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Tage Rai
Some thoughts on "The Church, intensive kinship, and global psychological variation" in today. Its the most theoretically ambitious paper I've encountered, maybe ever. 1/ jonathan beauchamp
There is substantial variation in psychological attributes across cultures. Schulz et al. examined whether the spread of Catholicism in Europe generated much of this variation (see the Perspective by...
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Tage Rai Nov 7
Replying to @tage_rai
About 10 years ago, Henrich et al. introduced the acronym WEIRD, to describe the Western college students that comprise most psychology experiments. Now WEIRD populations are notable because they really are weird. 2/
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Tage Rai Nov 7
Replying to @tage_rai
Modern Westerners are unrepresentative of other cultures throughout the world and throughout history. Henrich was making a methods point, but the theoretical question that has emerged in the years since is how did modern Western psychology get the way it is? 3/
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Tage Rai Nov 7
Replying to @tage_rai
Shulz et al presents one potential answer, rooted in institutions and social structures, particularly the Catholic Church and kinship systems and how their interplay in the distant past may have caused sweeping changes to the cultural evolution of the West 4/
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Tage Rai Nov 7
Replying to @tage_rai
How do you study psychological change that takes place over thousands of years? Shulz et al collect data on the geographic spread of the Catholic Church across Europe 500-1500CE and use it to predict variation in psychological data in contemporary times 5/
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Tage Rai Nov 7
Replying to @tage_rai
They find that longer exposure to Church predicts more individualism, less obedience to authority, greater trust of strangers etc. They show this pattern between countries, within countries in Europe, and when looking at immigrants whose families come from different countries 6/
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Tage Rai Nov 7
Replying to @tage_rai
But what's the mechanism? Church had several effects, but Schulz et al argue that a core component may have been its marriage and family program which aimed to break down intensive kin-based institutions that support non-WEIRD psych 7/
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Tage Rai Nov 7
Replying to @tage_rai
After reading, one can't help but think of Diamond's Guns, Germs, and Steel. It breaks new methodological ground as well for the study of history, psych, and culture. In accompanying perspective, Gelfand thinks about strengths/weaknesses/implications 8/
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Tage Rai Nov 7
Replying to @tage_rai
One last point- When I was in college, I read Cohen/Nisbett's Culture of Honor and it inspired me to go into cognition/culture grad program. Over the years, parts of their theory held up, while others didn't, but what's undeniable is that research on honor advanced in its wake 9/
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Tage Rai Nov 7
Replying to @tage_rai
I think Schulz et al may be similar. This is one of those papers that launches 1000 ships. It'll spark debate, disagreement, and importantly, new research challenging and extending their causal thesis. And maybe it will even inspire some college student to go to grad school. fin/
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Tage Rai Nov 7
Replying to @sciencemagazine
p.s. here's the key figure p.p.s. Don't @ me about the picture of the coliseum. That's the cover image for another awesome paper in this week's issue about Ancient Rome. There's also a cool paper on kinship-based social inequality in the bronze age. Nice week
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