Talhelm et al., Science, 9 May 2014
Fig. 1. Percent of cultivated land devoted to rice paddies in 1996. Three major herding provinces are not shaded: Tibet, Xinjiang, and Inner Mongolia. Along the rice-wheat border (highlighted), people from the rice counties thought more holistically than their neighbors in wheat counties. Image credit:
Western society is downright weird! Here's why:
This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science, saying, hey, it's not my word.
It's actually an acronym coined by psychologists: W-E-I-R-D. It stands for Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic. We’re considered psychologically ... unique – being more individualistic and analytical than the rest of the world. How’d we get this way?
Enter Thomas Talhelm, from the University of Virginia. He looked for clues within a non-WEIRD culture, namely China. He measured the levels of individualism versus collectivism of folks throughout the country. He found a strong pattern linked to historic farming practices. People from wheat-growing regions were way more analytical and independent than those from rice-growing areas.
His hypothesis? Rice farming is a massive undertaking requiring cooperation among entire villages. In contrast, a single family can grow wheat. So, ancient rice-growers necessarily became collective minded. Wheaties? They grew more independent.
The link to us WEIRDos? Europeans farmed wheat and similar crops for millenia before rice! It could’ve set the stage.
Talk about food for thought! Weird thoughts.
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