Beheadings as honest communication devices

Salome with the Head of John the Baptist - Caravaggio (1610)

People kill others in different ways, but executions are special in that the killer can choose the method. Practices officially used today are hanging, shooting or stoning, lethal injection, electrocution, gas inhalation, and decapitation. The last method is currently confined to Saudi Arabia, but has a bloody and prestigious history. Many cultures and societies have used it across time, with different social interpretations. In Japan, the honorary suicide was followed by beheading by an assistant, but mere beheading carried shame. Before 1789, only French nobles could be beheaded, and the revolution democratised and extended the practice by guillotining. Today, terrorists use it to great shock value. But what explains the historical popularity of beheading? ...

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How the best color-gamers got there

The posts on this blog explore the digital life of the Color Game, a gaming app launched by our lab. Its goal: inventing a universal language without words, and recording its birth in data. To find out more, visit colorgame.net. The Color Game's players have been getting better at playing the game. How did they do it? Practice seems an obvious answer. But what kind of practice?...

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Can we (please) have science without the scientific journals?

We had science before the journals. We can have science after their demise.

Science could be organized as efficiently as restaurants.

When enterprising individuals plan to open a restaurant, do they submit their food to a Culinary Editor who sends it for peer-review by gustatory experts, before customers are allowed to enter the place and try the food?

No, restaurateurs just rent premises, recruit staff, open doors, serve the meals they want at the price they choose, and hope for the best.

Then the review process starts. A whole army of self-appointed reviewers make it their job to describe and evaluate what is on offer. They include specialized magazines, special sections of newspapers or websites. More importantly, a vast number of unsolicited, unpaid Internet reviewers create what an establishment needs – a reputation....

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How the Color Game’s players mastered the game

The posts on this blog explore the digital life of the Color Game, a gaming app launched by our lab. Our goal: documenting the evolution of a new language without words, and recording its birth in data. To find out more, visit colorgame.net. ...

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“All options remain open” – or why would one signal a lack of commitment?

Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump seem now set to meet, as planned, on the 12th of June on the island of Singapore. Many of us have watched with bewilderment the verbal jousting that has been taking place between the two figures ahead of this crucial summit. Each political leader, as well as surrounding Korean and American protagonists, provided their due share of grand statements and dramatic turnarounds. ...

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Are human toddlers unable to understand the aspectuality of a puppet’s belief that the bunny is not a carrot?

In an earlier post, I spelled out what philosophers and psychologists of mindreading call “the aspectuality of belief.” To understand the aspectuality of belief is to understand that a person can believe that Cicero was bald without believing that Tully was, if she does not know that Tully was Cicero — in spite of the fact that the state of affairs of Cicero’s being bald is no other than the state of affairs of Tully’s being bald. ...

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Introducing the Color Game

Last week, the Color Game, the first smartphone app specifically designed to study the dynamics of language evolution was launched by our team at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History. This blog will follow the development of the Color Game project. In this first post, we first take a closer look to its characteristics from the players’ point of view, and to the features that makes it a realistic playground for the study of language evolution....

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What does the infant brain tell us about human Theory of Mind?

Functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) is a non-invasive technique that measures how light scatters differently on the surface of the brain as a function of brain activity. It is less powerful than functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), but it’s cheaper and more portable. A couple of recent studies by Daniel Hyde and his collaborators using fNIRS shed light on what has become a central issue in the developmental investigation of human Theory of Mind (TOM). ...

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No “Thank You!”

When beginning my fieldwork among the Dorzé of Southern Ethiopia many years ago, I thought that it would be better, at least initially, to be too polite rather than not polite enough.  I would say ...

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Children’s grasp of the aspectuality of beliefs: the Sefo task revisited

Understanding the aspectuality of belief is regarded by many leading developmental psychologists as a hallmark of full-blown theory of mind. As Hannes Rakoczy (2017, p. 692), who has devoted much work to the experimental investigation of early understanding of aspectuality, has recently put it, “crucially, aspectuality is not just an accidental or peripheral but an absolutely fundamental and essential property of beliefs and other propositional attitudes: there is no grasp of what propositional attitudes are without some basic grasp of their aspectuality.” ...

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