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- Category: 'Big Gods' book club
- Published on Sunday, 08 December 2013 12:25
- Written by Ara Norenzayan
No evidence of agriculture has been found, which may be explained by the fact that the site dates back about 11,500 years. The monumental architecture of Göbekli is old enough to have been built by hunting and foraging people, but massive enough to require the participation of many hundreds, possibly thousands of them, without the technological advantages of settled agriculture. True, foraging groups, despite their relatively small sizes, are known to vary in scope, densities, and degree of mobility. But what sets Göbekli apart is its scale and religious grandeur, despite its ancient origins. It gives us tantalizing clues that worshippers from the wider region periodically congregated there to worship and perform rituals. It may therefore hold clues to two of the deepest puzzles of human civilization. How did human societies scale up from comparatively small, mobile groups of foragers to massively large societies, even though anonymity is the enemy of cooperation? And how did organized religions with Big Gods – the great polytheistic and monotheistic faiths – culturally spread to colonize most minds in the world?
- Category: Publications
- Published on Thursday, 05 December 2013 14:34
The blurb: It has often been claimed that "monsters"--supernatural creatures with bodies composed from multiple species--play a significant part in the thought and imagery of all people from all times.The Origins of Monsters advances an alternative view. Composite figurations are intriguingly rare and isolated in the art of the prehistoric era. Instead it was with the rise of cities, elites, and cosmopolitan trade networks that "monsters" became widespread features of visual production in the ancient world. Showing how these fantastic images originated and how they were transmitted, David Wengrow identifies patterns in the records of human image-making and embarks on a search for connections between mind and culture.
Wengrow asks: Can cognitive science explain the potency of such images? Does evolutionary psychology hold a key to understanding the transmission of symbols? How is our making and perception of images influenced by institutions and technologies? Wengrow considers the work of art in the first age of mechanical reproduction, which he locates in the Middle East, where urban life began. Comparing the development and spread of fantastic imagery across a range of prehistoric and ancient societies, including Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greece, and China, he explores how the visual imagination has been shaped by a complex mixture of historical and universal factors. Examining the reasons behind the dissemination of monstrous imagery in ancient states and empires,The Origins of Monsters sheds light on the relationship between culture and cognition.
- Category: Publications
- Published on Wednesday, 04 December 2013 11:24
An interesting, methodologically innovative paper by Jamie Terhani in PLoS One on the phylogeny of "Little Red Riding Hood."
Abstract: Researchers have long been fascinated by the strong continuities evident in the oral traditions associated with different cultures. According to the ‘historic-geographic’ school, it is possible to classify similar tales into “international types” and trace them back to their original archetypes. However, critics argue that folktale traditions are fundamentally fluid, and that most international types are artificial constructs. Here, these issues are addressed using phylogenetic methods that were originally developed to reconstruct evolutionary relationships among biological species, and which have been recently applied to a range of cultural phenomena. The study focuses on one of the most debated international types in the literature: ATU 333, ‘Little Red Riding Hood’. A number of variants of ATU 333 have been recorded in European oral traditions, and it has been suggested that the group may include tales from other regions, including Africa and East Asia. However, in many of these cases, it is difficult to differentiate ATU 333 from another widespread international folktale, ATU 123, ‘The Wolf and the Kids’. To shed more light on these relationships, data on 58 folktales were analysed using cladistic, Bayesian and phylogenetic network-based methods. The results demonstrate that, contrary to the claims made by critics of the historic-geographic approach, it is possible to identify ATU 333 and ATU 123 as distinct international types. They further suggest that most of the African tales can be classified as variants of ATU 123, while the East Asian tales probably evolved by blending together elements of both ATU 333 and ATU 123. These findings demonstrate that phylogenetic methods provide a powerful set of tools for testing hypotheses about cross-cultural relationships among folktales, and point towards exciting new directions for research into the transmission and evolution of oral narratives.
- Category: Jobs
- Published on Tuesday, 03 December 2013 08:41
- Written by Gergely Csibra
Call for Registration: iCog inaugural conference "Interdisciplinarity in Cognitive Science", University of Sheffield, 29 November - 1 December
- Category: Events
- Published on Friday, 18 October 2013 17:10
- Written by Ryan P Doran
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.)
- Category: Martin's blog
- Published on Friday, 18 October 2013 10:19
- Written by Martin Stehberger
Should we account for belief in supernatural agents in terms of benefits it might provide to the human believers? Or is it just a by-product of the human cognitive architecture? Perhaps neither. A different perspective, no longer human-centric, shines through in an observation like “admittedly, the Argument from Design must have been quite convincing before Darwin”. We can go farther in this direction.
Full text can be found here. This is the abstract to the second piece:`
Can the root of animism be illustrated as follows? The sun, cliffs, fountains, trees, etc; and in our time the planet Earth as seen in the darkness of space: they have all lasted a long time despite perceived threats to their existence, and are thus attributed a will to survive.
Full text here. What follows now is a shortened and adapted version of the first note.
- Category: Call for Papers
- Published on Monday, 16 September 2013 11:38
The Society for Anthropological Sciences (SAS / SASci) will be holding its 10th annual meeting from March 18 – 22, 2014, in Albuquerque, New Mexico. We invite scholars from any subdiscipline of anthropology, or from allied social sciences, to submit abstracts for papers, posters, or full sessions on any topic in anthropological science, broadly conceived. Deadline: October 15.The Society for Anthropological Sciences, as both an independent organization (SaSci) and a section of the American Anthropological Association (SAS), promotes the scientific understanding of humanity through comparative, cognitive, quantitative, and evolutionary approaches. The Society seeks to fulfill the historic mission of anthropology to describe and explain the range of variation in human biology, society, and culture across time and space.
- Category: Publications
- Published on Wednesday, 28 August 2013 13:05
From the Abstract: Previous work has noted that science stands as an ideological force insofar as the answers it offers to a variety of fundamental questions and concerns; as such, those who pursue scientific inquiry have been shown to be concerned with the moral and social ramifications of their scientific endeavors. No studies to date have directly investigated the links between exposure to science and moral or prosocial behaviors. Across four studies, both naturalistic measures of science exposure and experimental primes of science led to increased adherence to moral norms and more morally normative behaviors across domains....These studies demonstrated the morally normative effects of lay notions of science. Thinking about science leads individuals to endorse more stringent moral norms and exhibit more morally normative behavior. These studies are the first of their kind to systematically and empirically test the relationship between science and morality. The present findings speak to this question and elucidate the value-laden outcomes of the notion of science.
The findings are summarized in a Scientific American presentation: "Just Thinking about Science Triggers Moral Behavior: Just Thinking about Science Triggers Moral Behavior: Psychologists find deep connection between scientific method and morality" by Piercarlo Valdesolo.
Atul Gawande has an interesting article in the New Yorker about the spread of medical innovations. He points out some striking disparities in the speed at which medical innovations spread -- mere months for anesthetics, decades for aseptic surgery. He offers some interesting pointers to understand these disparities. This is a fascinating topic for an epidemiology of representations to tackle (possibly with life-saving practical consequences).
Simultaneously, an article coming out in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings might help explain and justify the slow spread of (some) medical practices. Reviewing 10 years of the New England Journal of Medicine, the authors find that a substantial number of the articles suggest that the current practice is in fact ineffective or even deleterious. In the case of standards of care, more articles reversed the current practices than reafirmed them! Given that the practices reviewed were modern ones, supposedly introduced based on scientific evidence, this might explain some doctors' reluctance to accept new practices sold to them as evidence based.
- Category: Call for Papers
- Published on Friday, 19 July 2013 21:00
- Written by Ryan P Doran
iCog, An interdisciplinary conference for postgraduate and early-career researchers in cognitive science to take place 29 November - 1 December 2013, University of Sheffield. Deadline for submission of abstracts:20 September 2013
Guest speakers will be:
Margaret A Boden (Cognitive Science, Sussex)
Rita Astuti (Anthropology, LSE)
Andy Clark (Philosophy, Edinburgh)
Vyv Evans (Linguistics, Bangor)
Danielle Matthews (Psychology, Sheffield)
Edmund T. Rolls (Oxford Centre for Comutational Neuroscience; Warwick)
- Category: Publications
- Published on Wednesday, 10 July 2013 17:49
In an open access article, "On the antiquity of language: the reinterpretation of Neandertal linguistic capacities and its consequences" published in Frontiers in Language Sciences, that challenges received views on the evolution of language and its time depth, Dan Dediu and Stephen Levinson, both from the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics in Nijmegen argue that the Neandertals had linguistics capacities similar to those of modern humans.
The abstract: "It is usually assumed that modern language is a recent phenomenon, coinciding with the emergence of modern humans themselves. Many assume as well that this is the result of a single, sudden mutation giving rise to the full “modern package.” However, we argue here that recognizably modern language is likely an ancient feature of our genus pre-dating at least the common ancestor of modern humans and Neandertals about half a million years ago. To this end, we adduce a broad range of evidence from linguistics, genetics, paleontology, and archaeology clearly suggesting that Neandertals shared with us something like modern speech and language. This reassessment of the antiquity of modern language, from the usually quoted 50,000–100,000 years to half a million years, has profound consequences for our understanding of our own evolution in general and especially for the sciences of speech and language. As such, it argues against a saltationist scenario for the evolution of language, and toward a gradual process of culture-gene co-evolution extending to the present day. Another consequence is that the present-day linguistic diversity might better reflect the properties of the design space for language and not just the vagaries of history, and could also contain traces of the languages spoken by other human forms such as the Neandertals." (see also the press release at the MPI)
- Morality in cognition and culture: A Cerisy colloquium (4th-11th of September, 2013)
- Special issue of Mind and Society on “Cultural and Cognitive Dimensions of Innovation"
- Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Cognition and Culture
- The 'gratitude trap' where Hungarian patients keep falling
- Two doctoral fellowships in cognition and culture
- Post-doctoral position in: human evolution, economics and politics
- Quantitative history of emotional words in the English language
- Postdoctoral position in Moral Psychology in Paris
- A Brief History of Applause
- International Society for Philosophy, History and Soicial Sciences of Biology