An increasingly globalised and urbanised world means our planet is getting smaller. Despite our common human nature, we are encountering people who different from us more than ever before. These encounters often create misunderstandings and conflicts because we rarely realise our view on the world is not the only way to see things.
One of the many things we have learned from COVID-19 is the impact of cultural context on decision making as countries have taken dramatically different approaches to the same issue, reflecting both local practicalities as well as cultural realities - and the different mental models people develop depending on the context they live in.
These hidden mental models give us default assumptions about the people we interact with, the situations we face and the information we encounter. Unfortunately, this automatic thinking only gives us a partial view of the world, like a window. It is deceptive because you might think you have the same view as someone else because you are both looking outside, but you’re not – the view is always slightly different.
The way we see the world directs our attention and organises information to help us make sense of our lives. Our mental models our shaped by our environment – our family, gender and age as well as the ecological environment, society, social class and even the language we speak. People are not born with these mental models – they are developed when people interact with ideas from their cultural environments.
This is just the tip of the iceberg: culture has a wide-ranging impact on human behaviour and understanding those effects has never been more important.
Yet, culture is often as invisible as it is all-encompassing, and it is difficult to see cultural patterns when we are prone to seeing our own context as “normal” – simply because it is what we are used to. This “blindness by habituation” is at the heart of many misunderstandings and conflicts in workplaces, friendships, romantic relationships, and families. Even in the same country, people who have grown up in the city and the countryside or come from different socioeconomic backgrounds will have been shaped differently by their environments – as have the different paths they’ve taken in life through education and careers.
We are all shaped by a unique mix of environmental forces yet much of what we know about human behaviour is based on a small slice of humanity – 96% of psychological studies have been conducted with only 12% of the world’s population (so-called WEIRD countries), and mostly with people from North America.
So, it’s time to venture out and see what we can find!
The podcast will explore questions like:
Do people experience emotions differently depending on where they grew up?
How does the language we speak influence our likelihood to save money?
Why are clocks more accurate in some countries than others?
How can social mobility create the rifts between generations?
Why do people from cities and countryside appear to have such different ways of thinking?
And most importantly: why do these differences emerge?
Topics will include:
Culture & cognition
Culture & social norms
Race, ethnicity, group membership
Social class, power and status
Interviewees include both academics working in relevant topics and applied behavioural practitioners from around the world - this way we can explore both sides of the story, and end up with a more holistic perspective.