#194 – Life Among The Piraha – An Amazonian Psychology with Daniel Everett

photo of Dr. Daniel Everett


Dan Everett, Ph.D. is author of Don’t Sleep, There are Snakes: Life and Language in the Amazon Jungle, as well as Professor of Linguistics, Anthropology, and Biological Sciences and Chairman of the Department of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures at Illinois State University in Normal, IL. He received his Sc.D. from the Universidade Estadual de Campinas, Brazil, in 1983. He has taught at the Universidade Estadual de Campinas, the University of Pittsburgh, and the University of Manchester, England. He is also a frequent Visiting Scientist at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany. He has conducted research in the Amazon jungle of Brazil for more than thirty years and has authored nearly 100 scientific articles and six books. His most recent book is Don’t Sleep, There are Snakes: Life and Language in the Amazon Jungle from Pantheon Books in the US and Profile Books in the UK. It will appear later in 2009 in Korea, Germany, and France, among other countries. His research on the Piraha Indians of Brazil and his conclusions on the evolution and nature of human language have sparked tremendous controversy internationally. He has been featured in the New Yorker magazine, New Scientist magazine (three times), Scientific American, Science News, The Guardian, Der Spiegel, The Independent, El Mundo (Spain), and other newspapers in countries from Holland, India, Japan, and elsewhere, including extensive coverage in most major Brazilian newspapers and news magazines. PBS Nova and the BBC are planning a documentary on his research. He speaks Portuguese, Piraha, Spanish, and English.

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A psychology podcast by David Van Nuys, Ph.D.



  1. Reinhard, booklover
    Posted April 21, 2009 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

    Great show! This one was really mindblowing 🙂 I always love to take a look at a different culture from the inside out.
    After a few shows about what I call the “instant coffee therapies” (like NLP, EFT, EMDR, etc…) this was really a breath of fresh air.

    I’ll take some bites of indigenous wisdom over loads of “artificial happiness techniques” any day 🙂

    Thanks for the great content, as always.

    Reinhard from Austria

  2. Posted May 5, 2009 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

    Great show Dr Dave.
    What I found interesting was that this culture does not experience a long sleep pattern like that of the western culture but short sleep cycles where much chatter can be heard in the village throughout the night. This supports Robert Moss’s (#199) comment that history has shown that the 8hr sleep that modern western culture recommends has not always been the case. I myself have struggled to get a full night sleep, always feeling robbed and frustrated. Both Moss’s and Daniel Everett’s comments relieved me of this frustration and helped change my beliefs that I was not getting enough sleep.

    I found fascinating the fact that the Piraha experience their dreaming as no different than their waking life. From a dream work perspective I wonder how this fact may contribute toward their positive mental health, as there is no need to process and interpret their dreaming experience into their waking life.

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