from month 02/2010

Block and Kitcher review What Darwin Got Wrong by Fodor and Piatelli-Palmarini

Given the strong reservations that most social scientists have towards evolutionary biology, they might welcome Jerry Fodor and Massimo Piatelli-Palmarini's new book, What Darwin Got Wrong (2010), as they once did Stephen Jay Gould and Richard Lewontin famous article, "The Spandrels of San ...

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Can you tell who will win the election in another society just by looking at the faces of the candid

Our face tells a lot about us. Well, at least this is what other people seem to think: having seen our face for a few seconds-or even a few milliseconds-they will think that we are more or less attractive - unsurprisingly - but also competent, dominant or trustworthy (e.g. Todorov et al., 2008). ...

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Religion science: if you pay the piper, do you call the tune?

A hot debate has been taking place these last few days, in the comments section of Harvey Whitehouse's recent post on religion. Part of the dispute has to do with the way cognitive scientists working on that topic might be influenced by the money they get, particularly from a Christian founda...

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How cultural is sensitivity to shape properties?

In Psychological Science (Vol, 20 (12) pp.1437-1442), an interesting article by Irving Biederman, Xiaomin Yue, and Jules Davidoff entitled: "Representation of Shape in Individuals From a Culture With Minimal Exposure to Regular, Simple Artifacts: Sensitivity to Nonaccidental Versus Metric ...

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Better live in Sweden than in the US: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better

Let's talk about politics for once. It is common knowledge that in rich societies the poor have shorter lives and suffer more from almost every social problem. In a quite fascinating book, The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always do Better, epidemiologists Richard Wilkinson and ...

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Viral columns

The New York Times picks up on an interesting study of what journal articles people email  to their friends. Short answer: those that inspire awe. Quoting from the NYT:   People preferred e-mailing articles with positive rather than negative themes, and they liked to send long ...

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There is no such thing as sexual intercourse

I happen to know the secret of academic success. So far I have never divulged it because, well, charity begins at home. But it looks like the field of cognition and culture might be in need of a shot in the arm, so to speak. So I agreed to part with the secret, against a small compensation negoti...

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Altruistic adoption in chimpanzees?

In the last decade, extended altruism towards unrelated group members has been proposed to be a unique characteristic of human societies. Experimental studies on captive chimpanzees have shown, on the other hand, that they are limited in the ways they share or cooperate with others. Individuals are ...

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Video: A Debate on Group Selection

On July 7th 2009, the The London Evolutionary Research Network held a extremely interesting debate on group selection in which four eminent speakers in the field discussed the motion: "Is natural selection at the group level an important evolutionary force?" Stuart West, Professor of ...

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Experimental epidemiology: The work of Chip Heath

The aim of the post is to bring to the attention of experimentally minded anthropologists the work of Chip Heath and his collaborators. A professor at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, Heath describes his research as examinining "why certain ideas - ranging from urban legends to folk ...

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The evolution of misbeliefs

An article entitled "The Evolution of  Misbeliefs" by Ryan McKay and Daniel Dennett In Behavioral and Brain Sciences (2009) 32, 493-561, freely available here, with commentaries by (among many others) George Ainslie, Roberto Casati, Pascal Boyer, Max Coltheart, Owen Flanagan, Keith ...

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