Blog

Are liberals too dumb to understand this? Virtue signaling in the age of outrage advertising

Through our newsfeeds and social media, we are constantly confronted with articles and headlines (like the headline of this piece) that have been deliberately designed to provoke outrage and attract clicks. We often naively think that by sharing our outrage on Facebook or Twitter, we are performing a small but good deed. However the collective effect of these small deeds often ends up exactly the opposite of what was intended....

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Can teleology explain why very young children help a mistaken agent?

3-year-olds fail to accurately predict where a mistaken agent is likely to look for her toy if they are explicitly asked to do so. However, preverbal infants (who are not asked anything in implicit tasks) have been widely shown to expect a mistaken agent to act in accordance with the content of her false belief (cf. Baillargeon et al., 2010 for review). This is the puzzle of the discrepant developmental findings. ...

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What it took for break-up songs to become cultural items

Gloria Gaynor singing I will survive

Some of the skills you develop as a PhD student were not on the program. Now two years into my PhD, I realize that I have become much better at composing nice playlists, and in particular break-up songs playlists. Admittedly, this is not what I thought I’d get good at, but, well, it still counts as a skill or knowledge of some sort, and I enjoy my newly-won status of information-provider. After years been given advice about music by others, ending up in the position of the adviser feels like an achievement....

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We may be thinking about it all wrong

“What should we do about North Korea?” asked an article in the September 8 edition of the Washington Post. What made me read the article, however, was not the title but the subtitle:  “We may be thinking about it all wrong.” Might the article be of relevance to the psychology of reasoning? ...

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Do chimpanzees really care about equity?

One of the most popular Youtube videos in comparative psychology features capuchins exchanging tokens for food with a human experimenter. It is fascinating to see how outraged the capuchin becomes when realizing that the experimenter is giving her cucumber while she is giving out grapes (much more tasty food) to another capuchin! After watching this video, ...

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Cecilia Heyes on the social tuning of reason

  How are evolution, cognition, and culture interconnected? Cecilia Heyes and I are both interdisciplinary scholars trying to help address this basic issue but we go about it in generally ...

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Sensitivity to shared information in social learning

In July we’re reading Whalen et al. (2017): Sensitivity to shared information in social learning. In the study, three experiments are presented with regard to the source of informants’ ...

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Do apes produce metonymies?

Your friend Olga is coming for a drink. You put two plates on the table, one with olives and the other with almonds. When both plates have been emptied, you ask Olga, “Do you want anything ...

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The sky is falling: negativity bias in social transmission

For June’s edition of the journal club, we’re reading Bebbington et al. (2017): The sky is falling: evidence of a negativity bias in the social transmission of information. The paper ...

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Tilting titling?

Conversation with Jack Goody was never dull. He combined an endless curiosity for ethnographic details with a deep interest in broad anthropological questions. Here is a picture of some of his books (both English originals and French translations) on my shelves, illustrating the variety of his interests. I hope Jack would have enjoyed this post, but it is not related to his work. Notice a peculiar ethnographic detail in the picture? (I would not have paid much attention to it, except as a source of mild annoyance, if it were not for an article in today’s French edition of Slate). The titles in English read from top to bottom, those in French from bottom to top. ...

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Modularity and Recombination in Technological Evolution

In May we read Mathieu Charbonneau's 2016 article, Modularity and Recombination in Technological Evolution. The article is describing a key property of cultural variation, recombination, and its ...

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Random drift and culture change

In April we chose to read Bentley, Hahn and Shennan's paper Random drift and culture change (2004). This very interesting study explains cultural variants on three real-world datasets using a ...

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