Joseph Henrich awarded 2023 Panmure House Prize

Photo: Jennifer Jacquet

2 min read

Joseph Henrich, the Ruth Moore Professor of Biological Anthropology, has been awarded the 2023 Panmure House Prize “for his research on how collective thinking drives cultural innovation.”

The annual prize recognizes research into long-termism and its relationship with innovation. Its name refers to Scottish economist Adam Smith, whose final remaining home, Panmure House, is now a physical and intellectual center for research and debate. Smith’s “The Wealth of Nations,” first published in 1776, is considered the foundational text for the field of economics.

In his research at Harvard, Henrich uses evolutionary theory to understand how human psychology gives rise to cultural evolution, and how this has shaped our species’ genetic evolution. He has explored economic decision-making, social norms, fairness, religion, marriage, prestige, cooperation, and innovation. The judging panel recognized the ties between his work and that of Adam Smith’s; both thinkers employ interdisciplinary approaches to analyzing the human condition, according to the organization.

Henrich’s notable books include “The Secret of Our Success” and “The WEIRDest people in the World: How the West became psychologically peculiar and particularly prosperous.” The Panmure House Prize will help enable the publishing of his third book in the series.

“I’m greatly honored to receive the Panmure House Prize, selected by such an esteemed panel of judges from around the world, celebrating the 300th-year anniversary of Adam Smith’s birth,” Henrich said.

James Anderson, chair of the prize’s judging panel, said Henrich’s work “seems to us to thrillingly and brilliantly embody the best of Smith’s work in its empiricism and its rigor, but also in its ability to transcend narrow intellectual boundaries. In doing so, he challenges us to look at the evidence of our own human evolution and ancestry to understand how innovation is born and how culture evolves.”

To mark the tercentenary of Smith’s birth, the 2023 prize was increased to $100,000 from $75,000, thanks to the generosity of sponsor Baillie Gifford.