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- Category: Davie Yoon's blog
- Published on Saturday, 26 March 2011 00:00
- Written by Davie Yoon
This post is about Ceci and William’s PNAS article, Understanding current causes of women’s underrepresentation in science, which has spawned a particular kind of narrative -- one that has been around for a while, but which now bears the imprint of evidence. This narrative is captured in a recent headline from ScienceDaily: "Choices -- not discrimination -- determine success for women scientists, experts argue." The implication is that if only women would stop complaining about their feelings of “isolation, dissatisfaction and discrimination” (p. 3160), we could pay attention to important problems that are real and not imaginary.
Ceci & Williams 2011, mostly in their own words
Ceci & William’s goal is to find out whether there is currently sex discrimination in three important areas: (1) manuscript reviewing, (2) grant reviewing, and (3) interviewing/hiring. “Current” means within the last 20 years. They make a strong case that while such discrimination may have taken place in the past, there is no evidence of discrimination against women in current large, carefully analyzed studies of real world reviewing and hiring data. On p.3161, Ceci & Williams conclude that “past strategies to remediate women’s underrepresentation can be viewed as a success story; however, continuing to advocate strategies successful in the past to combat shortages of women in math-based fields today mistakes the current causes of women’s underrepresentation.”
Still, it is true that men come out ahead of women in these three areas even in the last 20 years. Ceci & Williams point out, however, that these differences go away if you control for institution, teaching load, funding, and research assistance. “A key issue", they say, "separable from sex discrimination, is why women occupy positions providing fewer resources and what can be done about this situation. Some of these choices are freely made; others are constrained and should be changed.” And (in the supplementary text) “When women PhD recipients choose not to apply for tenure-track posts, their refusal represents a choice, one that many of their male and many of their female colleagues do not make.”
Some grounds for skepticism
Here are just a few of many reasons to be skeptical of Ceci & Williams' claim that they have definitely debunked the existence of sex discrimination in grant/manuscript reviewing, and interviewing/hiring...
Those of you who deal with psychiatry know of the rare and tragic condition called Capgras delusion. In this condition, the patient ceases to recognize his or her spouse, father, mother, another familiar person or even a pet. The patient is quite certain that this person they interact with, although he or she looks, talks, feels and smells like the original, is not the genuine thing - and many patients actually believe that the original was replaced with a replica, substituted by aliens, etc. In psychiatry there is a standard and plausible interpretation of these delusions in terms of rationalization.
This is called the “two-stage” model, following which [a] the patient’s experience is extraordinary and [b] the delusion is an attempt to make sense of it. In this particular case, the model suggests that [a] the patient’s face-systems, upon seeing the person, deliver the appropriate interpretation (“this is my husband”) and activate the relevant person-file in memory, but fail to create the specific emotional signature previously associated with seeing that person; as a result, seeing the person creates an extremely unusual experience, which [b] the beliefs about aliens contribute to explain in a way that is almost rational. (Note that this interpretation is disputed however).
Now, what about Kenyans in the White House?
Among the many crazy social movements that make up the rich tapestry of fringe politics in America, the Birthers’ movement is probably the craziest...
- Category: Decision-making for a social world
- Published on Monday, 14 March 2011 12:00
- Written by Hugo Mercier
We propose that in social interactions, gratitude for a helper depends on the helper’s instrumentality: The more motivated one is to accomplish a goal and the more a potential helper facilitates that goal, the more gratitude one will feel for that helper. In one lab experiment with strangers and one field experiment with real study partners, we found support for this instrumentality-boost hypothesis. Beneficiaries felt more gratitude for their helpers while they were receiving help toward an ongoing task than after that task had been completed. Beneficiaries thus felt more gratitude when they had received less benefit.
- Category: Nicolas' Blog
- Published on Tuesday, 08 March 2011 21:32
- Written by Nicolas Baumard
As we are watching the fall of dictators and the wind of liberty sweeping in the Arab world, we may not have noticed another victim of this “springtime of Arab people”, namely the individualistic/collectivistic divide. In psychology, many scientists have adopted a kind of culturalism according to which the reason people behave differently across culture because of the “culture” in which they have grown up: People are raised in a particular culture and they come to adopt the particular attitudes and beliefs of their parents, teachers and elders. This explains why people behave differently in different places. For instance, psychologists have often emphasized that some cultures are more individualistic while others are more collectivist and other similar dichotomies have been put forward: sociocentric vs. egocentric, independent vs. interdependent, bounded vs. unbounded.
Tahrir Square, February 10, 2011
Whatever the terms, the central idea in the individualistic framework is that the person is an autonomous agent, whereas the central idea in the collectivist framework is that the group is an interconnected and interdependent network of relationships. In the former, personal goals are primary; in the latter, shared goals are primary.
As Turiel (who is critical of this approach) puts it:
“A core feature of individualistic cultures (usually western ones) is that the highest value is accorded to the person as detached from others and as independent from the social order. People are therefore oriented to self-reliance, independence, and resistance to social pressure for conformity and obedience to authority. By contrast, collectivistic cultures (usually non western ones) are oriented to traditions, duty, obedience to authority, interdependence and social harmony; hierarchy, status and role distinction predominate.”
In fact, it has been argued that this culturalistic dichotomy works pretty well: Westerners are individualistic and that explains why free market and democracy flourishes in the West, whereas the rest of the world is more collectivistic, supporting things like “Asian values” and “Muslim ethos”.
Well, but then, what about Tunisia and Egypt? How to explain their transformation overnight? How could collectivistic people possibly embrace such individualistic ideas as freedom and human rights? How can they rebel against traditional norms?
- Category: Rita's blog
- Published on Tuesday, 01 March 2011 10:39
- Written by Rita Astuti
In a comment just appeared in Nature Adam Kuper and Jonathan Marks give a brief account of how it happened that anthropologists have lost the ability to agree on what their discipline is about – a fact that they regard as much more shocking than the recent elision of the word science from the AAA mission statement (as discussed in the ICCI blog). Kuper and Marks argue that interdisciplinary research across the biological-cum-evolutionary-cum-cognitive and the cultural-cum-social-cum-interpretative divide is imperative, but they also warn against easy short cuts, such as “parachuting into the jungle somewhere to do a few psychological experiments with the help of bemused local interpreters, or garnishing generalizations with a few worn and disputed snippets about the exotic customs and practices.”
- Category: Publications
- Published on Tuesday, 01 March 2011 00:00
- Written by Dan Sperber
A new issue of Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences with the title 'Culture evolves', edited by Andrew Whiten, Robert A. Hinde, Christopher B. Stringer and Kevin N. Laland is available online here. If you do not have free access, we encourage you to check the individual web pages of the author -- whom we encourage to post all their papers, vive le open access! –- and, if need be, to ask them for the Pdf. Here below is the table of contents.
- Category: Jobs
- Published on Monday, 28 February 2011 15:11
- Written by Nicolas Baumard
Applications are sought for three posts focusing on the history of ritual and group formation, as part of an international project entitled 'Ritual, community and conflict', based in the Centre for Anthropology and Mind at the University of Oxford, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and directed by Professor Harvey Whitehouse.
- Category: Pascal's blog
- Published on Tuesday, 22 February 2011 00:00
- Written by Pascal Boyer
I do not know if many scholars of religion still believe in gods or spirits, but I know that a great many of them believe in the existence of religion itself - that is, believe that the term "religion" is a useful category, that there is such a thing as religion out there in the world, that the project of "explaining religion" is a valid scientific project. Naturally, many of the scholars in question will also say that religion is a many splendored thing, that there are vast differences among the varieties of religious belief and behavior. Yet they assume that, underlying the diversity, there is enough of a common set of phenomena that a "theory of religion" is needed if not already available.
One might think this unfortunate and obdurate tendency to believe in the scholarly equivalent of unicorns is chiefly confined to theologians or other marginal scholars. That is not the case. Indeed, quite a lot of people these days argue for a "scientific explanation of religion". In preparation for this they gather the best and most up-to-date scientific gear, from genetics and evolutionary biology to, inevitably, neuro-imaging.
I applaud the use of such tools in general and deplore it all the more in this particularly futile pursuit.
Fang epic recitation - a matter of "religion"?
There really is no such thing as "religion". Most people who live in modern societies think that there is such a thing out there as "religion", meaning a kind of social and cognitive package that includes views about supernatural agency (gods and suchlike), notions of morality, particular rituals and sometimes particular experiences, as well as membership in a particular community of believers and the constitution of specific organizations (castes of prests, churches, etc.). All this, as I said, is thought to be a "package", where each element makes sense in relation to the others, given a coherent and explicit doctrine. Indeed, this is the way most major "religions" – Islam, Hinduism for instance – are presented to us, the way their institutional personnel, many scholars and most believers think about them.
- Category: Decision-making for a social world
- Published on Monday, 21 February 2011 12:00
- Written by Hugo Mercier
Humans are masters of lying and self-deception. We want others to believe us good, fair, responsible and logical, and we yearn to see ourselves this way. Therefore, when our actions might appear selfish, prejudiced or perverted, we engage a host of strategies to justify our behavior with rational excuses: "I hired my son because he's better educated." "I promoted Ashley because she's more experienced than Aisha." In this article, we review previous studies examining how people restructure situations to view their behavior in a more positive light, and we present the results of our Playboy study. We conclude by briefly reviewing two additional strategies for coping with such difficult situations: forgoing choices, and forgetting decisions altogether.
A longer version of this paper can also be found here.
- Category: Publications
- Published on Sunday, 20 February 2011 16:53
- Written by Dan Sperber
Jeremy Ginges and and Scott Atran again illustrate the relevance of a cognition and culture approach to major political and societal concerns with their article, "War as a moral imperative (not just practical politics by other means)" published online, Feb. 16, 2011, in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B and available here.
Abstract: We present ﬁndings from one survey and ﬁve experiments carried out in the USA, Nigeria and the Middle East showing that judgements about the use of deadly intergroup violence are strikingly insensitive to quantitative indicators of success, or to perceptions of their efﬁcacy. By demonstrating that judgements about the use of war are bounded by rules of deontological reasoning and parochial commitment, these ﬁndings may have implications for understanding the trajectory of violent political conﬂicts. Further, these ﬁndings are compatible with theorizing that links the evolution of within-group altruism to intergroup violence.
- Category: Emmanuel Dupoux's blog
- Published on Wednesday, 16 February 2011 15:25
- Written by Emmanuel Dupoux
Emmanuel Dupoux sends a question to our community, on behalf of a team of psychologists studying pointing. The team includes Emmanuel himself, Laurent Cleret de Lagavant, Charlotte Jacquemot and Anne-Catherine Bachoud-Levi.
Pointing is a communicative gesture that enables one to attract the attention of a conspecific on a particular object. Communicative pointing is observed in all human cultures and acquired by infants before language onset. Pointing can be selectively impaired in neuropsychological patients: in heteropopagnosia, patients are grossly impaired in pointing towards humans. Typically, heterotopagnosic patients show a humanity/communicative gradient effect: their pointing performance gradually decrease as the target becomes closer to a real communicative human being (schematic drawings of humans, photographs of a person, dolls, real persons pretending to be a doll and real persons). Interestingly, in a task that is not inherently social like grasping, these patients perform flawlessly on all target types.
This selective impairment of pointing, that gets worse in communicative situations where the target is human, might (we suspect) have a cultural counterpart. In the culture where we have been raised, it is, as they say, "rude to point" at another human. Anthropologists have documented in great richness a variety of taboos associated to pointing in general, but it is still unclear whether these taboos have something special to do with the action of pointing at someone. This is where we could benefit from the unique expertise of anthropologists.
This raises two broad questions for the cognition and culture community.
- Summer University in Experimental Methods in the Study of Cognition and Culture
- Profit-Seeking Punishment Corrupts Norm Obedience
- Children as scientists
- Evolutionary Theory and the Ultimate–Proximate Distinction in the Human Behavioral Sciences
- Introduction - Reasoning as a social device
- What’s wrong, in the end, with Homo Œconomicus ?
- PhD in Cognitive Science at the CEU, Budapest
- PhD on Animal Cognition and Communication in Vienna
- Neuroscience 'boot camp'
- Learning suicide in Sri Lanka, part II: suicide as separation