Americans Are the Weirdest People in the World: Here’s Why

WeirdTalesv36n1pg127_False_Teeth_ModelAnthropologist Joe Henrich and colleagues have studied the American mind, and comparing it to the rest of the world, their findings suggest that the nation’s citizens are the “weirdest” in the world. Must explain why journalists like Louis Theroux and Jon Ronson spend so much of their time here.

Via PSmag:

I had to wonder whether describing the Western mind, and the American mind in particular, as weird suggested that our cognition is not just different but somehow malformed or twisted. In their paper the trio pointed out cross-cultural studies that suggest that the “weird” Western mind is the most self-aggrandizing and egotistical on the planet: we are more likely to promote ourselves as individuals versus advancing as a group. WEIRD minds are also more analytic, possessing the tendency to telescope in on an object of interest rather than understanding that object in the context of what is around it.

The WEIRD mind also appears to be unique in terms of how it comes to understand and interact with the natural world. Studies show that Western urban children grow up so closed off in man-made environments that their brains never form a deep or complex connection to the natural world. While studying children from the U.S., researchers have suggested a developmental timeline for what is called “folkbiological reasoning.” These studies posit that it is not until children are around 7 years old that they stop projecting human qualities onto animals and begin to understand that humans are one animal among many. Compared to Yucatec Maya communities in Mexico, however, Western urban children appear to be developmentally delayed in this regard. Children who grow up constantly interacting with the natural world are much less likely to anthropomorphize other living things into late childhood.

Keep reading at PSmag.

21 Comments on "Americans Are the Weirdest People in the World: Here’s Why"

  1. I think I’m going to link to this article whenever someone gives me the old “Our brains are hardwired to…” line.

  2. Anarchy Pony | Mar 13, 2014 at 8:53 pm |

    “Western mind is the most self-aggrandizing and egotistical on the planet: we are more likely to promote ourselves as individuals versus advancing as a group”

    Fits with Steinbeck’s quote about socialism never taking off in America because the American poor see themselves as temporarily embarrassed millionaires.

  3. Thank you very much for this article. Very interesting.
    “Given that people living in WEIRD societies don’t routinely encounter or interact with animals other than humans or pets, it’s not surprising that they end up with a rather
    cartoonish understanding of the natural world. “Indeed,” the report concluded,
    “studying the cognitive development of folkbiology in urban children would seem
    the equivalent of studying ‘normal’ physical growth in malnourished children.”

    I realized this when I was verbally attacked by a young woman for taking the eggs of my chickens because I was “stealing their children.”

  4. BuzzCoastin | Mar 13, 2014 at 9:19 pm |

    it’s nice to see academia finally catching up with reality
    butt travel among other cultures
    readily brings this to the awareness
    how one processes that awarenes determines
    wither or nay it becomes wisdom or folly

    • Simon Valentine | Mar 14, 2014 at 10:02 am |

      the education they follow
      lead them to the same ends it will

      leave them with no more means than what they’ve had
      repeat the past with an increasing period between repetitions
      waiting for answers they’re not prepared for
      or are they
      or are they lost in the options
      the holy trinities
      the thermodynamics
      the lies of the dead heroes like bodies they yet feed upon
      get to live lives off the planet the creature must
      creatures, love your mechanical children

  5. Didnt think there was anything weird about being an ignorant self absorbed sleep walker. As an American living in America with frequent exposure to other Americans i find us as a whole quite boring when we are not downright violent. And then its just a matter of protecting oneself .

  6. Warner Brown | Mar 14, 2014 at 1:26 am |

    Grow up in England until you’re 11. Then move to California. Americans are the weirdest people on earth.

    • Substitute Wisconsin for England, and add a few years to the age. Still holds true.

      At least California can be partially explained due to the proliferation of potent cannabis products.

    • kowalityjesus | Mar 15, 2014 at 8:36 pm |

      On top of being part of the people who picked up and left Europe across 4,000 miles of ocean, by force or volition, the ancestors of Californians moved an additional 2500 miles in a fucking wagon being dragged by horses because they wanted to eat and sleep in some place where nobody could tell them what to do. California, for all of its last 150 years of colonization by lesser breeds of all colors, is still the end of Western Civilization.

  7. Roberto Tocino | Aug 19, 2014 at 9:01 am |

    I hate to question this definitive piece at precisely
    characterizing Americans, but where are actual explanations on how a
    cross-cultural study can even correlate to human cognition? Without evidence
    and illustrative examples, it just sounds like a generalized hit piece on
    Americans which borders on stereotyping a group that fails to be European
    enough, or Canadian, as is Dr. Henrich.

    There are plenty of genuine, head-scratching questions that apply
    to American culture and Americans in general; but I would like to read more
    than just that the people in the U.S.A. are somehow
    defective. If we Americans are truly unenlightened Neanderthals, please explain
    how the advanced, sophisticates from the rest of the world get their cognitive
    superiority. Use small words so I can understand.

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