The social brain


  • Social brain

I haven’t mentioned cultural theory for a while (my blog advisors tell me it puts people off) but I’ve got Chris Dillow to thank for discovering research by Kathleen Vohs.  The research shows that just thinking about money makes us more inclined to be selfish. My explanation - from cultural theory - is that money is the pure medium of individualism. It doesn’t concern itself with the group belonging of egalitarianism or the ranking of hierarchy – your pound is as good as the next person’s. Of course, money can be used for a million purposes but as a thing in itself it triggers our individualist world view.

Speaking of cultural theory, our cognition project has now been renamed ‘the social brain’. The project is seeking to work with a multi-disciplinary panel of thinkers and researchers to develop a model of human decision making which is credible at three levels: the neurological, the individual behavioural and the sociological, and to explore the practical applications to which such a model might be put.

The project is being developed by my new colleague Matt Grist and he has just started his own blog with a piece about incoming President Obama through the lens of cultural theory. He may not have known, but in doing this, Matt is echoing the work of Richard Ellis and Aaron Wildavsky who twenty years ago published a cultural theory analysis of the dilemmas faced by presidential leaders from Washington to Lincoln.

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