Call for papers: Cultural Evolution

Palgrave Communications, the open access journal from Palgrave Macmillan (part of Springer Nature), which publishes research across the humanities and social sciences, is currently inviting article proposals and full papers for a research article collection (‘special issue’) on Cultural Evolution....

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Why do we flip coins ? Random draws as personal decision-making devices under uncertainty

- For my undergraduate, I was completely undecided between medicine and engineering. I liked both and could not make up my mind. - How did you decide? - I flipped a coin. Heads for medicine and tails for engineering. - You did not! - I did. The coin landed on tails and I heard myself thinking, “Let’s do best of three”. And that is how I realized what I really wanted. - By doing the best of three? - Of course not. There was no need anymore. I knew I wanted to do medicine.
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Rethinking ostension: (2) Attention manipulation

I believe we relevance theorists missed something important in considering ostension only in the context of what we called ostensive-inferential communication. Ostension, I want to suggest, is more diverse and widespread....

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How Can a Painting Make One Lose One’s Faith?

In 1867, the deeply religious Fyodor Dostoyevsky visited the Basel Art Museum and saw for the first time the original of Hans Holbein’s painting The Body of the Dead Christ in the Tomb. His wife later reported in her memoirs that the painting had such a powerful emotional effect on the writer that, in violation of the museum’s rules, he stepped on a chair to take a closer look. His face turned white, she recalled, and she had to drag him away from the painting fearing he would have an epileptic fit.  “Such a picture might make one lose one’s faith,” Dostoyevsky later told her. ...

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Staring back at the evil eye

A few months into my fieldwork in a Romanian village, I was told by friends that I wonder way too much. When visiting people in their homes, I alway noticed something interesting, be it old house architecture, inventive implements, cute animals or anything catching my attention. My mistake, I was told, was expressing my curiosity out loud, wondering how this was made or where that came from. Worse, I was praising my hosts’ properties, mistakenly thinking they wouldn’t mind, or quite feel proud. Instead, I was told people were uncomfortable with such expressions of wonder, curiosity, and praise because they bring misfortune by means of deochi the “evil eye”....

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Rethinking ostension: (1) A terminological issue

Relevance theory was developed in the 1970s and 80s. Over the years, there have been a various modifications—hopefully improvements. In this and in posts to follow, I want to engage in some further rethinking. Today, I start, as a warm-up, with a terminological issue. In in our 1986 book, Relevance: Communication and cognition, Deirdre and I drew a sharp contrast between two forms of communication, which we called “coded communication” and “ostensive-inferential communication.”...

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“So you’re saying … we should live like lobsters?” or: Why does politics make us stupid?

A few weeks ago, a TV interview of clinical psychologist Jordan Peterson by journalist Cathy Newman became a minor Internet phenomenon, thanks to the journalist's extraordinary interviewing style. She handled the conversation so badly that the Atlantic commented on that car-crash of an interview under the title Why Can't People Hear What Jordan Peterson Is Saying?

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Friends

We asked Helga Vierich to share with us as a guest blogger anthropological reflections on friendship and social networks based on her fieldwork among the Kua hunter-gatherers of the Kalahari. Helga has a PhD in anthropology from the University of Toronto, and teaches at the Yellowhead Tribal College in Alberta. ...

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Conference on “Cultural Evolution: Arts, Languages, Technologies” in Tartu, June 6-8, 2018

Does cultural evolution work the same way in different domains - e.g., arts, technology and language? What is the role and relative influence of various biases, selection pressures or attractors in our cultural history? Has there been historical times when these influences have been stronger or weaker? Can we make predictions about future trajectories of cultural evolution? We would like to invite contributors to a 3-day conference on the cultural evolution in arts, technology, or language in Tartu (Estonia), June 6-8, 2018. ...

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Is submentalizing part of the genetic tool-kit of human social cognition?

Findings from the developmental investigation of false-belief understanding in preverbal human infants, based on looking time (and other kinds of looking behavior) are relevant to hypotheses about the ontogenetic and the phylogenetic origins of human mindreading capacities. According to Cecilia Heyes (2012), “recent empirical work in comparative psychology, developmental psychology and cognitive neuroscience provides surprisingly little evidence of genetic adaptation, and ample evidence of cultural adaptation.”

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The invention of cuneiform: Writing in Sumer

This month we are reading the final chapters of Jean-Jacques Glassner's The invention of cuneiform: Writing in Sumer (2003). Glassner's work is original in both its style and scope. He opens with a Sumerian-centric account of the invention of writing within its historical and cultural context, as drawn from primary archeological and paleographic evidence. ...

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How human are the dehumanised?

Developmental psychologist Paul Bloom recently published an article in The New Yorker about dehumanisation. He argued – drawing on research from many subfields in philosophy, psychology, anthropology and sociology – that the way we often think about things like slavery, genocide and misogyny is in some respects upside down. The problem isn’t that people sometimes see others as not human, it’s that they see others as very human indeed – with all that that entails....

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