Biology and Culture: A Two-Way Street of Causation

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Abstract

Reviews the book, Lifespan Development and the Brain: The Perspective of Biocultural Co-Constructivism edited by Paul B. Baltes, Patricia A. Reuter-Lorenz, and Frank Rösler (see record 2006-10096-000). Anthropologist Clifford Geertz (1973), surveying extant knowledge of human origins in which it appeared that manifestations of culture were evident in the phylogenetic record for millions of years, argued for the constitutive role of culture in the biological composition of modern humans. This book provides a plethora of data to support Geertz's prescient manifesto. The contributors dub this view “biocultural co-constructivism,” the view, in their words, that “all entities involved in the development of brain, behavior, and culture are deeply interwoven and influence each other in cumulative ways” (p. 13). A second message, which has been the major theme of Paul Baltes's work over many decades, is that development does not stop following puberty but continues for as many decades more that the person continues to live. The book provides excellent summaries of specific areas of research contributing to the overall thesis of lifespan biocultural co-constructivism. This book should be required reading for a broad range of psychologists well beyond the devotees of lifespan developmental psychology or the study of the causal mechanisms of brain-behavior relationships. It is perhaps the first book of its kind to deliver on the longstanding promise that by combining the study of phylogeny with the careful study of the organization of people's activities in everyday life, psychology actually overcomes the false dichotomy of nature versus nurture in fact as well as in words. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2007 APA, all rights reserved)

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