WEIRD Minds: How religion, marriage and the family made the West psychologically peculiar and particularly prosperous

An exclusive lecture by Dr Joseph Henrich

Joseph Henrich

Do people in the West think differently to other populations across the globe? Are they psychologically peculiar? If so, why: and what role has this point of difference played in the rise of the industrialised world, and the recent dominance and prosperity of the West?

In order to explore the WEIRD nature of the West and how it was created, the Ramsay Centre presents our fourth Ramsay Lecture for 2023, Dr Joseph Henrich on WEIRD Minds: How religion, marriage and the family made the West psychologically peculiar and particularly prosperous.

According to Dr Henrich, an accumulating body of evidence reveals not only substantial global variation along several important psychological dimensions, including conformity, individualism, moral judgment, guilt, patience, trust and analytic thinking, but also that people from societies that are Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich and Democratic (WEIRD) are particularly unusual, often anchoring the ends of global psychological distributions. Drawing on the principal thesis of his 2020 best-seller, The WEIRDest People in the World, he shows how the most fundamental of human institutions—those governing marriage and family—influence motivations, perceptions, intuitions and emotions. He also explores how the Western Catholic Church systematically dismantled the intensive kin-based institutions in much of Latin Christendom, effectively altering people’s psychology and opening the door to new forms of voluntary organizations (charter towns, universities, guilds, monasteries), impersonal markets and eventually modern organizational competition.

Please join us for this thought-provoking lecture with Dr Joseph Henrich.


Joseph Henrich

Dr Joseph Henrich is the Ruth Moore Professor of Biological Anthropology at Harvard University. Before Harvard, Professor Henrich was a professor of both Economics and Psychology at the University of British Columbia, where he held the Canada Research Chair in Culture, Cognition and Coevolution. His research deploys evolutionary theory to understand how human psychology gives rise to cultural evolution and how this has shaped our species’ biological evolution. Using insights generated from this approach, Dr Henrich has explored a variety of topics, including economic decision-making, social norms, fairness, religion, marriage, prestige, cooperation and innovation.

In 2004 he won the Presidential Early Career Award for young scientists, and in 2009 the Early Career Award for Distinguished Contributions bestowed by the Human Behavior and Evolution Society. In 2013-14, Dr Henrich held the Peter and Charlotte Schoenfeld Faculty Fellowship at NYU’s Stern School of Business. In 2018, the Society for Personality and Social Psychology awarded him the Wegner Prize for Theoretical Innovation. From 2010 to 2019, he was a senior fellow in the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research in the Institutions, Organizations and Growth group and he became a fellow of the Cognitive Science Society in 2021. In 2016 he published The Secret of Our Success (Princeton), and in 2020 The WEIRDest People in the World.

Related News & Media