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Shame Culture

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Adam and Eve, Jan Brueghel de Oude en Peter Paul Rubens. Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Did the Christian doctrine of original sin create the guilt cultures of Northwest Europe? Or did the arrow of causality run the other way?
By definition, gene-culture co-evolution is reciprocal. Genes and culture are both in the driver's seat. This point is crucial because there is a tendency to overreact to cultural determinism and to forget that culture does matter, even to the point of influencing the makeup of our gene pool. Through culture, humans have directed their own... Read More
The Classic of Filial Piety, Ma Hezhi, 12th Century Credit: Wikimedia Commons
In a previous post, I asked, "How universal is empathy?" The question is tricky because empathy has three components: 1. pro-social behavior - willingness to help people out, hospitality to strangers, acts of compassion. 2. cognitive empathy - capacity to see things from another person's perspective and to understand how he or she feels. 3.... Read More
A Bangladeshi youth gang in Tower Hamlets, London. Credit: Wikimedia Commons, Bangali71
In my last post, I discussed the revelations from Rotherham, England. In a town of some 250,000 people, at least 1,400 school-age girls have been "groomed" for prostitution by organized gangs. Grooming begins with seduction by "lover boys" and ends in abduction, trafficking, and confinement. It is this final stage that apparently explains why some... Read More
My weekly posts are now appearing on The Unz Review(http://www.unz.com/). By accepting Ron's invitation, I hope to reach a bigger audience and bring myself closer to other writers in the area of human biodiversity. When people work together, or simply alongside each other, minor differences can be ironed out and major differences narrowed or at... Read More
Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) believed that the capacity for guilt varies between individuals and among human populations. He also believed that this variability had, in part, a heritable basis. Humans are motivated to act correctly by either shame or guilt. We feel shame after acting wrongly in the presence of others. We feel guilt even when... Read More
Bronislaw Malinowski with natives on the Trobriand Islands (1918 - source). Pro-social behavior seems to be a human universal, but is the same true for full empathy? What is empathy? It has at least three components: - pro-social behavior, i.e., actions of compassion to help others - cognitive empathy, i.e., capacity to understand another person's... Read More
Reconstructed Mesolithic roundhouse near Northumberland, Great Britain (source: Andrew Curtis) At different times and in different regions, humans have entered larger social environments that are no longer limited to close kin. Because there is less interaction with any one person and more interaction with non-kin, correct behavior can no longer be enforced by the to... Read More
Ruth Benedict first made the distinction between “shame cultures” and “guilt cultures” (source). Pervasive feelings of guilt are part of a behavioral package that enabled Northwest Europeans to adapt to complex social environments where kinship is less important and where rules of correct behavior must be obeyed with a minimum of surveillance. Is this pervasive... Read More
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