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Wired for Culture

Origins of the Human Social Mind

Mark Pagel (Author)

 

A fascinating, far-reaching study of how our species' innate capacity for culture altered the course of our social and evolutionary history.

A unique trait of the human species is that our personalities, lifestyles, and worldviews are shaped by an accident of birth—namely, the culture into which we are born. It is our cultures and not our genes that determine which foods we eat, which languages we speak, which people we love and marry, and which people we kill in war. But how did our species develop a mind that is hardwired for culture—and why?

Evolutionary biologist Mark Pagel tracks this intriguing question through the last 80,000 years of human evolution, revealing how an innate propensity to contribute and conform to the culture of our birth not only enabled human survival and progress in the past but also continues to influence our behavior today. Shedding light on our species’ defining attributes—from art, morality, and altruism to self-interest, deception, and prejudice—Wired for Culture offers surprising new insights into what it means to be human.

Book Details

  • Hardcover
  • February 2012
  • ISBN 978-0-393-06587-9
  • 6.5 × 9.6 in / 432 pages
  • Sales Territory: Worldwide including Canada, Singapore and Malaysia, but excluding the British Commonwealth.

Other Formats

  1. Book CoverWired for Culture: Origins of the Human Social Mind

    Paperback

Endorsements & Reviews

“Gorgeously written, elegantly argued, Pagel demonstrates that genes are only a small part of the human success story; minds and culture are the larger part. A compelling read that allows us to appreciate everything around us with fresh eyes.” — David Eagleman, author of Tales of the Afterlives and Incognito

“An intriguing combination of information...with an optimistic prediction of a future global society in which inventiveness and cooperation prevail.” — Kirkus Reviews (UK)

“Starred review. Pagel does an excellent job of using evolutionary biology to discuss the origins of religion, music, and art, and the reason why, cross-culturally, we generally share a sense of morality.” — Publishers Weekly (UK)

“Pagel's story is...vivid and effective...this is the best popular science book on culture so far.” — Pete Richerson, Nature (UK)

“This richly rewarding work of science explains the evolutionary significance of living in a collaborative culture.

Human evolution may be the hottest area in popular science writing, ahead even of books about cosmology and the brain. Within this crowded field, Mark Pagel’s Wired for Culture stands out for both its sweeping erudition and its accessibility to the non-specialist reader.” — Clive Clarkson, Financial Times

Wired for Culture, a remarkable new book by Mark Pagel... sets out to explain [the] peculiar human property of fragmenting into mutually uncomprehending cultural groups...  We use [language] to operate the cooperative but competitive system of social exchange that is a society: to charm, forgive, manipulate, bewitch, embroider, exaggerate, diminish, disparage—to choose just some of the verbs from the key paragraph of Dr. Pagel's (beautifully written) book.” — Matt Ridley, Wall Street Journal