Summer course on Morality: Evolutionary Origins and Cognitive Mechanisms, Budapest, June 2014.

The CEU Summer University announces the course: “Morality: Evolutionary Origins and Cognitive Mechanisms”, June 23-30, 2014, Budapest, Hungary . Application deadline: February 14, 2014.

What makes humans moral beings? This question can be understood either as a proximate “how” question or as an ultimate “why” question. The “how” question, which is about the mental and social mechanisms that produce moral judgments has been investigated by psychologists and social scientists. The “why” question, which is about the fitness consequences that explain why humans have morality, has been discussed by evolutionary biologists in the context of the evolution of cooperation. The goal of this summer school is to contribute to a fruitful articulation of such proximate and ultimate explanations of human morality.

 The school will be taught by internationally renowned experts interested in both ultimate and proximate questions, from evolutionary biology (Jean-Baptiste  André, Redouan Bshary), comparative psychology (Keith Jensen),  evolutionary psychology (Nicolas Baumard, Leda  Cosmides) to cognitive neuroscience (Molly Crockett), developmental psychology (Paul  Bloom, Gergely Csibra, Karen Wynn) and cognitive psychology (Fiery Cushman).  Alongside the regular program of the course there will be talks and discussions aimed at the general public held by invited speakers, including the cognitive anthropologist, Pascal Boyer.

The design of the course stresses highly interactive forms of teaching. The course will begin with introductory lectures to build common ground between the researchers from different disciplines. After the introductions, all segments will be held in a seminar format, with faculty members leading the seminar, and responses/commentaries delivered by teams of students. There will be specific time devoted to smaller group discussions, also led by a member of the faculty, and also opportunities for selected students to give talks and poster presentations. The summer course is aimed at providing a state-of-the-art cutting-edge scientific and research-oriented training for post-doctoral young researchers and highly promising pre-doctoral students from European and overseas universities and research institutes on the evolutionary and psychological bases of morality.

Read more: Summer course on Morality: Evolutionary Origins and Cognitive Mechanisms, Budapest, June 2014.

Call for Registration: iCog inaugural conference "Interdisciplinarity in Cognitive Science", University of Sheffield, 29 November - 1 December

REGISTRATION OPEN – “iCog: Interdisciplinarity in Cognitive Science.”

Registration for the iCog Inaurural Conference is now open and can be found here. Registration closes on the 22nd of November.

iCog is an interdisciplinary network for postgraduate and early-career researchers in cognitive science. The iCog Inaugural Conference is being held at the University of Sheffield from 29th November - 1st December 2013. More information about the conference and the iCog network can be found here: i-cog.com. (Continued below the fold.)

Read more: Call for Registration: iCog inaugural conference "Interdisciplinarity in Cognitive Science",...

Morality in cognition and culture: A Cerisy colloquium (4th-11th of September, 2013)

Registration is still open for the conference organized by the Cerisy cultural centre and the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique. The complete program can be found here. For more information, write to: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The conference will be in English.

Participants: Jean-Baptiste André, Nicolas Baumard, Maurice Bloch, Fabrice Clément, Emma Cohen, Florian Cova, Francesca Giardini, Monica Heintz, Laurence Kaufmann, Pierre Jacob, Arne Jarrick, Pierre Liénard, Olivier Morin, Ruwen Ogien, Isabelle Rivoal, Paulo Sousa, Victor Stoichita, Denis Vidal
Thomas Widlock...

Cerisy website.

"Is the human mind unique?" Webcast of conference

Join the live webcast of "Is the Human Mind Unique?" a free public symposium hosted by the University of California, San Diego/Salk Institute for Biological Studies Center for Academic Research & Training in Anthropogeny (CARTA) on Friday, February 15th (1:00 – 5:30 pm Pacific Time), co-chaired by V.S. Ramachandran (University of California, San Diego) and Terry Deacon (University of California, Berkeley). Scientists from many different fields will discuss cognitive abilities often regarded as unique to humans including humor, morality, symbolism, creativity, and preoccupation with the minds of others. Emphasis will be placed on the functional uniqueness of these attributes, as opposed to the anatomical uniqueness, and whether these attributes are indeed quantitatively or qualitatively unique to humans. Access the live webcast here: http://carta.anthropogeny.org/events/is-human-mind-unique

Our site has been repeatedly attacked by malware

As many of you know, our site was repeatedly attacked by malware this summer, bringing our activities to a halt. We are sorry about this and hope that none of our users' had their computer infected. We are sorry for any inconvenience all this may have cause you. We hope and trust these attacks are over. Our activities will now resume.

The ICCI team

UCLA Conference on culture,mind, and brain:

 An Interdisciplinary Conference on "Culture, Mind, and Brain: Emerging Concepts, Methods, Applications" will take place on October 19–20, 2012 at UCLA with the support of the International Cultural Neuroscience Consortium (ICNC)

Description: Many lines of research on culture, mind, and brain can no longer be neatly separated. Some questions run together, thanks to our growing understanding of the genome, the biological roots of human sociality, and the mutual constitution of cultures and selves, as well as the complex interactions between the physical, cultural, and social environments underlying health and illness. The aim of this 2-day conference is to highlight emerging concepts, methodologies and applications in the study of culture, mind, and brain, with particular attention to: (1) cutting-edge neuroscience research that is successfully incorporating culture and the social world; (2) the context in which methods are used as well as the tacit assumptions that shape research questions; and (3) the kinds and quality of collaborations that can advance interdisciplinary research training. The conference is designed to appeal to a wide academic audience of biologists, neuroscientists, psychologists, anthropologists, sociologists, epidemiologists, and those in related fields interested in learning about cutting-edge interdisciplinary research at the intersection of culture, mind, and brain.

Read more: UCLA Conference on culture,mind, and brain:

David Graeber interviewed on Debt: the first 5000 years

David Greaber, the anarchist anthropologist, talks about his important book, Debt: The First 5000 years (Melville House, 2011):

 

Summer Institute on Bounded Rationality in Berlin

Summer Institute on "Bounded Rationality 2012 – Foundations of an Interdisciplinary Decision Theory" Directed by Gerd Gigerenzer will take place from July 3 – 10, 2012 at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin.

The Summer Institute will provide a platform for genuinely interdisciplinary research, bringing together young scholars from psychology, biology, philosophy, economics, and other social sciences. Its focus will be on “decision making in the wild” – how cognition adapts to real-world decision-making environments. One of its aims is to provide participants a deeper understanding of the way humans come to grips with a fundamentally uncertain world, with an emphasis on applied contexts such as social interactions, medicine, justice, business, and politics. Graduate students and postdoctoral fellows from around the world are invited to apply by March 31, 2012. We will provide all participants with accommodation and stipends to cover part of their travel expenses. Details on the Summer Institute and the application process are available here .

Tübingen summer school on “The Evolution of Morality”

 The Forum Scientiarum of Tuebingen University organises a summer school on “The Evolution of Morality” (June 12th – 16th, 2012). Twenty graduate students and junior scientists from all over the world will have the opportunity to work on the question of the evolution of morality with Professor Frans de Waal and Professor Gerhard Ernst. Application deadline, March 30.

Topic: What kind of new perspectives and implications can be drawn from insights of the theory of evolution for the understanding of the morality of human beings?  The summer school will focus on the evolutionary fundaments of morality presenting as lecturer the primatologist Frans de Waal. Spending much time watching the behavior of apes and monkeys, de Waal brings forward the argument that the core concept of morality has already been present in the pre-social tendencies of nonhuman primates. As a consequence he attacks what he calls the "Veneer Theory", which holds that human ethics and morality - established as a cultural innovation - would only be a thin crust masking our Hobbesian brutish nature.

Read more: Tübingen summer school on “The Evolution of Morality”

Conference: Culture, Mind, and Brain: Emerging Concepts, Methods, Applications

A conference on "Culture, Mind, and Brain: Emerging Concepts, Methods, Applications" at UCLA, October 19–20, 2012

Many lines of research on culture, mind, and brain can no longer be neatly separated. Some questions run together, thanks to our growing understanding of the genome, the biological roots of human sociality, and the mutual constitution of cultures and selves, as well as the complex interactions between the physical, cultural, and social environments underlying health and illness. The aim of this 2-day conference is to highlight emerging concepts, methodologies and applications in the study of culture, mind, and brain, with particular attention to: (1) cutting-edge neuroscience research that is successfully incorporating culture and the social world; (2) the context in which methods are used as well as the tacit assumptions that shape research questions; and (3) the kinds and quality of collaborations that can advance interdisciplinary research training.

Read more: Conference: Culture, Mind, and Brain: Emerging Concepts, Methods, Applications

International Conference on Thinking 2012 London

The 7th International Conference on Thinking will take place on the 4th to 6th July 2012 at Birkbeck College and University College London focusing on the most recent research on thinking from psychological, cognitive science and cognitive neuroscience perspectives. To submit papers, posters, or symposia proposals and to register please go to http://www.ict2012.bbk.ac.uk/.  Deadline for submission: 31 March 2012.

Read more: International Conference on Thinking 2012 London

Summer School "Images: Content, recognition, classification"

A CNRS Summer School on : "Images: Content, recognition, classification", Paris, July 1-5, 2012. Organization: Roberto Casati, Institut Nicod, CNRS-ENS-EHESS, Anouk Barberousse, Université de Lille 1, Alberto Voltolini, Università degli Studi di Torino. Deadline for applications:  Feb 10, 2012.

How do we interpret images’ content? How do we tell images from other visual media? What can images represent? What ontology better describes their content? How do humans and machines recognize and classify images? Images are universal instruments of representation and communication. In many intellectually complex activities (the execution of plans and projects, the identification of people and places, navigation, data collection, medical diagnoses) the use of images is essential. Their interpretation requires little teaching (as opposed to, say, that of written language). But at the same time images are inherently ambiguous, and their interpretation may pose difficult problems. This is particularly evident now that countless images are available in online archives. Their content is often made explicit by annotations (captions, tags, place and time stamps). Software for automatic image interpretation has developed at an impressive rate in recent years, but some problems remain hard to tackle, especially when moving from the identification of instances of objects (tokens) or the recognition of simple categories (plants, vehicles) to attempts to work with more complex categories. Ontological/philosophical issues interface here with widening knowledge about cognitive processes and technological development.

Read more: Summer School "Images: Content, recognition, classification"

Summer Course on "Problems of the Self", CEU, Budapest, June 25-July 5, 2012

Summer Course on "Problems of the Self", CEU, Budapest, June 25-July 5, 2012. Application deadline: February 15, 2012

Brief Course Description:
The course aims to present the state of the art in research on the self from philosophy, psychology, cognitive neuroscience,  sociology,  and  cognitive  anthropology.  Themes  revolve  around  the  nature  of  the  self,  as  revealed through  self-consciousness,  body  perception,  action  and  joint  action,  and  its  embedding  in  society  and  culture. Historical and developmental perspectives provide other angles on the self. The course presents a unique opportunity for interdisciplinary discussion on the self from multiple perspectives. It is directed at advanced graduate students, postdoctoral  fellows  and  junior  faculty  working  in  philosophy,  psychology,  cognitive  neuroscience  and  cognate disciplines.

Read more: Summer Course on "Problems of the Self", CEU, Budapest, June 25-July 5, 2012

Summer school on Theories of Communication in Riga (July 2012)

There will be an International Summer School at the University of Latvia, Riga, 8-18 July 2012, on the theme: Theories of Communication. What linguistic knowledge and interpretive mechanisms are required to explain the phenomena of inferential communication? Should we favour an explanation rooted in Relevance Theory? And what insight can a pragmatic approach give us into the evolution of human communication? These and other questions will be the focus of the 2012 edition of the International Summer School in Cognitive Sciences and Semantics. Among the topics explored will be the following: (i) information structure, (ii) temporal reference, (iii) indirect speech acts, (iv) non-literal uses of language, in particular, metaphor and related tropes, including hyperbole, simile, sarcasm and irony, (v) hinting, (vi) the nature of word meaning, (vii) cooperation and antagonism in conversation, (viii) slurs, and (ix) the idea of a dynamic lexicon.

Invited organizers: Ernie Lepore (Rutgers University, US) & Dan Sperber (Central European University, Budapest, H, & CNRS, Paris, FR). Faculty: Elisabeth Camp (University of Pennsylvania, US), Robyn Carston (University College London, UK), Ivona Kucerova (McMaster University, Canada), Ernie Lepore (Rutgers University, US), Peter Ludlow (Northwestern University, US), Dan Sperber (Central European University, Budapest, H, & CNRS, Paris, FR), Matthew Stone (Rutgers University, US), Deirdre Wilson (University College London, UK).

Read more: Summer school on Theories of Communication in Riga (July 2012)

EHBEA Conference 2012

A message from Jamie Tehrani:

This year's European Human Behaviour and Evolution Association Conference is being hosted by Durham University on 25-28th March 2012. On behalf of the local organising committee I would like to warmly invite members of the Institute to come along and consider giving a talk. The deadline for the submission of abstracts for presentations is 25th November 2011. Further details about the conference, deadlines and registration can be found on the website: http://www.dur.ac.uk/jeremy.kendal/EHBEA2012/Welcome.html

 

Patrick Suppes Prize for Nancy Nersessian

NancyNersessianNancy Nersessian has been awarded the inaugural Patrick Suppes Prize for Philosophy of Science. This award to Nancy Nersessian is a nice recognition of what can be done with interdisciplinary approaches taking into account both cognition and culture. Indeed, her work consists in describing "the cognitive and cultural mechanisms that lead up to scientific innovation, both theoretical and experimental."

In her book, Creating Scientific Concepts, Nancy Nersessian provides detailed analyses of model based reasoning, which she shows to be at the heart of conceptual change. He work includes both very detailed analyses of individual scientists' cognitive processes and a specification of the role of the social, cultural and material environments. For instance, she has been illustrating with case studies the theory of distributed cognition, and enriching it with new ideas and concepts. Her methodology includes mainly cognitive history and cognitive ethnography.

Workshop: 'Naturalistic approaches to culture?'

The European Science Foundation's Standing Committee for the Humanities (SCH) organizes a workshop on naturalistic approaches to culture. on the lake Balaton in Hungary, 4-7 September 2011. The aim of the workshop is to initiate a long-term initiative of the SCH, in favour of interdisciplinary and inter-European exchanges of ideas in this domain. Key speakers will be Gergely Csibra, Ágnes Kovács, Olivier Morin, Eugenia Ramirez-Goicoechea and Peter Richerson.

The ESF offers, on a competitive basis, awards to early career scholars to participate in the workshop. A group of 20 early career researchers will be selected by open competition and invited to actively participate in the event, including the presentation of a poster. The ESF award will cover travel costs (up to a maximum of €350), meals and accommodation (3 nights).  Deadlline for applications, May 16. The Call for participation can be downloaded here.

Read more: Workshop: 'Naturalistic approaches to culture?'

Evolutionary Theory and the Ultimate–Proximate Distinction in the Human Behavioral Sciences

The January issue of Perspectives on Psychological Science publishes a paper by Thomas Scott-Phillips, Thomas Dickins, and Stuart West entitled "Evolutionary Theory and the Ultimate-Proximate Distinction in the Human Behavioral Sciences." (also discussed here by Rob Kurzban) Although this distinction is well-known and widely used in evolutionary and cognitive approaches, the authors point out that in several areas, including the study of the evolution of cooperation, cultural transmission, and epigenetics debates are fraught with confusions between ultimate ands proximal explanations. They show, for instance, that 'strong reciprocity', as advocated by Ernst Fehr and others, often presented as a solution to the ultimate question "why do we cooperate", is only a solution about the proximal question "how do we cooperate".

Here is the abstract:

To properly understand behavior, we must obtain both ultimate and proximate explanations. Put briefly, ultimate explanations are concerned with why a behavior exists, and proximate explanations are concerned with how it works. These two types of explanation are complementary and the distinction is critical to evolutionary explanation. We are concerned that they have become conflated in some areas of the evolutionary literature on human behavior. This article brings attention to these issues. We focus on three specific areas: the evolution of cooperation, transmitted culture, and epigenetics. We do this to avoid confusion and wasted effort—dangers that are particularly acute in interdisciplinary research. Throughout this article, we suggest ways in which misunderstanding may be avoided in the future.

Neuroscience 'boot camp'

The University of Pennsylvania announces their 3rd annual Neuroscience Boot Camp, July 31-August 10. The website is here.

Read more: Neuroscience 'boot camp'

Blogroll update

We just updated our long neglected blogroll with some interesting blogs: Games with words, Robert Kurzban's blog, Konrad Talmont Kaminski's Just another desidaimon, Tom Rees' Epiphenom.

Vote on whether you think "the language we speak shapes how we think"

The Economist is hosting a debate in which readers may vote on whether or not they believe that "the language we speak shapes how we think."

On the official FOR side: Lera Boroditsky / On the official AGAINST side: Mark Lieberman

So far, opening statements and rebuttals have been posted, as well as comments by the moderator and readers of the site. In addition, Dan Slobin has contributed his reaction, and Lila Gleitman's will be posted on Tuesday. The results of the vote will be announced on Thursday.

So far, the yays have it...

Savage Minds on anthropology, science and truth

In a recent post, Benson Saler commented on the AAA's decision to drop the "science" label  for anthropology. In this post Savage Minds blogger Rex criticizes the critics of the decision. Anthropology, he argues, doesn't need to be scientific in order to be true.

Rob Kurzban's new blog on evolutionary psychology

Robert Kurzban (University of Pennsylvania) has launched his new blog. He comments (almost daily!) on articles, news and books related to evolutionary psychology. You may learn the many errors in Buller's recent article against Evolutionary psychology, where to publish evolutionary psychology, or why we always locate our bed in the same place in a room. A must-read if you are interested in the origins of our many cognitive abilities!

 

Scott Atran on religion and political violence

Scatranott Atran gave a lecture entitled "For Friends and Faith: Understanding the Paths and Barriers to Political Violence" at Hampshire College in the lecture series on science and religion. The abstract: "Many creatures will fight to the death for their close kin, but only humans fight and sacrifice unto death for friends and imagined kin, for brotherhoods willing to shed blood for one another. The reason for brotherhoods-- unrelated people cooperating to their full measure of devotion--are as ancient as our uniquely reflective and auto-predatory species. Different cultures ratchet up these reasons into great causes in different ways. Call it love of God or love of group, it matters little in the end... especially for young men, mortal combat in a great cause provides the ultimate adventure and glory to gain maximum esteem in the eyes of many and, most dearly, in the hearts of their peers. This century's major terrorist incidents are cases in point."

The video of the lecture is available here and that of the Q&A session here.

Clay Shirky on "cognitive surplus"

Clay Shirky teaches at New York University’s graduate Interactive Telecommunications Program a course named “Social Weather.” He’s the author of Here Comes Everybody, about the power of crowds, and the new Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age. In this TED Talk, he presents the main idea of this last book.

Read more: Clay Shirky on "cognitive surplus"

Our mini-grant competition: The winners

Here are the winners of the 2010 mini-grant competition organised by the International Cognition and Culture Institute and funded by the Programme in Culture & Cognition at the LSE to encourage anthropologists to perform in the field an experimental study on children’s and adults’ reasoning about human social kinds:

  • Tamara Hale (LSE): "Essentialism without groups in an afro-descendent village in Peru."
  • Cristina Moya (UCLA): "The evolution of ethnic categorization: Cross-cultural and developmental tests of innate priors in urban US and the Peruvian altiplano."
  • Zohar Rotem (The New School for Social Research, New York): "The role of linguistic difference in bilingual children’s essentialist reasoning about social kinds in Israel"
  • Cătălina Tesar and Radu Umbreş (University College London): "Blood, beakers and dowries. An inquiry into essentialist thinking about kinship and ethnicity among Cortorari Roma in Romania"

We congratulate the winners and express our gratitude to all the participants in the competition!

for a brief description of the winning projets,

Read more: Our mini-grant competition: The winners

Workshop: Language as an Evolutionary System

Poster-Conf-LECThese two days of talks and discussion will bring together scholars from a range of disciplines to discuss the value of applying evolutionary thinking to the cultural evolution of language as well as the commonalities and differences between various existing applications.

Linguistics has traditionally been cautious of analogies between evolution in language an in biology. Common ancestry and descent were proposed earlier for languages than for biological species, but while biological evolution has flourished into a science with solid theories that generate testable hypothesis, the study of the cultural evolution of language -- evolution that is independent of changes in the human genome -- is only beginning to test its innumerable, often speculative and unrigorous, theories. McMahon (1994) concluded that the way forward is Darwinian thinking. Since then, a number of independent proposals have convergently applied explicit analogies with the elements and processes of the evolutionary synthesis (Mayr & Provine, 1998) to cultural language dynamics. They all assume that language evolution and change are caused by cultural mechanisms such as social transmission and language usage in context.

Read more: Workshop: Language as an Evolutionary System

LSE symposium on Personhood in a Neurobiological Age

An open and free Symposium on Personhood in a Neurobiological Age - Brain, Self and Society, at the LSE, 13 September 2010.

"It seems that we have learned more about the brain in the last decade than over the previous millennia of human history. But to what extent are developments in the 'new brain sciences' leading to a mutation in our understanding of selfhood? Are we in the midst of a move from ‘soul to brain', a radical restructuring of our understanding of human ‘psychology' and the rise of a ‘neuronal self'? If so, in what ways, and with what consequences, for individuals and for society, and for our ways of governing ourselves and others?"

Read more: LSE symposium on Personhood in a Neurobiological Age

Jerry Fodor vs. Elliott Sober on Who Got What Wrong

For those who want more on the topic, here is, at  Blogginghead.tv, a very earnest discussion between Jerry Fodor and Elliott Sober on Fodor and Piatelli-Palmarini's What Darwin Got Wrong.

Workshop: Culture and Cognition in Asia

March 11th – 12th, 2010, National University of Singapore, Asia Research Institute.

Research in both the social and cognitive sciences has increasingly focused on the complex dynamic between cultural meaning and practices with cognitive processes. From the sociology of science to the anthropology of religion, cultural studies have taken a cognitive turn to explore a wide range of topics including distributed cognition in technological systems, memory and religious rituals, and the neuroeconomics of decisions about risk. Cognitive neuroscientists have likewise begun to more closely examine how culture influences cognition in areas such as perception and attention, healing and placebo effects, language processing and speech disorders, and even the psychosomatics of meditation. Emerging out of this multidisciplinary interest in culture and cognition is a new understanding of the plasticity of embodiment that emphasizes change in how cultural practices, human cognition and behavior, and even the natural environment influence each other. Cultural change and neurocognitive plasticity are the result of active human agency rather than purely passive inscription by social, technological, or biological systems.

 

 

Read more: Workshop: Culture and Cognition in Asia

3 Quarks Daily's Arts and Literature Prize: Nicolas Baumard on the universality of music in the competition

The great 3 Quarks Daily blog is holding a competition for the best Arts and Literature blog post and one of Nicolas Baumard's posts on our blog, "The universality of music: Cross-cultural comparison, the recognition of emotions, and the influence of the the Backstreet Boys on a Cockatoo," has been nominated. You have only until Sunday, March 7, 2010 to look here at the various nominees (several of which are quite outstanding, including from a cognition and culture point of view) and to vote for the one you prefer. The three winners will be chosen from a shortlist by Robert Pinsky.

Additional information