Introducing the 'World's Dullest Culture'

The Baining of Papua New Guinea ban kids from playing
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 4, 2012 10:00 AM CDT
Introducing the 'World's Dullest Culture'
They do have fun sometimes: A men-only fire dance several times a year is one of the Baining people's few cultural traditions.   (Flickr)

A Papua New Guinea group known to anthropologists as "the dullest people on Earth" do everything they can to discourage children from playing, writes Peter Gray at Psychology Today. The Baining—who have caused at least one frustrated anthropologist to give up studying them—are small-scale farmers almost entirely without religious or cultural traditions. Researcher Jane Fayans, who studied them for years, found that they rarely told stories or gossiped and that their "conversation is obsessively mundane, concerned primarily with food-getting and food-processing."

The Baining, Fayans says, shun what they see as "natural" and prize work, which they see as an effort to overcome the natural. "We are human because we work," they say. Sexual intercourse is kept to a minimum and they see adoption as the best kind of parenting. They criticize children's play as "splashing in the mud" and refuse to let infants crawl and explore on their own. Older kids are expected to work and are punished if they try to have a little fun. Gray rounds up the what's known about the culture and observes, "In some ways, I fear, we today are trying to emulate the Baining as we increasingly deprive children of opportunities to play and explore freely." (More Papua New Guinea stories.)

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