Neuroanthropology

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Archive for May, 2010

Student Websites and the Classroom: Anthropology Online

Posted by dlende on May 20, 2010

Over the past year, Eric Lindland has guided his students in creating websites as part of their anthropology coursework. Using Weebly, an easy-to-use platform, these Notre Dame students have shown off their learning online.

In Lindland’s Fall 2009 class, Cultural Difference and Social Change, students who had returned from a significant international experience over the summer came together to process what they had learned. The websites proved central in that process, and also let students show what they had done and what it meant to other students and their families and friends.

Each student designed and built a website devoted to sharing stories, photos, links, and other features of their international experience. Each website also represents each student’s perspective on the privileges and challenges of doing intercultural work, and about the strategies of cooperation and service between Western and non-Western peoples that can improve qualities of life for all involved.

Explore these websites to learn more about the practical, on-the-ground aspects of living and working abroad as a student, and about the larger structural factors that condition the lives of those who share their food, shelter, culture, and hopes with those who choose to become intercultural sojourners.

Brianna Muller’s site Paz, Amor y Justicia covers her work at Familias de Esperanza in Guatemala. Shannon Coyne created Opportunity and Inequality about her time in the village of Putubiw in central Ghana, and drew in comparative experiences in post-Katrina New Orleans.

Lindland’s class Ritual, Sport and Play also created their own websites. Each site “explored some example or facet of these three interrelated genres of human behavior.” The in-depth exploration, which included original research and analysis by the student, ranged from Little League to Party Culture to Soccer and even Yoga.

A great example here is Justin Perez and his site Masculinities at Play: Pickup Basketball at Notre Dame.

In Introduction to Anthropology, the student websites “sought to address a question of anthropological interest that is conducive to both biological and sociocultural inquiry, and present a range of informed responses to that question from the perspective of anthropologists and other theorists of human behavior.”

Topics included Pre-Columbian Transoceanic Travel (not Columbus!), Malaria: Perpetuating the Cycle of Poverty, We Make Faces (on facial expressions cross-culturally), and many more.

Link to student websites for Cultural Difference and Social Change

Link to student websites for Ritual, Sport and Play

Link to student websites for Introduction to Anthropology

Posted in general | 1 Comment »

Community Based Work – Student Posts 2009-2010

Posted by dlende on May 15, 2010

I wanted to provide a handy list of the posts that my Notre Dame students wrote based on their community-based research last fall. Much of this work has built on previous efforts, and you can read about my approach to community-based research (including a fun video!) and find links to published articles and earlier student work in the post Community Based Work and the Importance of Being Integrative.

The Posts

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: Getting Help Early to Feeling Welcomed

Finding a Voice: Establishing a Support Network for HIV+ Women

“We Pregame Harder Than You Party”

Obesity Meets Family Medicine

I also want to include Brandon Sparks’ post on his ethnographic/CBR research in Africa. This piece drew on his senior thesis, which he finished in 2009.

Funerals and Food Coping in Rural Lesotho

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Sin & Sex: Student Posts on Compulsion Spring 2010

Posted by dlende on May 13, 2010

My freshmen students in ANTH 13181 “Compulsion” have now wrapped up their nine posts that range over sin and sex. Here’s the full list of what they wrote. Down below I talk more about the class itself.

Augustine’s Original Sin

Be Afraid, America. Be Very Afraid: The Effect of Negative Media

Stealing Pears: We All Want To, But Why?

The Pitfalls and Pratfalls of Criminals

Psychopathy: Is It In You?

Nature vs. Nurture and Sex: Why the Fight?

Inside the Mind of a Pedophile

Love Is A Process

Attraction

There are all nine. For those of you interested in how to integrate blogging into a class, please see my detailed explanation of how I approach this sort of assignment in last year’s post Culture and Compulsion: Student Posts 2009.

All right, onto ANTH 13181 “Compulsion.” This class was one of Notre Dame’s University Seminars. The university seminars are small classes, capped at 18, for freshmen to gain broad exposure to a certain field through focusing on a specific topic of interest (compulsion, in my case). These classes aim to ground freshmen in university-level writing, critical reading, and discussion. I also had two basic goals for the class, to show how anthropology uses a holistic approach to examine human behavior and to read some great works of literature as anthropologists.

The first half of the class focused on sin. We read Alan Jacobs’ Original Sin: A Cultural History, followed by Saint Augustine’s Confessions and Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment. During the second half we switched to sexuality. We opened with sections from Edward Shorter’s Written in the Flesh: A History of Desire and Anna Clark’s Desire: A History of European Sexuality. Then we read two novels, Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence and Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov. I have attached the Lende Seminar Syllabus 2010 for anyone who is interested.

I had eighteen great students, all freshmen, from a wide variety of backgrounds and intellectual interests. Besides everything they learned, I am proud that we created a space of open discussion together. Believe me, it’s not necessarily easy for 18 and 19 year olds to discuss crime and sex in a classroom setting! But we did it, and did so in an honest and intellectually sophisticated manner. Well, most of the time. Sometimes we just had to laugh at the foibles of human nature, including our own.

I really enjoyed this class, and want to finish up by thanking the students. It was a great class!

Posted in general | 1 Comment »

Attraction

Posted by dlende on May 12, 2010

By Chilinh Nguyen and Greta Hurlbut

“We just had good chemistry,” is a reason often cited as an explanation for why two people find each other attractive. However, it is usually said without realizing that there is truly a science behind attraction. Chemistry can help guide people in finding their mate. For instance, attraction can be analyzed in terms of physical characteristics like smell and body type and how they can indicate potential reproductive success.

Recent research addressed attraction and the smells of various test subjects. In this research, women were exposed to t-shirts worn by various potential mates. They were asked to rate which smell they found most attractive, and the t-shirt each woman rated the highest belonged to the man that had DNA that was most dissimilar to her own (Sexual Attraction 2006).

This attraction to a mate with dissimilar DNA is important, as can be seen when studying the major histocompatibility complex (MHC), a set of genes that determines immunity to pathogens. Children born to couples with the most different MHC had a broader immunity and were healthier (Sexual Attraction 2006). Therefore, it would be ideal to be attracted to the mate with the most dissimilar DNA because this increases the chances of healthier children.

Another feature that determines attractiveness is the waist-to-hip ratio. Studies have generally shown that a low waist-to-hip ratio is considered attractive, with the ideal being about 0.7 (Berngner 2010). The waist-to-hip ratio itself is important because bigger hips are an indicator of fertility and ability to bear children (Carter 2006).

One study was conducted by Dutch psychologist, Karremans, using two identical mannequins that differed only in their waist-to-hip ratios. One had a ratio of 0.7, while the other had a ratio of 0.84. Men who had been blind from birth were asked to touch these mannequins, focusing on the waists and hips. Because they were blind, they were presumably less influenced by factors such as media and societal ideals. They also decided the more attractive mannequin was the one with the waist-to-hip ratio of 0.7. (Berngner 2010)

Other studies have been conducted around the world where men were shown line drawings of women, and again, the ones that were considered most attractive had a lower waist-to-hip ratio of 0.7 (Bergner 2010). These findings help prove the theory that the attractiveness of a female is based a lot on her capacity to be a good mate.

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Posted in general, Relationships, Sex | 9 Comments »

Love Is A Process

Posted by dlende on May 11, 2010

By Bill Nichols & Chris Burke

Love is a process. That is the message that stuck with us after reading the novel Lady Chatterley’s Lover and watching the film Kinsey. Throughout Lady Chatterley’s Lover, the main character, the aristocratic Connie Chatterley, spends her time in relations with three different men, finally settling with the third after gaining more experience about what love is and how it can be expressed.

In Kinsey, the main character, the scientist Alfred Kinsey, presents the country with a new outlook on sex, encouraging and educating people on different ways of expression. Kinsey’s actions within the movie agree with our focus, that the physical side of a relationship matters in the larger picture of love and that love can undergo dramatic changes over time.

Connie Chatterley and Alfred Kinsey’s stories illustrate how love is a process with many facets. These facets include experiences in the physical and emotional sides of relationships, experiences with past lovers and their effect on the present, cheating, and sex as passion of the moment or steady habit.

Love: From Habit to Passion to Habit

Love making, in any form, can change from the passion of the moment to steady habit over the course of time. As presented by D. H. Lawrence in his afterword to Lady Chatterley’s Lover, at times “the act tends to be mechanical” (338). Lawrence described how we can lose interest when sex becomes just another chore instead of viewing it as a passion-filled act between two lovers. From the thrill and satisfaction of losing your virginity to relying on multiple partners outside of your marriage to sustain interest, love can be seen in different forms overtime.

With love as process, partners will learn over time what their relationship needs in order to thrive. Whether in the passion of the moment through sex, or through other ways, love between two people needs to be an active endeavor, not something that becomes mechanical and dull in which all forms of the expression of love are lost.

This article Does Having More Sex – Like Brazilian Health Officials Recommend – Actually Improve Your Health describes the effects of love as an active endeavor. Within the piece Dr. Ian Kerner, a certified clinical sexologist, proclaims, “Sex also strengthens the immune system, help you have a better relationship with your partner, and make you feel more connected with your partner….” From health to connection, sex does matter.

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Posted in general, Relationships, Sex | 6 Comments »

Inside the Mind of a Pedophile

Posted by dlende on May 10, 2010

By Michael Cochran & Meghan Cole

Most people imagine pedophiles as ugly old men dressed in trench coats, hiding in the bushes, waiting to snatch young children off the street. However, recent television shows, such as To Catch a Predator, have exposed pedophiles as local neighbors, trusted friends, clergy, babysitters, teachers, and even family members.

Conceptions about pedophiles have been changing rapidly, and pedophilia has recently become a topic of increased awareness and concern. Not only do television shows expose pedophiles, but there are new sexual offender disclosure laws, websites that track convicted sexual offenders, and more investigations of pedophilia, especially after the sex abuse scandal in the Catholic Church. Yet children still remain vulnerable to sexual offenders regardless of their public façade.

The increasing attention on pedophilia has caused many Americans to question what this disorder entails, its characteristics, and what type of treatment should be sought for abusers. What is pedophilia? Do people choose to be pedophiles or are they born that way? This post will address these questions.

Pedophilia

The American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) defines pedophilia as recurrent sexually arousing fantasies, impulsive desires, or behaviors involving sexual acts with a child and that occur over a period of at least six months. In most cases, the pedophile is at least sixteen years of age and at least five years older than the child. Those who suffer from pedophilia have a compulsion to abuse young children.

Categorizing Pedophiles

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Posted in Brain Mechanisms, general, Sex | 145 Comments »

Proceedings from ASCS 09 Conference online

Posted by gregdowney on May 7, 2010

The Proceedings of the 9th Conference of the Australasian Society for Cognitive Science, held in Sydney last year, are now online for anyone to access. Thanks to the editors, Wayne Christensen, Elizabeth Schier, and John Sutton, for pulling the whole collection together!

I didn’t get to stay for the whole conference because I was running around doing preparation things for the Australian Anthropological Society Conference that we held in December. Nevertheless, I saw some really good papers, and some of the others are especially interesting for those of us interested in neuroanthropology. Please peruse the whole list, but for a discussion of cultural variation in cognition, of special interest might be: Nian Liu’s Tuesday, Threesday, Foursday: Chinese names for the days of the week facilitate Chinese children’s temporal reasoning, Zhengdao Ye’s Eating and drinking in Mandarin and Shanghainese: A lexical-conceptual analysis, Collaborative remembering: When can remembering with others be beneficial? by Celia B. Harris, Paul G. Keil, John Sutton and Amanda J. Barnier, and Expanding expertise: Investigating a musician’s experience of music performance by Andrew Geeves, Doris McIlwain, and John Sutton.

I also like the look of Evaluation of a model of expert decision making in air traffic control, by Stefan Lehmann and colleagues, but I haven’t had the time to really read it (and won’t get time for a few days). Ben Jeffares’ paper was excellent in presentation, but I haven’t yet checked out the written version yet: The evolution of technical competence: strategic and economic thinking.

My paper from the conference, Cultural variation in elite athletes: Does elite cognitive-perceptual skill always converge?, is available as a pdf. I have to admit, it’s a shallower paper than I usually like to present, but I had to cover a LOT of turf, and it’s primarily a proposal for a research program, reviewing the neurological and behavioural places where I expect we might find the clearest evidence of cultural difference in neural dynamics. I’ll take the liberty of reposting the abstract:

Anthropologists have not participated extensively in the cognitive science synthesis for a host of reasons, including internal conflicts in the discipline and profound reservations about the ways that cultural differences have been modeled in psychology, neuroscience, and other contributors to cognitive science. This paper proposes a skills-based model for culture that overcomes some of the problems inherent in the treatment of culture as shared information. Athletes offer excellent cases studies for how skill acquisition, like enculturation, affects the human nervous system. In addition, cultural differences in playing styles of the same sport, such as distinctive ways of playing rugby, demonstrate how varying solution strategies to similar athletic problems produce distinctive skill profiles.

I’d love to hear any responses to the piece. I don’t usually present in cognitive science, as I’m more comfortable in my home discipline of anthropology, working from a pretty solid base of anthropology into the border of brain-culture research, so I’d be interested to learn what scholars situated more confidently in cognitive science think of the piece.

Posted in Cognitive anthropology, Conferences, Embodiment, general, Human variation, Skill acquisition, Sport | 3 Comments »

The Pitfalls and Pratfalls of Criminals

Posted by dlende on May 6, 2010

By Jared Hanstra & Ally Powers

In Colorado Springs, a young man walked into a little corner store with a shotgun and demanded all the cash from the cash drawer. After the cashier put the money in a bag, the robber saw a bottle of scotch that he wanted on a shelf behind the counter. He told the cashier to put that in the bag as well. The cashier refused and said, “I don’t believe you are over 21.”

The robber said he was, but the clerk still refused. At this point the robber took his drivers license out of his wallet and gave it to the clerk. The clerk looked it over, and agreed that the man was in fact over 21. He put the scotch in the bag. The robber then ran from the store with his loot. The cashier promptly called the police and gave them the name and address he got off the license. The police arrested the young man two hours later.

What is it about criminals that leads them to make silly mistakes and get caught? This figure shows the percentage of crimes cleared by arrest for 2004.

Tying into Crime and Punishment

Look at the statistic for murder—62.6% of murderers are caught in the US. While some might say it is all modern forensics, the 19th century novel Crime and Punishment, by Fyodor Dostoevsky, has some profound insights into why criminals, specifically murderers like the main character Raskolnikov, get caught. In Chapter VI of Part One, Dostoevsky writes:

At first—even long before—he had been occupied with one question: why almost all crimes are so easily detected and solved, and why almost all criminals leave such an obviously marked trail. He came gradually to various and curious conclusions, the chief reason lying, in his opinion, not so much in the material impossibility of concealing the crime as in the criminal himself; the criminal himself, almost any criminal, experiences at the moment of the crime a sort of failure of will and reason, which, on the contrary, are replaced by a phenomenal, childish thoughtlessness, just at the moment when reason and prudence are most necessary (Pages 70-71).

In Crime and Punishment, Raskolnikov struggles internally with whether or not to go through with his plan of killing the elderly pawnbroker. He gets sick to his stomach before, during, and after his crime, in addition to losing focus on details and struggling to appear innocent. This example leads us to question whether this is something that occurs to all criminals in the time surrounding a crime, or whether there are some people who are able to commit crimes with absolutely no remorse.

Can There Be Cold-Blooded Killers?

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Posted in general | 2 Comments »

Wednesday Round Up #114

Posted by dlende on May 5, 2010

First off I want to thank my great student assistant Casey Dolezal for all her hard work supporting the Wednesday round-up since last September. She’s been a huge help!

And now onto the news. I’ll start with the good part. I am taking an associate professor position in anthropology at the University of South Florida starting in August. I’m really excited, as I’ll have a wonderful new set of colleagues, graduate students (finally!), and access to great people working in the medicine, public health, and neuroscience. Should be a big benefit for pushing forward with interdisciplinary work of all sorts!

The bad part, at least for you guys, is that I’ve decided to take a hiatus from doing the Wednesday round up until early September. Basically Casey has spoiled me! So now I want to have another student to help out, and that won’t happen for a few months. But it’s also because I have to move to Tampa over the summer, as well as push forward with our volume on neuroanthropology (yes, Greg and I are plugging away on that!) as well as my own book on addiction. That’s an extremely full plate! I’ll still be doing the occasional post, along with Greg and Paul and others, so no worries – there will still be plenty of good content flowing through here.

Top of the List

Palgrave Macmillan, BioSocieties, Special Issue: Drugs, Addiction and Society
An excellent special issue that is entirely free right now! Here is the opening overview “Drugs, Addiction and Society” (pdf) by Deanne Dunbar, Howard Kushner and Scott Vrecko.
Kushner kicks the issue off with “Toward a Cultural Biology of Addiction” and David Courtwright finishes with “The NIDA Brain Disease Paradigm: History, Resistance and Spinoffs.” In between there is neurobiology, history, development, public health, and more!

Vaughan Bell, The Politics of Social Engineering
Politics, social engineering and the use of mimes as a traffic calming measure in Bogotá!

Mara Altman, Rutgers Lab Studies Female Orgasm Through Brain Imaging
This newspaper reporter donates an orgasm for science! A very effective mix of personal experience, reporting, and science writing about neuroimaging and the state of the art in research on orgasms.

Christina Pikas, Review of an Article Using Bibliometric + Qual Methods to Study Sub-Discipline Collaboration Behavior
Pikas reflects on a piece where the authors coalesce network analysis of the co-authorship network with qualitative interviews with the scientists to look at intergroup collaboration, migrations, and exchange of services or samples.

NDtv, James McKenna: The Last Lecture Series
Featuring Professor James McKenna, Professor of Anthropology and the director of the Mother-Baby Behavioral Sleep Lab. As a world-renowned social scientist, a teacher of Irish tap dance, and one of Notre Dame’s most beloved teachers, Professor McKenna has impacted the lives of many. Here he shares his wisdom in an online video.

Power Trip

Ed Yong, Power Breeds Hypocrisy – Powerful People Judge Others More Harshly but Cheat More Themselves
Five experiments show that powerful people are more likely to behave immorally but paradoxically less likely to tolerate immorality in other people.

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Posted in Wednesday Round Up | 4 Comments »

Nature vs. Nurture and Sex: Why the Fight?

Posted by dlende on May 4, 2010

By Mariah Boyd & Emily Spulak

Numerous stereotypes float around about how men and women act toward sex and how they feel in terms of desire:

• Men are more aggressive and women are more passive.
• Men think about sex more, women don’t.
• Men want sex all the time, women don’t.
• When women have numerous sex partners, they are labeled easy or a slut. When men have numerous sex partners, it is often revered, especially among other men.
• Men desire only women and women desire only men

These stereotypes are exploited in the pop culture movie of the 1990’s, Cruel Intentions (the juicy part starts about 1:50 in):

We see these supposed differences play out in our everyday lives, whether they are portrayed through the media or seen in interactions with others. But, do men and women actually differ biologically in terms of how they feel about sexual desire? Or are these stereotypes the products of socially constructed gender roles?

Homosexuality

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Posted in Gender, general, Sex | 3 Comments »

 
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