Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Culture Code by Clotaire Rapaille


I finished this book recently. I read it on the recommendation of Karl Rove. Karl Rove! Well, yes, in a sense. I attended a seminar for plaintiffs' lawyers recently, and the speaker told how an Atlanta attorney discovered that his beach house neighbor was none other than the prince of darkness. Discussing tradecraft (did Rove know that he was talking to the enemy, a trial lawyer?), Rove revealed his admiration for the work of Rapaille. The trial lawyer looked at Rapaille's work, specifically, The Culture Code: An Ingenious Way to Understand Why People Around the World Live and Buy as They Do
(2007, 224 p.). Rapaille has two main ideas that he works from:

  1. The theory of the triune brain developed by Yale neuroscientist Paul Maclean, which postulates that humans have, in effect, three brains. The survival-oriented brain of the reptiles (eat, sleep, fight or flight, and sex); a limbic brain for emotions that we share with other mammals, and the neo-cortex, which provides our distinguishing reason. Rapaille believes that when fear is in the air, the reptile brain, motivated by fear, takes over and guides our actions, reason be damned.
  2. Rapaille, who trained as an anthropologist and psychiatrist, has done a sophisticated form of group testing to discover deeply held attitudes toward food, sex, doctors, nurses, hospitals, health, cars, the nation, and so on. These are the "culture codes" that he says predominate in a society and that differ from one society to another.
The book makes a lot of sense and provides what I believe to be very insightful perspectives on group attitudes here in the U.S. (especially important for jury work), as well as differences between the cultures of different nations. This was a fun and interesting read. If you want to know more about the attitudes of your fellow citizens, as well as obtaining a sense of how we differ from others, I highly recommend this book.

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