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Summary

A bold, epic account of how the co-evolution of psychology and culture created the peculiar Western mind that has profoundly shaped the modern world.

Perhaps you are WEIRD: raised in a society that is Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic. If so, you’re rather psychologically peculiar.

Unlike much of the world today, and most people who have ever lived, WEIRD people are highly individualistic, self-obsessed, control-oriented, nonconformist, and analytical. They focus on themselves—their attributes, accomplishments, and aspirations—over their relationships and social roles. How did WEIRD populations become so psychologically distinct? What role did these psychological differences play in the industrial revolution and the global expansion of Europe during the last few centuries?

In The WEIRDest People in the World, Joseph Henrich draws on cutting-edge research in anthropology, psychology, economics, and evolutionary biology to explore these questions and more. He illuminates the origins and evolution of family structures, marriage, and religion, and the profound impact these cultural transformations had on human psychology. Mapping these shifts through ancient history and late antiquity, Henrich reveals that the most fundamental institutions of kinship and marriage changed dramatically under pressure from the Roman Catholic Church. It was these changes that gave rise to the WEIRD psychology that would coevolve with impersonal markets, occupational specialization, and free competition—laying the foundation for the modern world.

Provocative and engaging in both its broad scope and its surprising details, The WEIRDest People in the World explores how culture, institutions, and psychology shape one another, and explains what this means for both our most personal sense of who we are as individuals and also the large-scale social, political, and economic forces that drive human history.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying PDF will be available in your Audible Library along with the audio.

©2020 Joseph Henrich (P)2020 Brilliance Publishing, Inc., all rights reserved.

Critic reviews

"A fascinating, vigorously argued work that probes deeply into the way “WEIRD people” think." (Kirkus)

"Joseph Henrich has undertaken a massively ambitious work that explains the transition to the modern world from kin-based societies, drawing on a wealth of data across disciplines that significantly contributes to our understanding of this classic issue in social theory." (Francis Fukuyama, author of The Origins of Political Order and Political Order and Political Decay

"Ambitious and fascinating...This meaty book is ready-made for involved discussions." (Publisher's Weekly

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What listeners say about The WEIRDest People in the World

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Great! but quite hard

amazing content, beautifully presented. it was just over my cognitive threshold so really had to struggle through it, but very much enjoyed its lessons where I understood it.

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Fascinating ... but how true?

His argumentation makes sense as a hypothesis. Time will tell if facts hold. I have my doubts

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A Fascinating Yet Overconfident New Worldview

This book presents a grand thesis - that the medieval church and its family policy are ultimately responsible for how psychologically and therefore socially peculiar Western societies are. As is the case with any overarching narrative, it is more likely to be wrong than completely right. Henrich presents compelling evidence, yet in my view, the number of chains in his causal link that he has to forge is rather large. Whether this thesis is true or not, this book has nevertheless had great impact on me. It shows the reader a completely new way of how we might explain the social world around us and its history - through the lenses of cultural evolution. Too few social scientists and historians take it seriously, yet Henrich shows it to be crucial and tears the blindfold of Western-centric views of human cognition, sociality and morality from our eyes. A must (critical) read.

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enlightenment puzzle

an important piece of the puzzle in solving the mystery of why the enlightenment and industrial revolution happened in western Europe.

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Extraordinary book

A vast and compelling account of why we weirds are the way we are, and aren’t. A vast and convincing array of research and so many “bloody hell” lightbulb moments that may change the way you think about the world. If you love your Harari’s and Breman’s of this world you’ll love this. Essential reading and a future classic.

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interesting and intriguing

a very interesting and insightful compendium that highlights some interesting differences and cultural implications from different tribes of people around the world

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Difficult to listen to

I was seriously thinking that this was a robot reading, ie., AI reading of book. I was not able to listen, so I can not judge the contents

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  • Phillip Falk
  • 24-10-20

Lots of mispronounced words

Just a quick note that the narrator mispronounces lots of words. Not super difficult stuff - isn’t there a producer / editor to catch this stuff?

33 people found this helpful

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  • Douglas Osborne
  • 30-12-20

bad narration of a good book

I highly recommend this book-- for reading. I don't recommend the audible version. The narrator has a pleasant enough voice and enunciates clearly (hence two stars instead of one), but his pronunciation is often distracting (e.g., "-ure" words such as "endure" sound like "-oor" words, and "prevalence" is read with the stress on the second syllable and a long "a" sound ...). The real problem, though, is that the narrator doesn't read as if he understands what he's saying. He seems to be reading word by word, rather than seeing where a sentence is going and adjusting his delivery to reflect the larger structure and the various components --phrases, clauses, conjunctions-- within it. I've been listening to audiobooks for at least 25 years, and I don't recall having come across another narrator who does so little to help me keep track of where I am in a sentence. Nevertheless, I did manage to listen to the whole book despite nearly giving up after 30 minutes. Switching to 1.25 speed (a first, for me) made a big difference.

21 people found this helpful

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  • Brian
  • 02-01-21

Ruined by Poor Narration - Save your Money

A great book ruined by sloppy narration. Pathetic. The narrator sounds like he’s never read a book aloud before.

11 people found this helpful

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  • T. Hagstrom
  • 14-01-21

poor narrator

the narrator destroys this audiobook, it is almost unbearable to listen to. story is great en enlightening.

7 people found this helpful

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  • hans sandberg
  • 06-12-20

One of the best books I've read about who we sre

This book continues and expands on Joe Henrich's excellent "The Secret of our Success" (2015). It must be one of the best books about anthropology, economics, and psychology in a long time. it explains who we (Europeans and North Americans) are, and we became this way. It's a well told story and very convincing.

4 people found this helpful

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  • Austin Tyler Wilford
  • 15-12-20

Digestible Academia

This book does a dantastic job using high level behavioral studies to make its point, while making it graspable for any level reader.

The book falls a bit short of the apex because I feel that there wasnt a good point made for what should be done with the information given in this book. It makes it point and then ends.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 28-09-21

Dense with ideas, Narration is perfectly fine

Despite some negative reviews, I found the narration perfectly fine. The audio performer has many credits to his name for good reason.

The book itself is dense with theories and ideas about cultural evolution. It’s a narrative about societies/cultures shaping the future. In our current time of partisan divides it’s worth contemplating how our societies are shaping us and how we can in turn shape them, hopefully for the better.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Chris
  • 15-04-21

Mostly harmless

While the pronunciation errors other reviewers have noted are significantly more frequent than in any other audiobook I've listened to, and sometimes embarrassingly silly, they rarely impeded comprehension. The only instance I can recall in which it came close was when 'causal' was read as 'casual' in a setting where the latter could have also made sense.

1 person found this helpful

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  • tristen griffith
  • 12-05-22

Missing Supplemental Materials

I love this book so far It’s extremely interesting however I do not see an attachment with the figures and supplemental materials mentioned in the book. I feel like the lack of these materials kept me from having the full experience.

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  • riteshtiwari
  • 07-05-22

Very shallow and reductionist view point.

The hypothesis and deductions are very shallow. Even though some research and studies were quoted, the conclusions were self assumed and spinned to suit the narrative.
Essentially it boils down to why "west" aka "weird" are smarter.
Long, boring and honestly a drag.