Psychology · 6 April 2013 ·
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.
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.
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:
A recent article by Trumble et al. (2012) investigates testosterone levels in the Tsimane, hunter-gatherer society in the Bolivian Amazon. They organised a competitive football match between eight different Tsimane villages (Seriously, how cool is that – organising a football match as part of your research?), tested testosterone levels of the (male) players men before and after a match and compared these to testosterone levels in an age-matched male US sample. The authors have two key-findings: On the one hand, both groups show increased testosterone levels in a competitive football match. On the other hand, baseline testosterone levels are lower in the Tsimane.
The best way to present and argument isn’t always confrontational. Sometimes (or should I say often) it’s better to ask the right questions, so that they can work it out themselves. “When did you decide to become heterosexual?” is one of them. It’s not offensive, direct—and gets people thinking.
This arrived in my inbox today:
Dear Christian Kliesch,
I would like to inform you that your paper “Making sense of syntax – Innate or acquired? Contrasting Universal Grammar with other approaches to language acquisition” has been accepted.
A man and his son were away for a trip. They were driving along the highway when they had a terrible accident. The man was killed outright but the son was alive, although badly injured. The son was rushed to the hospital and was to have an emergency operation. On entering the operating theatre, the surgeon looked at the boy, and said, “I can’t do this operation. This boy is my son.” How can this be?
(Source: Sanford, A. J. (1985). Cognition and cognitive psychology. London:Weidenfeld and Nicolson.)
Psychology · 7 February 2011 ·
It’s already hard to define insanity, but it’s even harder to define what’s sane. What is considered to be sane behaviour in one condition might be considered completely insane in another, but even this depends on the context. If you see an old man crouching crouching and quacking through his garden, it is likely to think that this man must have lost his mind. But when you know that this man was the famous ethologist Konrad Lorenz, trying to imprint a group of ducklings hidden in the grass, you would interpret the actions quite differently (Watzlawick et al., 1967, p. 20). Thus, sanity has a lot to do with the intentions we are trying to attribute to another’s mind: If we can follow them, they are sane, otherwise not.
Brain imaging techniques such as CT, fMRI and EEG have revolutionised psychology. They are indeed exciting technologies that can offer insights into the way our brain works. And thus, scientific columns in newspapers regularly report that a behaviour or perception can be linked to a certain brain area. The idea is that if we know that if a brain area is active during a certain task that is otherwise not, it is involved in the process, or, if a brain area is defective and with it specific cognitive functions, then these are linked, too. But things are not as simple. (They never are) Just because an area is active during a cognitive process does not necessarily tell you what it actually does.
This is a really cool way to illustrate lecture content. This particular talk is by Jeremy Rifkin on the evolution of empathy. You can finde more videos like that on the RSA’s Youtube channel.