Wired for Culture: Origins of the Human Social Mind

Wired for Culture: Origins of the Human Social Mind

by Mark Pagel


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“Does an excellent job of using evolutionary biology to discuss the origins of religion, music, art, and . . . morality.”—Publishers Weekly, starred review

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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780393344202
Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date: 03/11/2013
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 432
Sales rank: 1,221,915
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.20(d)

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.

Table of Contents

Preface vii

Introduction: The Gamble 1

Part I Mind Control, Protection, and Prosperity

Prologue 19

Chapter 1 The Occupation of the World 29

Chapter 2 Ultra-sociality and the Cultural Survival Vehicle 69

Chapter 3 The Domestication of Our Talents 99

Chapter 4 Religion and Other Cultural "Enhancers" 132

Part II Cooperation and our Cultural Nature

Prologue 173

Chapter 5 Reciprocity and the Shadow of the Future 179

Chapter 6 Green Beards and the Reputation Marketplace 203

Chapter 7 Hostile Forces 233

Part III The Theatre of the Mind

Prologue 269

Chapter 8 Human Language-The Voice of Our Genes 275

Chapter 9 Deception, Consciousness, and Truth 307

Part IV The Many and the Few

Prologue 343

Chapter 10 Termite Mounds and the Exploitation of Our Social Instincts 345

References 371

Bibliography 383

Index 393

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