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- Category: Christophe's blog
- Published on Friday, 30 November 2012 15:48
- Written by Christophe Heintz
Question: How can you spot an extrovert mathematician?
Answer: He looks at YOUR shoes when he talks to you.
Is mathematics "less social" than other academic disciplines? Some support for a 'yes' answer can be found in a recent piece of news. A famous mathematician, Nelson, had claimed to give a proof of a rather surprising proposition: “Peano Arithmetic is inconsistent.” Two other famous mathematicians, Tao and Tausk, said the proof included one specific mistake, which they spelled out. Nelson's reaction was: "Ah, you're right. So I have not proven that Peano Arithmetics is inconsistent". End of the story. No fight, no disagreement, no formation of alternative schools of thoughts, no playing with how to interpret this or that claim. Just plain boring consensus.
(These are the axioms that Nelson claimed were inconsistent. They are supposed to express central propositions true of our system of natural numbers with addition. They are used to prove things about an object that is central in many cultures.)
Mathematics is full of that: easily achieved consensus. Everybody agrees. No debate, and yet, the consensus is not socially induced in any standard way.
In a recent blog post, The (in)consistency of PA and consensus in mathematics, Catarina Novaes takes this as a nice illustration of some points made by philosopher Jody Azzouni, who argues that mathematics is unique as a social practice.
- Category: Publications
- Published on Tuesday, 27 November 2012 17:57
- John Gowlett, Clive Gamble, and Robin Dunbar: “Human Evolution and the Archaeology of the Social Brain.”
It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest. We address ourselves, not to their humanity but to their self-love, and never talk to them of our own necessities but of their advantages.
Until recently, I thought this very simple point had become commonsense, at least in educated circles. But then, at a recent dinner in pleasant and civilized company, as I was reflecting how it is such a Good Thing that we have the likes of Samsung, Google and Apple battling it out and giving us ever better products, several people turned to me and said something like: “Poor lamb, are you really that naive? Do you really think they’re trying to make stuff for your benefit? Don’t you know all these people ever want is to make more profit?”
Let us call this the moral-economic fallacy, the notion that the moral tenor of motives for economic action (people want to have more for themselves, which seems both “natural” and not very virtuous) contaminates, so to speak, the effects of such economic action, which cannot really be positive if their are rooted in base motives.
The moral-economic fallacy seems widespread. In a recent draft paper, Amit Bhattacharjee and colleagues report that people intuitively associate profit and social harm. As they say, “otherwise identically-described organizations are seen as providing less value and doing more harm when described as “for-profit” rather than non- profit […] Study 4 demonstrates that people hold a zero-sum conception of profit”. The ever prolific Bryan Caplan posted an economist’s comment on these striking results.
Here I am more interested in the psychological makeup involved: What triggers this kind of belief? From an evolutionary cognitive standpoint, I can see two conflicting perspectives on the question.
- Category: Jobs
- Published on Wednesday, 14 November 2012 22:42
- Category: Jobs
- Published on Monday, 29 October 2012 11:40
In various domains of cognitive science, a new paradigm holds that humans and non-human animals are born with a small set of hard-wired cognitive abilities that are task-specific, language-independent, and non-species-specific. These core knowledge systems are innate cognitive skills that have the capacity for building mental representations of objects, persons, spatial relationships, numerosity, and social interaction. In addition to core knowledge systems, humans possess species-specific, uniquely human abilities such as language and music. The ‘core knowledge’ paradigm challenges scholars in the humanities to ask the question how nurture and culture build on nature. This project examines the way in which innate, non specifically human, core knowledge systems for object representation, number, and geometry constrain cultural expressions in music, language, and the visual arts. In this research program, four domains of the humanities will be investigated from the point of view of core knowledge: (1) music cognition; (2) language and number; (3) visual arts and geometry; (4) poetry, rhythm, and meter. (Full description of the project here.)
- Category: Gloria's blog
- Published on Tuesday, 23 October 2012 16:07
- Written by Gloria Origgi
The article discusses the main sources of misinformation in our societies and the cognitive mechanisms that may be responsible for its resilience in our minds, even when we are exposed to retractions. The authors also offer solutions to the problem that may help researchers, journalists and practitioners of various kinds to find the right packaging of counter-messages that challenge previously acquired beliefs.
- Category: Jobs
- Published on Saturday, 20 October 2012 15:15
- Category: Denis Tatone's blog
- Published on Monday, 15 October 2012 11:26
- Written by Denis Tatone
Taking Turiel's idea at face value, his theory naturally raises a question: How do children differentiate between the moral and the conventional domains? To find out, says Paul Harris, we should ask vegetarian children.
- Category: Helen De Cruz's blog
- Published on Tuesday, 09 October 2012 11:27
- Written by Helen De Cruz
How do we intuitively conceptualize religious beliefs? In an article entitled "The Development of Reasoning about Beliefs: Fact, Preference, and Ideology" (forthcoming in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology Larisa Heiphetz, Elizabeth Spelke, Paul Harris, & Mahzarin R. Banaji investigated how children and adults view religious doctrinal and faith statements. They made a psychological distinction between three kinds of beliefs: factual beliefs (beliefs concerning states of affairs, of things that are believed to be true in some objective sense); preference-based beliefs (incorporating cognitive appraisals, and varying across individuals and contexts), and ideology-based beliefs (such as religious beliefs) which contain elements of both fact and preference.
- Category: Publications
- Published on Monday, 08 October 2012 22:31
- The spread of "Correlation does not imply causation"
- Jobs in Evolutionary Anthropology or Psychology at Arizona State
- Paul Harris on How Children Learn from Others
- Our site has been repeatedly attacked by malware
- Does Cognitive Science Need Anthropology?
- 'New [and polemical] thinking' on the evolution of human cognition
- Maurice Boch on the Cognitive Challenge to Anthropology
- Do we use different tools to mindread a defendant and a goalkeeper?
- Why don’t people like markets?
- PhD position in Social Psychology/Experimental Pragmatics