In this episode, Xavier Bonilla has a dialogue with Joseph Henrich about WEIRD people and cultural evolution. They start the conversation by defining what WEIRD means and some of the essential features of WEIRD people. They talk about cumulative cultural evolution and how this works in tandem with natural and sexual selection. They discuss some examples of individualistic and collective cultures and some of the similarities and differences. They engage with each other about whether culture causes evolutionary change or is merely a variable that influences change. They talk about the spread of Christianity and how it has impacted cultural evolution. They also discuss the impact of cultural evolution on markets and economic systems. They also mention the impact of war and the global collective brain as a way of understanding cultural evolution in the digital age along with many other topics.
Joseph Henrich is Professor and Chair of the Department of Human Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University. His research focuses on evolutionary approaches to psychology, decision-making, and culture. He has done research on topics such as cultural evolution, human sociality, prestige, and large-scale cooperation. He is the author of The Secret of Our Success: How culture is driving human evolution, domesticating our species, and making us smarter. The topics in this book and his most recent book, The WEIRDest People in the World: How the west become psychologically peculiar and particularly prosperous are discussed in this episode. You can find both books along with his research at his website. Twitter: @johenrich