Since humans left Africa less than a hundred thousand years ago there has been a staggering explosion of cultures. What caused this blooming of diversity? Why are there so many mutually incomprehensible languages, even within small territories? Why do we rejoice in rituals, wrap ourselves in flags, or define ourselves in opposition to others? In Wired for Culture Mark Pagel, one of the world's leading experts on human development, shows how our facility for culture is the key to our success as a species.
Humans are usually seen as differing from other animals because of our inherent traits of consciousness, language and intelligence. But Mark Pagel shows we've had it the wrong way round. Many of these things would not exist without our propensity for culture - our ability to co-operate in small tribal societies, enabling us to pass on knowledge, beliefs and practices so that we prospered while others declined. Mark Pagel's extraordinary history of the role of culture in natural selection shows how humans developed a mind that is hardwired for culture - so that it has outstripped our genes in determining who we are, how we think and speak, who we love and kill - and how it equips us for the challenges of life in the modern world.
Weaving together evolutionary biology, anthropology, natural history, philosophy and Pagel's years of observing human behaviour around the globe, this extraordinary book sheds light on everything from art, morality and affection to jealousy, self-interest and prejudice. It will change how we view ourselves, not just as individuals, but within the wider story of our species.