The Cultural Animal: Human Nature, Meaning, and Social Life

Oxford University Press
Free sample

This book provides a coherent explanation of human nature, which is to say how people think, act, and feel, what they want, and how they interact with each other. The central idea is that the human psyche was designed by evolution to `nable people to create and sustain culture.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Oxford University Press
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Published on
Feb 10, 2005
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Pages
464
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ISBN
9780199727391
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Language
English
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Genres
Psychology / Social Psychology
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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The goal of cultural psychology is to explain the ways in which human cultural constructions -- for example, rituals, stereotypes, and meanings -- organize and direct human acting, feeling, and thinking in different social contexts. A rapidly growing, international field of scholarship, cultural psychology is ready for an interdisciplinary, primary resource. Linking psychology, anthropology, sociology, archaeology, and history, The Oxford Handbook of Culture and Psychology is the quintessential volume that unites the variable perspectives from these disciplines. Comprised of over fifty contributed chapters, this book provides a necessary, comprehensive overview of contemporary cultural psychology. Bridging psychological, sociological, and anthropological perspectives, one will find in this handbook: - A concise history of psychology that includes valuable resources for innovation in psychology in general and cultural psychology in particular - Interdisciplinary chapters including insights into cultural anthropology, cross-cultural psychology, culture and conceptions of the self, and semiotics and cultural connections - Close, conceptual links with contemporary biological sciences, especially developmental biology, and with other social sciences - A section detailing potential methodological innovations for cultural psychology By comparing cultures and the (often differing) human psychological functions occuring within them, The Oxford Handbook of Culture and Psychology is the ideal resource for making sense of complex and varied human phenomena.
Have men really been engaged in a centuries-old conspiracy to exploit and oppress women? Have the essential differences between men and women really been erased? Have men now become unnecessary? Are they good for anything at all? In Is There Anything Good About Men?, Roy Baumeister offers provocative answers to these and many other questions about the current state of manhood in America. Baumeister argues that relations between men and women are now and have always been more cooperative than antagonistic, that men and women are different in basic ways, and that successful cultures capitalize on these differences to outperform rival cultures. Amongst our ancestors---as with many other species--only the alpha males were able to reproduce, leading them to take more risks and to exhibit more aggressive and protective behaviors than women, whose evolutionary strategies required a different set of behaviors. Whereas women favor and excel at one-to-one intimate relationships, men compete with one another and build larger organizations and social networks from which culture grows. But cultures in turn exploit men by insisting that their role is to achieve and produce, to provide for others, and if necessary to sacrifice themselves. Baumeister shows that while men have greatly benefited from the culture they have created, they have also suffered because of it. Men may dominate the upper echelons of business and politics, but far more men than women die in work-related accidents, are incarcerated, or are killed in battle--facts nearly always left out of current gender debates. Engagingly written, brilliantly argued, and based on evidence from a wide range of disciplines, Is There Anything Good About Men? offers a new and far more balanced view of gender relations.
"The most important book at the borderland of psychology and politics that I have ever read."—Martin E. P. Seligman, Zellerbach Family Professor of Psychology at that University of Pennsylvania and author of Learned Optimism  

Why are we devastated by a word of criticism even when it’s mixed with lavish praise? Because our brains are wired to focus on the bad. This negativity effect explains things great and small: why countries blunder into disastrous wars, why couples divorce, why people flub job interviews, how schools fail students, why football coaches stupidly punt on fourth down. All day long, the power of bad governs people’s moods, drives marketing campaigns, and dominates news and politics.
 
Eminent social scientist Roy F. Baumeister stumbled unexpectedly upon this fundamental aspect of human nature. To find out why financial losses mattered more to people than financial gains, Baumeister looked for situations in which good events made a bigger impact than bad ones. But his team couldn’t find any. Their research showed that bad is relentlessly stronger than good, and their paper has become one of the most-cited in the scientific literature.
 
Our brain’s negativity bias makes evolutionary sense because it kept our ancestors alert to fatal dangers, but it distorts our perspective in today’s media environment. The steady barrage of bad news and crisismongering makes us feel helpless and leaves us needlessly fearful and angry. We ignore our many blessings, preferring to heed—and vote for—the voices telling us the world is going to hell.
 
But once we recognize our negativity bias, the rational brain can overcome the power of bad when it’s harmful and employ that power when it’s beneficial. In fact, bad breaks and bad feelings create the most powerful incentives to become smarter and stronger. Properly understood, bad can be put to perfectly good use.

As noted science journalist John Tierney and Baumeister show in this wide-ranging book, we can adopt proven strategies to avoid the pitfalls that doom relationships, careers, businesses, and nations. Instead of despairing at what’s wrong in your life and in the world, you can see how much is going right—and how to make it still better.
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