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Cultural Evolution and Optimal Experience, Dr. Leonard L. Martin

Somewhere something went terribly wrong

Director: Dr. Leonard L. Martin

The Cultural Evolution and Optimal Experience lab explores the mismatch between basic human nature and modern culture. Our basic nature was formed, in part, during the Paleolithic era (i.e., 200,000 years ago) when our ancestors lived in small, nomadic, hunter-gatherer bands. This means that people may, at their core, be predisposed to live in small, egalitarian groups that practice a high level of sharing, and that live in relatively small temporal windows. That is not the way people live now, though. Human cultures started changing when people began to settle down in large-scale, permanent communities -- and things have changed dramatically and rapidly since then. Most of us now live in large, competitive, hierarchically-organized communities in which we exert immediate effort for delayed, uncertain payoffs (e.g., go to school 20 years in hopes of a job). Thus, modern cultures routinely ask people to engage in behavior for which they may not be biologically well-suited. Our lab studies the negative consequences of this biology-culture mismatch, as well as ways for people to thrive in the modern world while maintaining harmony with their basic human nature.


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