Postdoc for Canadian Citizen in Toronto

Dr Afzal Upal, of Defence Research & Development, Canada-Toronto, informs us: "I am planning to start a 3-year research project on human terrain modeling from April 1, 2011. The basic idea is to study intergroup dynamics by first collecting field data on inter-group perceptions (e.g., Canadian perceptions of Americans and vice versa) and then simulate some aspects of the dynamics of intergroup perceptions in an agent-based society. I feel comfortable with the simulation part but I need help with the social theory building, data collection, and analysis. I think that the most appropriate person would be someone with training in psychology or anthropology, familiar with qualitative techniques, and with some experience of working in the field (as opposed to the lab). I am only allowed to hire a Canadian citizen and only for the duration of the project (although there may be opportunities for further work and a permanent position may open up in the future). The position would require full time presence in suburban Toronto area. Pay is negotiable. Please feel free to forward it to anyone you think may be interested."

In TiCS: Space, Time and Number

Trends in Cognitive Sciences is publishing a special issue on space, time and number with articles by Brian Butterworth, Manuela Piazza, Daniel B.M. Haun and collaborators, and Dori Derdikman and Edvard I. Moser. As Manuella Piazza explains in her article, the field is reap for a very interesting "cognition and culture" debate since there are now several detailed theories about the way number symbols recycle old evolutionary capacities :

"Attaching meaning to arbitrary symbols (i.e. words) is a complex and lengthy process. In the case of numbers, it was previously suggested that this process is grounded on two early pre-verbal systems for numerical quantification: the approximate number system (ANS or 'analogue magnitude'), and the object tracking system (OTS or 'parallel individuation'), which children are equipped with before symbolic learning. Each system is based on dedicated   neural   circuits,   characterized   by   specific computational limits,  and each undergoes  a separate developmental trajectory. Here, I review the available cognitive and neuroscientific data and argue that the available evidence is more consistent with a crucial role for the ANS, rather than for the OTS, in the acquisition of abstract numerical concepts that are uniquely human."

The same topic is of course discussed at length in Susan Carey's recent major book The origin of concepts.

Workshop on the Social Brain (Cambridge, April 2011)

Social_BrainThe MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit (Cambridge, England) is organising a worshop on "The Social Brain: Evolution, development, psychopathology and future directions" (Scientific Organisers: Dr Dean Mobbs, Prof. Trevor Robbins, and Prof. Ian Goodyer) on the 12th and 13th April, 2011. Application Deadline: 15th January, 2011. The aim: The aim of this workshop is to provide audience members with state of the art coverage of social neuroscience and make translational and theoretical connections between human brainimaging, comparative research, and neuropsychiatric disorders. We aim to keep the workshop small and extremely interactive.

Faculty: Ernst Fehr, Chris Frith, Uta Frith, Nicky Clayton, Robin Dunbar, Molly Crockett, Ben Seymour, Matt Lieberman, Jason Mitchell, Nikolaus Steinbeis, Sarah-Jayne Blakemore, Matthew Rushworth, John O'Doherty, Brian Knutson, Henrik Ehrsson, Tania Singer, Wako Yoshida, Nick Humphrey, Predrag Petrovic, Cindy Hagan, and Simon Baron-Cohen.

Read more: Workshop on the Social Brain (Cambridge, April 2011)

Special issue of Mind and Society on experimental economics


Note the Special issue of Mind and Society on "Experimental economics and the social embedding of economic behavior and cognition". Here is the abstract of the introductory article, "The implication of social cognition for experimental economics" by Christophe Heintz and Nicholas Bardsley: "Can human social cognitive processes and social motives be grasped by the methods of experimental economics? Experimental studies of strategic cognition and social preferences contribute to our understanding of the social aspects of economic decisions making. Yet, papers in this issue argue that the social aspects of decision-making introduce several difficulties for interpreting the results of economic experiments. In particular, the laboratory is itself a social context, and in many respects a rather distinctive one, which raises questions of external validity."

The Table of Content:

Read more: Special issue of Mind and Society on experimental economics

Society for Psychological Anthropology Meetings, April 2011

The Society for Psychological Anthropology Biennial Meetings will take place in Santa Monica, CA March 31-April 3, 2011. The theme: "Subjects and Their Milieux in Late Modernity: The Relevance of Psychological Anthropology to Contemporary Problems and Issues" : "In this conference, we continue to innovate within psychological anthropology and reach across subdisciplinary and disciplinary boundaries to explore new areas of practice and theory for the second decade of the 21st century. ... We will focus especially on the relevance of psychological anthropology to problems and issues in the contemporary world--from changing families, workplaces and local communities to religious groups, professions, and transnational institutions like consumer capitalism, world religions, and NGOs. ... Examples of possible panels and papers are ones on child and adolescent development; overlaps between psychological and medical anthropology; transforming perspectives on family, gender, and sexuality; memory and trauma; narrative and identity in institutional contexts; and rethinking theories and research strategies to explore new forms of communication, communities, and being alone. ...Both individual papers (15 minutes) and full panels (1 hour and 45 minutes) are welcome. Younger scholars are particularly encouraged to suggest panel, paper, or discussion group topics."

The deadline for submitting panel and paper proposals is December 1, 2010. More here.

Which network structures favor the rapid spread of new ideas, behaviors, or technologies?

Forthcoming in PNAS, an article entitled "The spread of innovations in social networks" by Andrea Montanari and Amin Saberi (full text available here).

Abstract : Which network structures favor the rapid spread of new ideas, behaviors, or technologies? This question has been studied extensively using epidemic models. Here we consider a complementary point of view and consider scenarios where the individuals' behavior is the result of a strategic choice among competing alternatives. In particular, we study models that are based on the dynamics of coordination games. Classical results in game theory studying this model provide a simple condition for a new action or innovation to become widespread in the network. The present paper characterizes the rate of convergence as a function of the structure of the interaction network. The resulting predictions differ strongly from the ones provided by epidemic models. In particular, it appears that innovation spreads much more slowly on well-connected network structures dominated by long-range links than in low-dimensional ones dominated, for example, by geographic proximity.

Discovery in the social sciences

A workshop on "Discovery in the social sciences: Towards an empirically-informed philosophy of social science" will take place at the University of Leuven, Belgium, March 22-23, 2011. The aim of this workshop is to bring together scholars who are working in the philosophy of the social sciences, especially those interested in scientific practice. The theme is discovery in the social sciences. The keynote speakers are Alison Wylie (University of Washington) and Jack Vromen (Erasmus University Rotterdam). We invite submissions of extended abstracts (about 1000 words), and we are especially eager to hear from young researchers. Submission deadline for abstracts: 31 December, 2010. Here is the workshop's website.

Read more: Discovery in the social sciences

Temporary Lecturer in Cognition and Culture

Available from 1 February 2011 to 31 August 2012 at Queen's University Belfast - School of History and Anthropology, a Temporary Lectureship in Cognition and Culture to cover a career break, to teach at undergraduate and postgraduate levels, to assist primarily in the current research activities of the Institute of Cognition and Culture, and to undertake research in line with the School's research strategy.

Anticipated interview date: Tuesday 21 December 2010. Closing date: Monday 6 December 2010.

Read more: Temporary Lecturer in Cognition and Culture

New book: Human evolution and the origin of hierarchies

Philosopher Benoît Dubreuil just published a book at Cambridge University Press: Human evolution and the origins of hierarchies: the state of nature. Based on his dissertation, the book promises to shed fresh light on key anthropological issues, such as social evolution or the origins of the state. Benoît Dubreuil, ICCI fellow, studies philosophy of science and moral philosophy at the Université du Québec à Montréal.

The book on Cambridge UP's site.

Benoît Bubreuil's website.

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!


Why the West Rules--For Now


Ian Morris, a Stanford historian, has just published a new sweeping history of humanity. In Why the  West Rules--For Now, he builds a theory of the evolution of human societies and tries to explain why the East and the West have been swapping seats for millennia in world domination. The beginning is very promising, and fans of Diamond's Guns, Germs and Steel and Landes' The Wealth and Poverty of Nations are likely to appreciate Morris' verve and breadth of knowledge. 

Social interaction in utero?

Fascinating findings by Umberto Castiello, Cristina Becchio, Stefania Zoia,Cristian Nelini, Luisa Sartori, Laura Blason, Giuseppina D'Ottavio, Maria Bulgheroni, and  Vittorio Gallese in an article entitled: "Wired to Be Social: The Ontogeny of Human Interaction" freely available at PLOS One here.


Left: self-directed movement towards the mouth  Right: the foetus "caressing" the head of the sibling.

Abstract: Newborns come into the world wired to socially interact. Is a propensity to socially oriented action already present before birth? Twin pregnancies provide a unique opportunity to investigate the social pre-wiring hypothesis. Although various types of inter-twins contact have been demonstrated starting from the 11th week of gestation, no study has so far investigated the critical question whether intra-pair contact is the result of motor planning rather then the accidental outcome of spatial proximity. ...Kinematic profiles of movements in five pairs of twin foetuses were studied by using four-dimensional ultrasonography during two separate recording sessions carried out at the 14th and 18th week of gestation. We demonstrate that by the 14th week of gestation twin foetuses do not only display movements directed towards the uterine wall and self-directed movements, but also movements specifically aimed at the co-twin, the proportion of which increases between the 14thand 18th gestational week. ...We conclude that performance of movements towards the co-twin is not accidental: already starting from the 14th week of gestation twin foetuses execute movements specifically aimed at the co-twin.

Josh Knobe and Lera Boroditsky debate on language and thought

You have watched Lera Boroditsky's LSE-ICCI lecture. Here you can see her debating with Josh Knobe:


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Poetic rhyme reflects cross-linguistic differences in information structure

An interesting article in the last issue of Cognition suggesting how cognitive differences in language processsing can influence literary tradition. Michael Wagner (McGill) and Katherine McCurdy (Harvard) show that cross-linguistic differences in information structure can explain divergence in French and English poetic tradition (preprint available here).

Abstract: Identical rhymes (right/write, attire/retire) are considered satisfactory and even artistic in French poetry but are considered unsatisfactory in English. This has been a consistent generalization over the course of centuries, a surprising fact given that other aspects of poetic form in French were happily applied in English. This paper puts forward the hypothesis that this difference is not merely one of poetic tradition, but is grounded in the distinct ways in which information-structure affects prosody in the two languages. A study of rhyme usage in poetry and a perception experiment confirm that native speakers' intuitions about rhyming in the two languages indeed differ, and a further perception experiment supports the hypothesis that this fact is due to a constraint on prosody that is active in English but not in French. The findings suggest that certain forms of artistic expression in poetry are influenced, and even constrained, by more general properties of a language.

Is philosophy universal?

Justin Erik Halldor Smith has won this year's 3 Quarks Daily 2010 top philosophy prize with a post on his blog entitled  "More on Non-Western Philosophy (the Very Idea)". This provocative essay is of clear cognition-and-culture relevance. It begins:

Roughly speaking, we might conceptualize the attainments of a given culture as falling into two broad categories. On the one hand, there are things like wagons, gunpowder, and telephony: cultural attainments that, once they have caught on in one society, they cannot but spread to all societies that have the means of acquiring them. There is nothing, for example, intrinsically Chinese about printing. These are things that do not have any special relationship to the context of their origin. On the other hand, there are things like the Pythagorean chromatic scale as opposed to the Indian sargam, or the unicorn motif in Indo-European art: innovations of culture that do not automatically result in global diffusion, since they are only variations on a fixed range of possibilities for the expression of elements of culture --in this instance, music and figurative art-- that are in some form always already there in every culture. In general, inventions diffuse, motifs do not (unless the motifs are from a higher-status conquering elite, which explains in part the abundance of copyright-infringing knock-offs of Disney characters in the developing world...). What sort of innovation is philosophy?

To read more

Nick Enfield reviews Searle and Runciman

In the Times Literary Suppement, September 3, 2010, 3-4, an interesting review (available here)  by Nick Enfield of Making the social world by John Searle and The theory of social and cultural selection by W.G. Runciman.

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From Gérard Lampin's L'idiot (1946 - with Gérard Philippe and Edwidge Feuillère - in French)

The review begins:

"In a characteristically riotous scene from The Idiot, Dostoyevksy's chaotic anti-heroine Nastasya Filipovna takes a package of 100,000 roubles brought to her by lovelorn admirer Rogozhin and throws it into the fire to burn. She is using this gift from one suitor as a weapon against another—the ambitious Ganya—whom she publicly taunts to reach in barehanded and remove the burning bills. Mayhem ensues. By what magic does the burning of paper evoke emotions from bewilderment to horror to panic? When that paper happens to be money we catch full view of a curious dual reality that characterizes human affairs. There is a realm of facts that do not follow from physical reality, that inescapable world in which slips of paper are worthless other than as fire starters or snack food for goats. Our trick is the creation of what philosopher John Searle calls institutional reality, a uniquely human reality in which those otherwise ineffectual slips of paper are readily accepted in exchange for valuable goods and services, based on a virtually unshakeable sense of trust that someone else will later accept the same slips of paper in turn. In Making the Social World, Searle asks how human institutional reality is possible. His considered opinion is that language carries the entire load."

To

Pragmatics of religious transmission

At the 10th international SIEF (Societé Internationale d´Ethnologie et de Folklore) Congress,  "People make places - ways of feeling the world" to take palce in Lisbon, 17 to 21 April 2011, a call for papers (deadline: October 15) on "The pragmatics of religious transmission: contexts, case studies and theoretical departures" for a panel convened by Ruy Blanes (University of Lisbon), Vlad Naumescu (Central European University), and Arnaud Halloy (Université de Nice Sophia Antipolis): 

"The issue of religious transmission and learning has become a thriving topic in the contemporary anthropology of religion. Driven by the creative tension between cognitive and culturalist approaches it prompts interesting debates and exchanges, and the exploration of new methodological and heuristic paths addressing the problem of transmission.

In this panel we invite our colleagues to explore pragmatic contexts of religious transmission: the complex of communicational and active conditions that affect (through perception, cognition, emotion, interaction and materiality) individuals engaged in religious action. From this perspective, religious transmission operates through both implicit and explicit regimes. It can take complex and defined forms in ritual contexts, but it can also impregnate various contexts of the quotidian through different dimensions and agencies: discipline, imagination or aesthetics. Taking these as fundamental dimensions of religious transmission, we invite participants to reflect on their articulation in concrete ethnographic cases."

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.

Distress, culture and gene expression

An interesting paper forthcoming in PNAS showing how cultures may favour different expressions of the same gene: "Culture, distress, and oxytocin receptor polymorphism (OXTR) interact to influence emotional support seeking" by Heejung S. Kim, David K. Sherman, Joni Y. Sasaki, Jun Xu,Thai Q. Chu, Chorong Ryu, Eunkook M. Suh, Kelsey Graham, and Shelley E. Taylor.

Abstract: Research has demonstrated that certain genotypes are expressed in different forms, depending on input from the social environment. To examine sensitivity to cultural norms regarding emotional support seeking as a type of social environment, we explored the behavioral expression of oxytocin receptor polymorphism (OXTR) rs53576, a gene previously related to socio-emotional sensitivity. Seeking emotional support in times of distress is normative in American culture but not in Korean culture. Consequently, we predicted a three-way interaction of culture, distress, and OXTR genotype on emotional support seeking. Korean and American participants (n = 274) completed assessments of psychological distress and emotional support seeking and were genotyped forOXTR. We found the predicted three-way interaction: among distressed American participants, those with the GG/AG genotypes reported seeking more emotional social support, compared with those with the AA genotype, whereas Korean participants did not differ significantly by genotype; under conditions of low distress, OXTR groups did not differ significantly in either cultural group. These findings suggest that OXTR rs53576 is sensitive to input from the social environment, specifically cultural norms regarding emotional social support seeking. These findings also indicate that psychological distress and culture are important moderators that shape behavioral outcomes associated with OXTRgenotypes.

Laurie Santos on monkeynomics

An interesting TED talk: Laurie Santos looks for the roots of human irrationality by watching the way our primate relatives make decisions. A clever series of experiments in "monkeynomics" shows that some of the silly choices we make, monkeys make too.

The Zeus Problem

Forthcoming in the Journal of Cognition and Culture and available here, an article by Will M. Gervais and Joseph Henrich, "The Zeus Problem: Why Representational Content Biases Cannot Explain Faith in Gods" that deserves being read and discussed.

Abstract: In a recent article, Barrett (2008) argued that a collection of five representational content features can explain both why people believe in God and why people do not believe in Santa Claus or Mickey Mouse. In this model—and within the cognitive science of religion as a whole—it is argued that representational content biases are central to belief. In the present paper, we challenge the notion that representational content biases can explain the epidemiology of belief. Instead, we propose that representational content biases might explain why some concepts become widespread, but that context biases in cultural transmission are necessary to explain why people come to believe in some counterintuitive agents rather than others. Many supernatural agents, including those worshipped by other cultural groups, meet Barret’s criteria. Nevertheless, people do not come to believe in the gods of their neighbors. This raises a new challenge for the cognitive science of religion: the Zeus Problem. Zeus contains all of the features of successful gods, and was once a target for widespread belief, worship, and commitment. But Zeus is no longer a target for widespread belief and commitment, despite having the requisite content to fulfill Barret’s criteria. We analyze Santa Claus, God, and Zeus with both content and context biases, finding that context—not content—explains belief. We argue that a successful cognitive science of religious belief needs to move beyond simplistic notions of cultural evolution that only include representational content biases.

Evolved dispositions and cultural norms. A discussion in Science

In March, Science published a research article by Joe Henrich et al. ("Market, Religion, Community Size and the Evolution of Fairness and Punishment") showing that market integration and participation in world religion covary with fairness (an article that Nicolas Baumard discussed here). This week Science (23 July 2010: 388-390)  publishes two letters discussing Henrich et al's article, and in particular the relative role of evolved disposition and cultural norms in explaining these finding, one by Nicolas Baumard, Pascal Boyer and Dan Sperber, and the other by Andrew Delton, Max Krasnow, Leda Cosmides, and John Tooby, together with a reply from the authors.

Moral camouflage or moral monkeys?

An interesting short essay by Peter Railton on the authenticity of morality from an evolutionary point of view available here and open to discussion here with already some interesting contributions e.g. by Bill Benzon, Frans de Waal or Sally Haslanger. Railton argues:

"A picture thus emerges of selection for “proximal psychological mechanisms”— for example, individual dispositions like parental devotion, loyalty to family, trust and commitment among partners, generosity and gratitude among friends, courage in the face of enemies, intolerance of cheaters — that make individuals into good vehicles, from the gene’s standpoint, for promoting the “distal goal” of enhanced inclusive fitness."

See also PeterRailton's discussion with Robert Wright on "Evolutionary Psychology and Moral Thinking" at

The Price of Altruism

A new biography of the theorical biologist George Price by Oren Harman that situates Price's contribution in the history of biological ideas about altruism from Darwin and Kropotkin to Hamilton and Maynard-Smith has received raving reviews (here is Frans de Waal's in the New York Times).

From the blurb of The Price of Altruism: George Price and the Search for the Origins of Kindness (Norton 2010):  "Since the dawn of time man has contemplated the mystery of altruism, but it was Darwin who posed the question most starkly. From the selfless ant to the stinging bee to the man laying down his life for a stranger, evolution has yielded a goodness that in theory should never be. Set against the sweeping tale of 150 years of scientific attempts to explain kindness, The Price of Altruism tells for the first time the moving story of the eccentric American genius George Price (1922–1975), as he strives to answer evolution's greatest riddle. An original and penetrating picture of twentieth century thought, it is also a deeply personal journey. From the heights of the Manhattan Project to the inspired equation that explains altruism to the depths of homelessness and despair, Price's life embodies the paradoxes of Darwin’s enigma. His tragic suicide in a squatter’s flat, among the vagabonds to whom he gave all his possessions, provides the ultimate contemplation on the possibility of genuine benevolence." (Watch Oren Harman talk about his book here).

Joint Action: What is Shared

Special issue of the Review of Philosophy and Psychology on "Joint Action: What is Shared?" Guest Editors: Natalie Sebanz & Stephen Butterfill.  Call for papers. Deadline for submissions: 15 August 2010.

Researchers have appealed to many kinds of sharing in explaining or characterising joint action.  Joint actions are variously said to involve shared intentions or goals, shared task representations, shared attention, shared common ground, and more.  Each putative case of sharing raises numerous questions.  Is talk of sharing in this context literal or metaphorical; and if metaphorical, how is the metaphor to be understood?  Is such sharing constitutively necessary for joint action?  What cognitive and conceptual demands does such sharing place on the agents?  How does such sharing facilitate joint action?  How does it develop?  What is its role in development?  What awareness of other agents of a joint action, if any, does such sharing require?  In what ways is such sharing apparent to us when we perceive or recognise joint actions done by others?  Further questions concern interactions and conceptual relations between the different kinds of sharing.  Do shared intentions interact with shared task representations?  How many kinds of sharing are involved in joint action—are intentions shared in the same sense that task representations are, for instance?  This special issue of the Review of Philosophy and Psychology aims to address questions such as these with contributions from social, cognitive and developmental psychology, cognitive neuroscience and philosophy.

Read more: Joint Action: What is Shared

The weirdest people in the world?

In a forthcoming issue of Brain and Behavioral Sciences, anthropologist Joe Henrich, and psychologists Steven Heine, and Ara Norenzayan review the available database of comparative social and behavioral science studies (here are Science's and Nature's comments). They found that people from Western, educated, industrialized, rich and democratic (WEIRD) societies — who represent as much as 80 percent of study participants, but only 12 percent of the world’s population — are not only unrepresentative of humans as a species, but on many measures, they’re outliers.

Abstract below the fold.

Read more: The weirdest people in the world?

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"

CFP : Conference on cognitive development, Central European University, Budapest

Invited Speakers : Ellen Markman (Stanford University), Josep Call (MPI EVA, Leipzig), and the hosts: György Gergely & Gergely Csibra (CEU)

The conference will be held on January 14-15, 2011. Deadline for symposia: 10th September, 2010, Deadline for posters: 10th October, 2010. Call for symposium and poster submissions - Official website.

Read more: CFP : Conference on cognitive development, Central European University, Budapest

A psychological theory of human tool use

An interesting and ambitious article by François Osiurak, Christophe Jarry,and Didier Le Gall: "Grasping the affordances, understanding the reasoning: toward a dialectical theory of human tool use" in Psychological Review, (2010 -117(2):517-40) freely available here.

Abstract: One of the most exciting issues in psychology is what are the psychological mechanisms underlying human tool use? The computational approach assumes that the use of a tool (e.g., a hammer) requires the extraction of sensory information about object properties (heavy, rigid), which can then be translated into appropriate motor outputs (grasping, hammering). The ecological approach suggests that we do not perceive the properties of tools per se but what they afford (a heavy, rigid object affords pounding). This is the theory of affordances. In this article, we examine the potential of the computational view and the ecological view to account for human tool use. To anticipate our conclusions, neither of these approaches is likely to be satisfactory, notably because of their incapacity to resolve the issue of why humans spontaneously use tools. In response, we offer an original theoretical framework based on the idea that affordance perception and technical reasoning work together in a
dialectical way. The thesis we defend here is that humans have the ability to view body action as a problem to be solved. And it is precisely at this point that technical reasoning occurs. But, even if the ability to do technical reasoning gives humans the illusion of constantly doing less (e.g., TV remote control), they are still forced to use body action – and to perceive affordances – to operate the product of the reasoning (pushing buttons with the fingers). This is the principle of dialectic.

The self in 'face' and 'dignity' cultures

Two interesting articles by Young-Hoon Kim and Dov Cohen: "Information, Perspective, and Judgement about the Self in Face and Dignity Cultures"  in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin (2010 36: 537-550) here; and, with Wing-Tung Au: "The jury and abjury of my peers: The self in face and dignity cultures" in  the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, (Vol 98(6), Jun 2010, 904-916) here. The latter begins:

"There are two ways to know the self: from the inside and from the outside. In all cultures, people know themselves from both directions. People make judgments about themselves from what they “know” about themselves, and they absorb the judgments of other people so that the judgments become their own. The process is one of constant flow, but there is variation, from both person to person and culture to culture, in which direction takes precedence. In this article, we outline the way face cultures tend to give priority to knowing oneself from the outside, whereas dignity cultures tend to give priority to knowing the self from the inside and may resist allowing the self to be defined by others. We first distinguish between face cultures and dignity cultures, describing the cultural logics of each and how these lead to distinctive ways in which the self is defined and constructed. We discuss the differing roles of public (vs. private) information in the two cultures, noting the way that such public information becomes absorbed into the definition of face culture participants and the way that it can become something to struggle against among dignity culture participants—even when it might reflect positively on the participant. Finally, we describe three cross-cultural experiments in which the phenomena is examined and then close with a discussion of the different ways our selves are “knotted” up with the judgments of other people."

Pinker on Mind and Media

In a New York Times  op-ed entitled "Mind over Mass Media", Steven Pinker (June, 10, 2010) challenges persistent clichés. It  begins:

"New forms of media have always caused moral panics: the printing press, newspapers, paperbacks and television were all once denounced as threats to their consumers’ brainpower and moral fiber. So too with electronic technologies. PowerPoint, we’re told, is reducing discourse to bullet points. Search engines lower our intelligence, encouraging us to skim on the surface of knowledge rather than dive to its depths. Twitter is shrinking our attention spans. But such panics often fail basic reality checks. When comic books were accused of turning juveniles into delinquents in the 1950s, crime was falling to record lows, just as the denunciations of video games in the 1990s coincided with the great American crime decline. The decades of television, transistor radios and rock videos were also decades in which I.Q. scores rose continuously." To read more...

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