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Medieval Catholicism & Modern Western Psychology

EnolaGaia

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This is an interesting, if somewhat oblique, viewpoint on the historical factors that rendered Westerners psychologically distinct from everyone else on the planet (in very general terms). The various researchers cited here have converged on a claim that the western Church's (i.e., Roman Catholicism's) influence in changing basic family, marriage, and kinship mores during the medieval period was perhaps the single most decisive factor in molding modern Western psychology.

NOTE: As used in this article "weird / WEIRD" is an acronym for "Western, educated, industrialized, rich and democratic."
The Catholic Church Made You 'Weird.' That's Not a Bad Thing.

The policies of the medieval Catholic clergy may be responsible for modern psychology in the West.

People in the West are psychologically unlike the rest of the world. Global studies find that Western Europeans and their descendents tend to be more individualistic, less conformist, and more trusting of strangers.

But why? New research posits that the medieval Catholic Church, and its emphasis on monogamous marriage and the small family unit as the foundation of society, is responsible.

According to a study published today (Nov. 7) in the journal Science, countries and regions with a longer exposure to the Western Catholic Church are more likely to show the individualist, nonconformist psychology common to Western nations. The church may have inadvertently molded this psychology with medieval-era policies that ended cousin marriages and other tribe-like bonds, and created nuclear, monogamous households. ...

"Many decades of research has shown that the psychology of Westerners is different from the rest of the world in that it's more individualistic, analytic, and less conforming. However, until now, we didn't have a good explanation for how people in the West ended up having a psychology that was so unique," said Steven Heine, a professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia who was not involved in the current work. "This paper convincingly demonstrates that people's kinship networks are central to their psychology, and that the medieval Catholic Church instituted some policies regarding family structure that had far-reaching impact that continue to affect how people in the West think today, even if they aren't religious themselves."

The story of the new findings began in 2010, when anthropologist Joe Henrich of Harvard University, along with Heine and another colleague, published a study in the journal Behavioral and Brain Sciences pointing out that the vast majority of psychological research has been conducted on what they called "WEIRD" societies: Western, educated, industrialized, rich and democratic. Comparative research between WEIRD societies and non-WEIRD societies suggested that WEIRD research subjects were indeed weird — less conformist, more individualistic and more trusting of strangers than most of the rest of the world, to name a few differences.

"The findings suggest that members of WEIRD societies, including young children, are among the least representative populations one could find for generalizing about humans," Henrich and his colleagues wrote. ...
FULL STORY: https://www.livescience.com/catholic-church-made-westerners-weird.html
 

EnolaGaia

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Here are the bibliographic particulars and link to the Science article cited above ...

The Church, intensive kinship, and global psychological variation

Jonathan F. Schulz, Duman Bahrami-Rad, Jonathan P. Beauchamp & Joseph Henrich

Science 08 Nov 2019:
Vol. 366, Issue 6466, eaau5141
DOI: 10.1126/science.aau5141

https://science.sciencemag.org/content/366/6466/eaau5141
 
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