Why did the inhabitants of Hawaii welcome the great ocean explorer Captain Cook with welcome arms on his first visit to the island, but killed him on his second visit to the island? What explains this sort of behavior? Why do we tend to be hostile to those who are different? According to Yale psychiatrist, Bruce Wexler, the fate of Captain Cook, as well as many others who have to deal with problems including racism and cultural conflict, can be explained by looking at how the brain is programmed. To explain why people behave the way that they do and participate in violent acts like the genocide in Rwanda the even the Crusades, Wexler looks at how the cultural environment shapes the brain and the implications for social theory of the decrease in neuroplasticity from childhood to adulthood.
Recently, Paul Allen spoke with Bruce Wexler on BBC 3’s Night Waves about his new book, Brain and Culture as well a his latest ideas in social-neuroscience and finds out how his theory of 'neuroplasticity' might help resolve areas of sectarian conflict such as the Middle East.