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I recently came across this TED talk by Devdatt Patnaik, A chief Belief Officer in an Indian industry group and was fascinated by his description of the distinction between logos based ‘the’ world which is objective, logical, universal, factual and science based and mythos based ‘my’ world which is subjective,emotional, personal, belief-based and mythological in nature. while ‘the’ world tries to answer ‘how’, ‘my’ world tires to answer ‘why’.

To me the same is true of Autism and Psychosis dichotomy. While autistic frame of reference is rooted in ‘the’ world – trying to apply a science based approach even to the mind and mental; the psychotic frame of reference becomes detached from ‘the’ world and is totally enamored by the subjective depths of ‘my’ world -attributing mental properties to physical things too.

Devdatt, later on goes to contrast East Vs West Myths and here at the second order , though we are talking of mythos and not of logos and are in the psychotic/mythic world , we see a difference in focus, between the eastern traditions and the western traditions. While the east is portrayed as more spiritual and renunciation-believing in multiple lives and thus multiple chances; the west is depicted as more materialistic and ambitious and believing in one and only life and thus believing in only one chance of redemption -and though this dichotomy may be simplistic it does bring into focus the fact that the cultures do differ profoundly.

The difference between cultures and mythologies, and the people shaped from them thereof, is important in light of a new study , for eg., that demonstrates that most of the behavioral research is carried on with WEIRD people! WEIRD stands for Western, Educated, Industrial, Rich and Democratic subjects and the paper claims that these WEIRD subjects are outliers and not representative of the general population. If much of the scientific and psychological research is done on WEIRD subjects (which is a fact) and if WEIRD are not representative of the population (which seems reasonable given the differences in culture and the ability of culture to shape people) , than that raises a more serious questions on the results of behavioral studies than the voodoo correlations paper raised questions about the fMRI studies.

Devdutt, though seems to be slightly biased towards Indian culture, but the TED talk is worth a watch. And you may also find one of my earlier post relating Indian culture,religion, and Autism, Schizophrenia quite pertinent here.

Do you think Devdutt is right when he stresses differences in cultures and myths? If so, do you think Culture shapes people? and if so do you believe with Norenzayan et al that if we just do studies based on WEIRD subjects, our results are not representative but skewed. Lot of questions to think about!

Joseph Henrich, Steven J. Heine, & Ara Norenzayan (2009). The Weirdest People in the World? Behavioral and Brain Sciences

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Logos Vs Mythos: Autism Vs Schizophrenia, 7.7 out of 10 based on 3 ratings

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