The Secret of Our Success: How Culture Is Driving Human Evolution, Domesticating Our Species, and Making Us Smarter

Princeton University Press
Free sample

Humans are a puzzling species. On the one hand, we struggle to survive on our own in the wild, often failing to overcome even basic challenges, like obtaining food, building shelters, or avoiding predators. On the other hand, human groups have produced ingenious technologies, sophisticated languages, and complex institutions that have permitted us to successfully expand into a vast range of diverse environments. What has enabled us to dominate the globe, more than any other species, while remaining virtually helpless as lone individuals? This book shows that the secret of our success lies not in our innate intelligence, but in our collective brains—on the ability of human groups to socially interconnect and learn from one another over generations.

Drawing insights from lost European explorers, clever chimpanzees, mobile hunter-gatherers, neuroscientific findings, ancient bones, and the human genome, Joseph Henrich demonstrates how our collective brains have propelled our species' genetic evolution and shaped our biology. Our early capacities for learning from others produced many cultural innovations, such as fire, cooking, water containers, plant knowledge, and projectile weapons, which in turn drove the expansion of our brains and altered our physiology, anatomy, and psychology in crucial ways. Later on, some collective brains generated and recombined powerful concepts, such as the lever, wheel, screw, and writing, while also creating the institutions that continue to alter our motivations and perceptions. Henrich shows how our genetics and biology are inextricably interwoven with cultural evolution, and how culture-gene interactions launched our species on an extraordinary evolutionary trajectory.


Tracking clues from our ancient past to the present, The Secret of Our Success explores how the evolution of both our cultural and social natures produce a collective intelligence that explains both our species' immense success and the origins of human uniqueness.

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About the author

Joseph Henrich is professor of human evolutionary biology at Harvard University. He also holds the Canada Research Chair in Culture, Cognition, and Coevolution at the University of British Columbia, where he is a professor in the departments of psychology and economics. He is the coauthor of Why Humans Cooperate and the coeditor of Experimenting with Social Norms.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Princeton University Press
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Published on
Oct 27, 2015
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Pages
464
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ISBN
9781400873296
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Language
English
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Genres
Psychology / Social Psychology
Science / Cognitive Science
Science / General
Science / Life Sciences / Biology
Science / Life Sciences / Evolution
Science / Life Sciences / Genetics & Genomics
Social Science / Anthropology / Cultural & Social
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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For all that science knows about the living world, notes David P. Barash, there are even more things that we don't know, genuine evolutionary mysteries that perplex the best minds in biology. Paradoxically, many of these mysteries are very close to home, involving some of the most personal aspects of being human. Homo Mysterious examines a number of these evolutionary mysteries, exploring things that we don't yet know about ourselves, laying out the best current hypotheses, and pointing toward insights that scientists are just beginning to glimpse. Why do women experience orgasm? Why do men have a shorter lifespan than women? Why does homosexuality exist? Why does religion exist in virtually every culture? Why do we have a fondness for the arts? Why do we have such large brains? And why does consciousness exist? Readers are plunged into an ocean of unknowns--the blank spots on the human evolutionary map, the terra incognita of our own species--and are introduced to the major hypotheses that currently occupy scientists who are attempting to unravel each puzzle (including some solutions proposed here for the first time). Throughout the book, readers are invited to share the thrill of science at its cutting edge, a place where we know what we don't know, and, moreover, where we know enough to come up with some compelling and seductive explanations. Homo Mysterious is a guide to creative thought and future explorations, based on the best, most current thinking by evolutionary scientists. It captures the allure of the "not-yet-known" for those interested in stretching their scientific imaginations.
This volume features a collection of essays by primatologists, anthropologists, biologists, and psychologists who offer some answers to the question of what makes us human, i. e. , what is the nature and width of the gap that separates us from other primates? The chapters of this volume summarize the latest research on core aspects of behavioral and cognitive traits that make humans such unusual animals. All contributors adopt an explicitly comparative approach, which is based on the premise that comparative studies of our closest biological relatives, the nonhuman primates, provide the logical foundation for identifying human univ- sals as well as evidence for evolutionary continuity in our social behavior. Each of the chapters in this volume provides comparative analyses of relevant data from primates and humans, or pairs of chapters examine the same topic from a human or primatological perspective, respectively. Together, they cover six broad topics that are relevant to identifying potential human behavioral universals. Family and social organization. Predation pressure is thought to be the main force favoring group-living in primates, but there is great diversity in the size and structure of social groups across the primate order. Research on the behavioral ecology of primates and other animals has revealed that the distribution of males and females in space and time can be explained by sex-speci?c adaptations that are sensitive to factors that limit their ?tness: access to resources for females and access to potential mates for males.
FREEDOM has its own very informative website: visit www.humancondition.com


The fastest growing realization everywhere is that humanity can't go on the way it is going. Indeed, the great fear is we're entering endgame where we appear to have lost the race between self-destruction and self-discovery―the race to find the psychologically relieving understanding of our 'good and evil'-afflicted human condition.  Well, astonishing as it is, this book by biologist Jeremy Griffith presents the 11th hour breakthrough biological explanation of the human condition necessary for the psychological rehabilitation and transformation of our species!

The culmination of 40 years of studying and writing about our species' psychosis, FREEDOM delivers nothing less than the holy grail of insight we have needed to free ourselves from the human condition. It is, in short, as Professor Harry Prosen, a former president of the Canadian Psychiatric Association, asserts in his Introduction, 'The book that saves the world'.

Griffith has been able to venture right to the bottom of the dark depths of what it is to be human and return with the fully accountable, true explanation of our seemingly imperfect lives. At long last we have the redeeming and thus transforming understanding of human behaviour! And with that explanation found all the other great outstanding scientific mysteries about our existence are now also able to be truthfully explained―of the meaning of our existence, of the origin of our unconditionally selfless moral instincts, and of why we humans became conscious when other animals haven't. Yes, the full story of life on Earth can finally be told―and all of these incredible breakthroughs and insights are presented here in this 'greatest of all books'.

Over the last few decades, economists and psychologists have quietly documented the many ways in which a person's IQ matters. But, research suggests that a nation's IQ matters so much more.

As Garett Jones argues in Hive Mind, modest differences in national IQ can explain most cross-country inequalities. Whereas IQ scores do a moderately good job of predicting individual wages, information processing power, and brain size, a country's average score is a much stronger bellwether of its overall prosperity.

Drawing on an expansive array of research from psychology, economics, management, and political science, Jones argues that intelligence and cognitive skill are significantly more important on a national level than on an individual one because they have "positive spillovers." On average, people who do better on standardized tests are more patient, more cooperative, and have better memories. As a result, these qualities—and others necessary to take on the complexity of a modern economy—become more prevalent in a society as national test scores rise. What's more, when we are surrounded by slightly more patient, informed, and cooperative neighbors we take on these qualities a bit more ourselves. In other words, the worker bees in every nation create a "hive mind" with a power all its own. Once the hive is established, each individual has only a tiny impact on his or her own life.

Jones makes the case that, through better nutrition and schooling, we can raise IQ, thereby fostering higher savings rates, more productive teams, and more effective bureaucracies. After demonstrating how test scores that matter little for individuals can mean a world of difference for nations, the book leaves readers with policy-oriented conclusions and hopeful speculation: Whether we lift up the bottom through changing the nature of work, institutional improvements, or freer immigration, it is possible that this period of massive global inequality will be a short season by the standards of human history if we raise our global IQ.

Questions about the origins of human cooperation have long puzzled and divided scientists. Social norms that foster fair-minded behavior, altruism and collective action undergird the foundations of large-scale human societies, but we know little about how these norms develop or spread, or why the intensity and breadth of human cooperation varies among different populations. What is the connection between social norms that encourage fair dealing and economic growth? How are these social norms related to the emergence of centralized institutions? Informed by a pioneering set of cross-cultural data, Experimenting with Social Norms advances our understanding of the evolution of human cooperation and the expansion of complex societies. Editors Jean Ensminger and Joseph Henrich present evidence from an exciting collaboration between anthropologists and economists. Using experimental economics games, researchers examined levels of fairness, cooperation, and norms for punishing those who violate expectations of equality across a diverse swath of societies, from hunter-gatherers in Tanzania to a small town in rural Missouri. These experiments tested individuals’ willingness to conduct mutually beneficial transactions with strangers that reap rewards only at the expense of taking a risk on the cooperation of others. The results show a robust relationship between exposure to market economies and social norms that benefit the group over narrow economic self-interest. Levels of fairness and generosity are generally higher among individuals in communities with more integrated markets. Religion also plays a powerful role. Individuals practicing either Islam or Christianity exhibited a stronger sense of fairness, possibly because religions with high moralizing deities, equipped with ample powers to reward and punish, encourage greater prosociality. The size of the settlement also had an impact. People in larger communities were more willing to punish unfairness compared to those in smaller societies. Taken together, the volume supports the hypothesis that social norms evolved over thousands of years to allow strangers in more complex and large settlements to coexist, trade and prosper. Innovative and ambitious, Experimenting with Social Norms synthesizes an unprecedented analysis of social behavior from an immense range of human societies. The fifteen case studies analyzed in this volume, which include field experiments in Africa, South America, New Guinea, Siberia and the United States, are available for free download on the Foundation’s website:www.russellsage.org.
INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

“One of the most important books I’ve ever read—an indispensable guide to thinking clearly about the world.” – Bill Gates

“Hans Rosling tells the story of ‘the secret silent miracle of human progress’ as only he can. But Factfulness does much more than that. It also explains why progress is so often secret and silent and teaches readers how to see it clearly.” —Melinda Gates

"Factfulness by Hans Rosling, an outstanding international public health expert, is a hopeful book about the potential for human progress when we work off facts rather than our inherent biases." - Former U.S. President Barack Obama

Factfulness: The stress-reducing habit of only carrying opinions for which you have strong supporting facts.

When asked simple questions about global trends—what percentage of the world’s population live in poverty; why the world’s population is increasing; how many girls finish school—we systematically get the answers wrong. So wrong that a chimpanzee choosing answers at random will consistently outguess teachers, journalists, Nobel laureates, and investment bankers.

In Factfulness, Professor of International Health and global TED phenomenon Hans Rosling, together with his two long-time collaborators, Anna and Ola, offers a radical new explanation of why this happens. They reveal the ten instincts that distort our perspective—from our tendency to divide the world into two camps (usually some version of us and them) to the way we consume media (where fear rules) to how we perceive progress (believing that most things are getting worse).

Our problem is that we don’t know what we don’t know, and even our guesses are informed by unconscious and predictable biases.

It turns out that the world, for all its imperfections, is in a much better state than we might think. That doesn’t mean there aren’t real concerns. But when we worry about everything all the time instead of embracing a worldview based on facts, we can lose our ability to focus on the things that threaten us most.

Inspiring and revelatory, filled with lively anecdotes and moving stories, Factfulness is an urgent and essential book that will change the way you see the world and empower you to respond to the crises and opportunities of the future.

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“This book is my last battle in my life-long mission to fight devastating ignorance...Previously I armed myself with huge data sets, eye-opening software, an energetic learning style and a Swedish bayonet for sword-swallowing. It wasn’t enough. But I hope this book will be.” Hans Rosling, February 2017.

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