The Role of Culture in Human Development

The Role of Culture in Human Development

Wilson attributes our success as a species to our social nature, writing,

Humans, it appears, are successful not because of an elevated general intelligence that addresses all challenges but because they are born to be specialists in social skills.  By cooperating through the communication and the reading of intention, groups accomplish far more than the effort of any one solitary person. (Wilson, 2012, p. 227)

He notes that the primary and crucial difference between human cognition and that of other animal species is our ability to collaborate to achieve shared goals and intentions, and the need to collaborate is an imperative for our species, and writes,

The human specialty is intentionality, fashioned from an extremely large working memory. We have become the experts at mind reading, and the world champions at inventing culture.  We not only interact intensely with one another, as do other animals with advanced social organizations, but to a unique degree we have added the urge to collaborate. (Wilson, 2012, p. 226)

We who live in Western civilization, especially in the United States of America, have a strong tradition of individualism. We speak admiringly of the “self-made man,” and at times seem to emulate a cult of the individual. However, we did not make ourselves, and even the mind which thinks such thoughts originates and exists in a collective.

Recognition and integration of that concept into our individual and collective psyches will have a profound influence on how we understand and live out the human condition.



Clark, R., Brown, W., Stechert, R., Greene, H.  (August, 2012).  Cryptic sociality in rattlesnakes detected by kinship analysis..  Biology Letters, 8(4), 523-525.

Donald, M. (2001). A mind so rare. New York:  W.W. Norton & Co., Inc.

Mourier, J., Vercelloni, J., Planes, S.  (February, 2012).  Evidence of social communities in a spatially structured network of a free ranging shark species.  Animal Behavior, 83(2), 389-401.

Nowak, M.A.  (July, 2012).  Why we help.  Scientific American, 307(1), 34-39

Singer, P. (2011). The expanding circle. Princeton:  Princeton University Press.

Wilson, E.O. (2012). The social conquest of earth. New York:  Liveright Publishing Company.


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About the Author

John BushJohn Bush and his wife Valarie live in Grass Valley, California. John has enjoyed a diverse life journey. He has been a banker, financial officer, small business owner, ordained minister, addictions counselor and psychotherapist, and nonprofit leader. John earned an MBA from UCLA, an M.Div from Fuller Theological Seminary, and a Psy. D. from The Professional School of Psychology.

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