‘Societal conditioning’ might sound like either a grim Orwellian brainwashing technique or a fancy new way to wash your hair, depending on how warped your sense of humor is. But your surroundings—from the breakfast cereal you eat to the very design of the streets you live on—might have much more influence on how you think than most have ever given it credit for. Robert Sapolsky posits that “I picked this shirt today because the culture I come from has these values and my visual color receptors told me that this shirt matches with this.” It might be far fetched to some, but consider this: if the street you’d grown up on was wide (say, a Texas highway) and at age 30 you moved to a tiny cobblestone street, you’d feel cramped in. Apply this to everything around you and you’ll get a sense of what Sapolsky is talking about.
Why You Don’t Have Free Will: Your Breakfast Food, Biology, and Culture | Robert Sapolsky
Robert Sapolsky’s most recent book is Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst.