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Psychology Evolution · 22 February 2017, 15:38 ·

You’re clever for your kids’ sake: A feedback loop between intelligence and early births

The gap between our cognitive skills and that of our closest evolutionary ancestors is quite astonishing. Within a relatively short evolutionary time frame humans developed a wide range of cognitive abilities and bodies that are very different to other primates and animals. Many of these differences appear to be related to each other. A recent paper by Piantadosi and Kidd argues that human intelligence originates in human infants’ restriction of their birth size, leading to premature births and long weaning times that require intensive and intelligent care. This is an interesting hypothesis that links the ontogeny of the body with cognition.

Read the full article over at Replicated Typo

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Language Psychology · 15 June 2016, 20:40 ·

I know (1) that you think (2) it’s funny, and you know (3) that I know (4) that, too.

A large part of human humour depends on understanding that the intention of the person telling the joke might be different to what they are actually saying. The person needs to tell the joke so that you understand that they’re telling a joke, so they need to to know that you know that they do not intend to convey the meaning they are about to utter… Things get even more complicated when we are telling each other jokes that involve other people having thoughts and beliefs about other people. We call this knowledge nested intentions, or recursive mental attributions. We can already see, based on my complicated description, that this is a serious matter and requires scientific investigation. Fortunately, a recent paper by Dunbar, Launaway and Curry (2015) investigated whether the structure of jokes is restricted by the amount of nested intentions required to understand the joke and they make a couple of interesting predictions on the mental processing that is involved in processing humour, and how these should be reflected in the structure and funniness of jokes. In today’s blogpost I want to discuss the paper’s methodology and some of its claims.

Read the full article over at Replicated Typo

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Language Psychology · 12 October 2015, 11:57 ·

Posture helps robots learn words, and infants, too!

What kind of information do children and infants take into account when learning new words? And to what extent do they need to rely on interpreting a speakers intention to extract meaning? A paper by Morse, Cangelosi and Smith (2015), published in PLoS One, suggests that bodily states such as body posture might be used by infants to acquire word meanings in the absence of the object named. To test their hypothesis, the authors ran a series of experiments using a word learning task with infants—but also a self-learning robot, the iCub.

Read the full article over at Replicated Typo.

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German Politics · 3 October 2015, 18:14 ·

Twenty-five years of a reunited Germany

On the 3rd of October, twenty five years ago, Germany was no longer a divided country. I was not quite three years old, but the fall of the wall and the reunification meant that my life would take a very different turn and I sometimes wonder what my life would have been like if it didn’t happen. Time for a brief reflection and some historical documents.

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Music · 4 September 2013, 20:40 ·

Say goodbye to the city

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Psychology · 6 April 2013, 01:39 ·

Sticking the tongue out: Early imitation in infants

The nativism-empiricism debate haunts the fields of language acquisition and evolution on more than just one level. How much of children’s social and cognitive abilities have to be present at birth, what is acquired through experience, and therefore malleable? Classically, this debate resolves around the poverty of stimulus. How much does a child have to take for granted in her environment, how much can she learn from the input?

Research into imitation has its own version of the poverty of stimulus, the correspondence problem. The correspondence problem can be summed up as follows: when you are imitating someone, you need to know which parts of your body map onto the body of the person you’re trying to imitate. If they wiggle their finger, you can establish correspondence by noticing that your hand looks similar to theirs, and that you can do the same movement with it, too. But this is much trickier with parts of your body that are out of your sight. If you want to imitate someone sticking their tongue out, you first have to realise that you have a tongue, too, and how you can move it in such a way that it matches your partner’s movements.

Read the full article over at Replicated Typo.

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Psychology Politics · 2 April 2013, 22:10 ·

Gender biases on the job market in academia: There are already quotas, but they are implicit

The issue of supporting quotas for supporting women in board room positions and academia are highly contested: Is it really fair that women receive extra support through guaranteed quotas during the application process? Does this not bias the employment process, whereas less qualified personnel was employed? In a blog post over at the LSE’s Engenderings, Linnea Sandström has made a case in favour of quotas, and I want to present some research here that suggests that there is already an implicit selection process favouring one sex over the other—only that it works in favour of men, and that this imbalance is not just attributable to life style choices. Rather, there is a bias direct against female applicants, even when the information about the applicant is the same. Therefore, quotas are about balancing an already existing bias, rather than introducing a new one.

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Tech-stuff Science · 24 February 2013, 23:19 ·

Why do journals provide broken BibTeX files?

I have already written about my love for BibTeX and BibDesk for referencing. One of the best things about it is that you can often fetch bibliographic information straight from the journal’s websites, Google Scholar or other sources.

However, whilst this is great most of the time, there are many cases where journals are delivering broken BibTeX that BibDesk cannot parse, or that are just not well formed. What’s following is a brief rant on journal’s low quality BibTeX download and a few general observations.

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Politics Philosophy · 5 February 2013, 14:47 ·

Pettit on the relationship between the market and the state

On the Politics in Spires blog, Philip Pettit has published an excellent piece on a republican[1] perspective on democracy, freedom and the markets. In his article, there’s one point that’s particularly notable in my opinion: He argues that the markets should not be taken as an independent entity, but are a socio-political construct, determined not only by the actions of individual market participants, but by the social structure.

“[W]e can avoid being seduced into the libertarian view — now, alas, almost an orthodoxy — that the market is a relatively autonomous sphere which depends only contingently on the framework of custom and law, and on the role of the state in supporting that framework. The role of the state in relation to the market — the role of the community, operating through the state — is constitutive and not just regulative, enabling and not just constraining. And it is extensive in even a greater measure than my five sets of rules suggest, since it also includes providing for the infrastructure of education, communication, transport and insurance that any contemporary economy requires.”

I think that this is an essential point to make: Any riches, and any losses in property are the consequence of a particular status quo and the current social order, as determined by the rules and regulations in a society. Let me elaborate:

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Evolution Psychology · 4 May 2012, 19:00 ·

Presenting at the LEL Postgraduate conference: Implicit and Explicit Iterative Mindreading

I will present a paper on my dissertation topic, iterative mind-reading, at this year’s LEL postgraduate conference. This work is based on a collaboration with Cathleen O’Grady, under the supervision of Kenny Smith and Thom Scott-Phillips.

You can find the abstract here:

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