The biosocial model of the rise of western civilization: A counter-point to oesterdiekhoff (2013)

Michael A. Woodley, Aurelio José Figueredo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


This article challenges Oesterdiekhoff's 'cognitivedevelopmental' model. First, a biosocial model of the origins of Western civilization is presented, tracing the origins of Western intelligence and creativity to evolutionary change amongst the ancestors of contemporary populations starting in the Pleistocene, accelerating in the Holocene and continuing to the present day. Continuing evolution amongst Western populations also reveals trends, which are not predicted by the 'cognitive-developmental' model. This biosocial model aims to illustrate the scientific poverty of purely culturally deterministic models, such as those favored by Oesterdiekhoff and other sociologists. The central tenet of the 'cognitive-developmental' model, i.e. the idea that the continuing socio-cultural evolution of Western civilization can be envisaged as the realization of successively higher Piagetian stages, is also directly challenged based on studies in which multiple indicators of formal operational norms have failed to show the Flynn effect on Piagetian staging predicted by Oesterdiekhoff's model. It is concluded that biosocial models, such as the one advanced here, primarily benefit from the degree to which they are informed by contemporary scientific findings, unlike purely culturally deterministic models, which typically rely instead on the thinking of historical or contemporary sociologists whose work either predates or sidesteps the Darwinian revolution.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)342-370
Number of pages29
JournalMankind Quarterly
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anthropology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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