from month 11/2009

Meeting: Culture evolves

Discussion meeting organized by Andrew Whiten, Robert Hinde, Christopher Stringer and Kevin Laland as part of a wider Festival of Science to celebrate the Royal Society's 350th anniversary. The meeting will take place at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, Southbank Centre in London, UK on June 27-29, ...

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The scope of natural pedagogy theory (I): babies

This is the first post in a series of two installments by Pierre Jacob, dwelling on Gergely and Csibra's work on human communication. According to Csibra and Gergely’s (2009) so-called “natural pedagogical” approach to the psychological bases of human culture, human infants ...

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Cosma Shalizi on social contagion

Statistician and polymath blogger Cosma Shalizi is preparing a paper on social contagion, basically dwelling on the fact that the transmission of behaviours through social influence ('contagion') is very hard to distinguish from the fact that similar people tend to be submitted to similar ...

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Some like it hot

Relativity in culinary matters and in taste is a big issue - our tastes (or distastes) for things are indeed shaped by what we are used to eat and see eaten, as well as other factors, genetics being one. Now they combine with less strictly sensorial aspects - and disgust for instance integrates, as ...

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Language faculty? Semiotic system? Or what?

To what extent does the use of language involve a language-specific ability, to what extent is it subserved by a more general symbolic or semiotic system? This is an old and ongoing controversy to which an article pre-published online in PNAS on Nov. 18, 2009 (doi: 10.1073/pnas.0909197106) and ...

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Human expansion, drift, and cultural evolution

A new paper in PNAS, "Y chromosome diversity, human expansion, drift, and cultural evolution," by Jacques Chiaroni, Peter A. Underhill and Luca L. Cavalli-Sforza (Published online Nov. 17, 2009, doi: 10.1073/pnas.0910803106). Abstract The relative importance of the roles of adaptation ...

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Is the spell broken? Reflections on evolutionary debunking and religious beliefs

At the Notre Dame conference Darwin in the 21st century, Paul Griffiths gave an interesting talk on evolutionary debunking arguments for religion. Evolutionary debunking arguments basically say that religious beliefs are unjustified because they are a byproduct of evolved cognitive predispositions. ...

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Grounding the Social Sciences in the Cognitive Sciences?

The workshop on "Cognitive Social Sciences-Grounding the Social Sciences in the Cognitive Sciences?" (here) is to be held at CogSci 2010 in Portland, Oregon, on August 11, 2010. This workshop is aimed at exploring the cognitive (psychological) basis of the social sciences and the possib...

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“I read Playboy for the articles”

Zoe Chance and Michael Norton have a delightful book chapter on the very creative ways in which people justify their questionable decisions. They report an experiment in which male participants were given a choice between subscriptions to two sport magazines. One covered more sports while the ...

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FOXP2 again in the news

The gene FOXP2 has been in the news ever since it was revealed in 1998 that the members of an extended London family who had a serious language impairment also had an abnormal version of that gene. In a letter in today's (November 12) edition of Nature, a team led by Daniel Geschwind of UCLA ...

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Alloparental care and wandering baby monkeys

Pierre Jacob recently discussed Sarah Hrdy's book Mothers and Others in which she argues that humans, like New World monkeys but unlike other apes, are cooperative breeders. As Pierre summarizes, cooperative breeding implies that newborns and youngsters have evolved the capacity to engage ...

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Scott Atran: A memory of Lévi-Strauss

Margaret Mead, Franz Boas and Claude Lévi-Strauss on a Portuguese stampIn Memory of Claude Lévi-StraussIn Memory of Claude Lévi-Strauss In Memory of Claude Lévi-Strauss. Claude Lévi-Strauss, arguably the world's most famous and influential anthropo...

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