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Why Americans Are the Weirdest People in the World

Why Americans Are the Weirdest People in the World
In the Summer of 1995, a young graduate student in anthropology at UCLA named Joe Henrich traveled to Peru to carry out some fieldwork among the Machiguenga, an indigenous people who live north of Machu Picchu in the Amazon basin. The Machiguenga had traditionally been horticulturalists who lived in single-family, thatch-roofed houses in small hamlets composed of clusters of extended families. For sustenance, they relied on local game and produce from small-scale farming. They shared with their kin but rarely traded with outside groups. While the setting was fairly typical for an anthropologist, Henrich’s research was not. Rather than practice traditional ethnography, he decided to run a behavioral experiment that had been developed by economists. The test that Henrich introduced to the Machiguenga was called the ultimatum game. Among the Machiguenga, word quickly spread of the young, square-jawed visitor from America giving away money. Advertisement — Continue reading below

Related:  PsychologyOntology

The Unaddressed Business of Filling Our Souls: Mood Science and the Evolutionary Origins of Depression by Maria Popova What language and symbolism have to do with mood and how light exposure and sleep shape our mental health. “Depression is a disorder of the ‘I,’ failing in your own eyes relative to your goals,” legendary psychologist Martin Seligman observed in his essential treatise on learned optimism. But such a definition of depression, while true, appears somehow insufficient, overlooking the multitude of excruciating physical and psychological realities of the disease beyond the sense of personal failure. Perhaps William Styron came closer in his haunting memoir of depression, Darkness Visible, where he wrote of “depression’s dark wood,” “its inexplicable agony,” and the grueling struggle of those afflicted by it who spend their lives trying to trudge “upward and outward out of hell’s black depths.”

Varieties of Scientific Experience: Carl Sagan, Who Died on This Day in 1996, on Science and God by Maria Popova “If we ever reach the point where we think we thoroughly understand who we are and where we came from, we will have failed.” I was recently on NPR’s Science Friday to discuss my favorite science books of the year and a listener called in, asking for a recommendation for a good book on science and religion — an excellent question, given the long history of this polarization, which occupied great minds from Galileo to Einstein to Ada Lovelace to Isaac Asimov, and many more.

PRO HELVETIA - SHANGHAI: Hyper Seeing Curator Luo Keyi's statement about the exhibition "Hyper Seeing": The artistic activity I proposed is a curatorial project namely a group exhibition called 'Hyper-seeing', the title is an appropriation borrowed from the mathematic field. "Hyper" is a prefix used in geometry or physics to denote four or more dimensions. Combined with "seeing", this exhibition title is designed to delineate a multidimensional scene of today's art works using digital media techniques. Givers, Takers, and Matchers: The Surprising Social Science of Success by Maria Popova Counterintuitive insight on what makes people thrive from the wunderkind of organizational psychology. “The principle of give and take; that is diplomacy— give one and take ten,” Mark Twain famously smirked. But for every such cynicism, there’s a heartening meditation on the art of asking and the beautiful osmosis of altruism. “The world is just,” Amelia Barr admonished in her rules for success, “it may, it does, patronize quacks; but it never puts them on a level with true men.” After all, it pays to be nice because, as Austin Kleon put it, “the world is a small town,” right?

The Politics of Ontology Much energy has been devoted over the last decade to the so-called ontological turn in the social sciences, and in anthropology in particular. A number of statements, critiques, and discussions of this position are now available (e.g., Viveiros de Castro 2002; Henare et al. 2007; Jensen and Rödje 2010; Pedersen 2011; Holbraad 2012; Ishii 2012; Candea and Alcayna-Stevens 2012; Blaser 2013; Paleček and Risjord 2013; Scott 2013), and its implications for anthropological research are being concertedly explored and passionately debated (e.g., Venkatesan et al. 2009; Alberti et al. 2011; Viveiros de Castro 2011; Laidlaw 2012; Ramos 2012; Pedersen 2012; Strathern 2012). The following set of position papers represent contributions to a well-attended roundtable discussion held at the 2013 annual meeting of the American Anthropological in Chicago. The participants were invited to address such questions as, Why have social scientists turned to the concept of ontology in the ways that they have?

The Art of Reading, Remembering, and Retaining More Books “I just sit in my office and read all day.” This is how Warren Buffett, one of the most successful people in the business world, describes his day. Sitting. The 13 Best Books of 2013: The Definitive Annual Reading List of Overall Favorites by Maria Popova Soul-stirring, brain-expanding reads on intuition, love, grief, attention, education, and the meaning of life. All gratifying things must come to an end: The season’s subjective selection of best-of reading lists — which covered writing and creativity, photography, psychology and philosophy, art and design, history and biography, science and technology, children’s literature, and pets and animals — comes full-circle with this final omnibus of the year’s most indiscriminately wonderful reads, a set of overall favorites that spill across multiple disciplines, cross-pollinate subjects, and defy categorization in the most stimulating of ways. (Revisit last year’s selection here.)

Indigenous Knowledge Systems / Alaska Native Ways of Knowing By Ray Barnhardt and Angayuqaq Oscar Kawagley / A few years ago, a group of Alaska Native elders and educators was assembled to identify ways to more effectively utilize the traditional knowledge systems and ways of knowing that are embedded in the Native communities to enrich the school curriculum and enliven the learning experiences of the students. After listening for two days to lengthy discussions of topics such as indigenous world views, Native ways of knowing, cultural and intellectual property rights and traditional ecological knowledge, an Inupiaq elder stood up and explained through an interpreter that he was going to describe how he and his brother were taught to hunt caribou by their father, before guns were commonplace in the upper Kobuk River area of northern Alaska. The elder described how his father had been a highly respected hunter who always brought food home when he went out on hunting trips and shared it with others in the village.

[Undercurrents]: 87FEI87 87FEI87: Fløøød on the left, Verktyget on the right. Photo credit: "Princess Spanky Fan, the Venus of Shanxi" Undercurrents is an ongoing column on SmartBeijing in which we profile Beijing promoters and music makers putting on music events in this city, specifically within the context of the larger cultural, economic, and arts landscape in the city. These are the manufacturers of cultural capital. This is the business of art and music. Psychologists: Getting Liberals to Agree Really is Like Herding Cats When he was President, Bill Clinton famously (and perhaps apocryphally) complained that getting Democrats to agree on a course of action was like herding cats, while the Republicans didn’t seem to have this problem. All political parties are large coalitions of people with varied interests and beliefs, but is it possible that ideological differences between the parties could play a decisive role here? A new paper by researchers at New York University, in press at Psychological Science, suggests that the answer is yes. A large body of psychological research has shown that people tend to overestimate how much others share their beliefs, feelings, and practices. But this new research suggests that this is not the case for those on the left end of the political spectrum – in fact, it’s quite the opposite. Anyone who’s ever been part of a liberal counter-cultural clique will recognize this pressure to be unique, which can easily turn into an arms race.