues to influence our behavior today. Shedding light on our species defining attributes-from art, morality, and altruism to self-interest, deception, and prejudice-Wired for Culture offers surprising new insights into what it means to be human. Bookseller Inventory # POW9780393065879

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Book Description WW Norton Co, United States, 2012. Hardback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. A unique trait of the human species is that our personalities, lifestyles, and worldviews are shaped by an accident of birth-namely, the culture into which we are born. It is our cultures and not our genes that determine which foods we eat, which languages we speak, which people we love and marry, and which people we kill in war. But how did our species develop a mind that is hardwired for culture-and why? Evolutionary biologist Mark Pagel tracks this intriguing question through the last 80,000 years of human evolution, revealing how an innate propensity to contribute and conform to the culture of our birth not only enabled human survival and progress in the past but also continues to influence our behavior today. Shedding light on our species defining attributes-from art, morality, and altruism to self-interest, deception, and prejudice-Wired for Culture offers surprising new insights into what it means to be human. Bookseller Inventory # POW9780393065879

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