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Joseph Henrich on modern causal reasoning

[E]ducated Westerners are trained their entire lives to think that behaviors must be underpinned by explicable and declarable reasons, so we are more likely to have them at the ready and feel more obligated to supply “good” reasons upon request. Saying “it’s our custom” is not considered a good reason. The pressure for an acceptable, clear, and explicit reason for doing things is merely a social norm common in Western populations, which creates the illusion (among Westerners) that humans generally do things based on explicit causal models and clear reasons. They often do not.

This is by Joseph Henrich in his book “Secret of Our Success: How Culture Is Driving Human Evolution, Domesticating Our Species, and Making Us Smarter”.

He contrasts this world view with traditional societies that follow rituals derived from cultural evolution that have a purpose, but people don’t know what it is. Henrich discusses the example of a Fidjian island, where women avoid eating sharks and eal when pregnant. This makes sense, as it avoids a food poison that could threaten the baby. But when they asked the women why that is, they came up with various reasons and none were right.