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Psychological Anthropology

The Big Idea for Tuesday, April 02, 2013

"It seems clear, from a mountain of recent research, that Americans cannot serve as proxies for the rest of humanity when it comes to cognition or reasoning."

This conclusion, Steven Mazie points out in today's lesson, runs in the face of a basic assumption in psychology: "the idea that 'humans all share the same cognitive machinery — the same evolved rational and psychological hardwiring.'"

So what makes Americans so different, so special, or so weird?

To answer this question we might turn to psychological anthropology. The guiding principle of this field is that human activity is based not only on our central nervous systems but also on our social environments. From that standpoint, here are some intriguing questions worth speculating about: 

Is it true that people in developed nations "never form a deep or complex connection to the natural world"? Do Americans tend to reason analytically as opposed to holistically? Are Americans more equitable or more cunningly self-serving than our fellow human beings abroad?

Mazie explores these questions and more in today's lesson. 



  1. 1 Are Americans the Weirdest People on Earth?
    Steven Mazie Praxis
  2. 2 American Exceptionalism—Part I
    Peter Lawler Rightly Understood
  3. 3 Human Nature in the Lab and on the Page
    Sam McNerney Moments of Genius
  4. 4 Is America Out of Gas?
    Daniel Honan Collective Intelligence

Psychological Anthropology

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