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We live in a time of information abundance, which far too many of us see as information overload. With the sum total of human knowledge, past and present, at our fingertips, we’re faced with a crisis of attention: which ideas should we engage with, and why? Big Think is an evolving roadmap to the best thinking on the planet — the ideas that can help you think flexibly and act decisively in a multivariate world.

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Has the Evolution of Our Brains Determined Who We Are?

September 30, 2012, 3:19 PM

What's the Latest Development?

Neuroscience has given sociologists a shiny new tool with which to construct theories of human behavior and how the evolution of the mind has shaped our wayward actions. There remains a problem, however, with how these so-called evolutionary biologists explain what we do in terms of how our brain biology has changed over time: Our gray matter has remained stable for thousands of years while the modern era has born witness to great upheavals in our social conventions. For example, evolutionary theories of the mind fail to account for our modern disillusionment with religion. 

What's the Big Idea?

A more fundamental problem in the practice of experimental psychology remains the population from which most subjects are taken: American college students, many of whom are psychology majors. Recently, this narrow sub-population of the world has been termed W.E.I.R.D. (western, educated, industrial, rich and democratic), and indeed it is. "Joseph Henrich and his colleagues at the University of British Columbia concluded recently that U.S. college kids are “one of the worst subpopulations one could study" when it comes to generalizing about human psychology."

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