Why People Think in Symbols, From Lab Experiments to Charlie Hebdo

January 30, 2015 6:06 PM

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Why People Think in Symbols, From Lab Experiments to Charlie Hebdo

The Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris and its aftermath have prompted reflections on various topics—the clash of civilizations, the susceptibility of the disenfranchised to extreme ideologies, the limits of free speech and the limitlessness of human barbarity.

A relevant scientific line of thought concerns a striking fact about humans: We kill over symbols—over food prohibitions, a gang’s colors or a satirical cartoon. Why do symbols hold such power over us?

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