Wednesday Round Up #44

This week we cover the Human Terrain System and a great new site for bloggers, plus the usual favorites, brain, and anthropology. Happy New Year to everyone!

Top of the List

Vaughan Bell, Voodoo Correlations in Social Brain Studies
Correlations too good to be true between brain activity and social behavior and perception. Mind Hacks calls this statistical debunking a “bombshell of a paper.”

Maximilian Forte, The Two Terrors of 2008: End of Year Post
Open Anthropology wraps up the year with a meditation on terror and trust, and brings us the Italian Nobel Laureate Dario Fo. He highlights many posts from the past month there, including this powerful one on “uncertainty” and governance as reflected through Christmas-time messages.

Once Upon a Time an Anthropologist Wrote, Banking on Education
Pedagogy of the Oppressed meets social networking, or why students are passive, waiting to receive the next deposit of knowledge

La Guayabita, “Capt. Nemo”: Ghettotech Designer of Colombian Homemade Drug Subs
Local ingenuity and a great photo. Resistance and profit undermine the drug war’s hoped-for panopticon.

Human Terrain System

David Price, The Leaky Ship of Human Terrain Systems
One of the main critics of HTS makes his argument

Mind Hacks, The Human Terrain System, 1867
The Russian army, social scientists, and the invasion of Turkestan 140 years ago

Nathan Hodge, A Closer Look at the Pentagon’s ‘Minerva Initiative’
Wired covers which projects the Pentagon funded in the first round of funding awards for social science on “key strategic issues”


Mapping the Internet’s content onto a global map, with a focus on people blogging in different places of the world. You can zoom in on areas that interest you, and add your own blog too.

Farhad Manjoo, How to Blog
Advice over at Slate. Pretty basic but some solid principles nonetheless.

Daniel Sorid, Writing the Web’s Future in Numerous Languages
Building the world wide web in languages other than English, and the technology, blogging and content therein


Jennifer Viegas, How Visiting Your Family Warps Your Brain
Differing neural processing of relatives and self versus strangers.

V.S. Ramachandran, Self-Awareness: The Last Frontier
Sense of self as a more concrete problem than consciousness. For a critical read, head over to Mind Hacks.

Neurochannels, Consciousness (3): Mr. B’s First Look at Consciousness
The third in an interesting series on how a biologist would approach the study of consciousness, and some of the problematic assumptions and methods therein

Lisa Leff, Study: Family Behavior Key to Health of Gay Youth
The meaning and violence of family reactions play themselves out long-term – negative feedback and depression, drug use, and suicide


Olivier Morin, Cartoon Faces
“popular cartoon faces seem popular to us not because they are particularly neotenic – many of them are not – but because they are transparent, which makes it easier to project our mental states on them.” Plus some good discussion in the comments.

Putting Stuff Together, Awareness Means Nothing
The 50 youth marketing trends 2009 – shock and awe rather than relevance

Adam Cohen, Four Decades After Milgram, We’re Still Willing to Inflict Pain
The latest research – blind obedience and hurting others. Milgram’s work replicated today. Includes this interesting passage, “Professor [Jerry] Burger was not surprised. He believes that the mindset of the individual participant — including cultural influences — is less important than the ‘situational features’ that Professor Milgram shrewdly built into his experiment. These include having the authority figure take responsibility for the decision to administer the shock, and having the participant increase the voltage gradually. It is hard to say no to administering a 195-volt shock when you have just given a 180-volt shock.”

5 thoughts on “Wednesday Round Up #44

  1. Thanks for the link and the other interesting ones as well.

    I need to ask your opinion about a comment posted on my blog by a psychologist, talking about the effects of fear on the brain. Since I know next to nothing about this, can you tell me if you find it plausible? It is at:

    I was going to put this up on the front page, but not if it turns out to be unsupported or just widely contested.

  2. Just left you a comment, Max, drawing attention to a couple posts on stress and the brain:

    But I actually wanted to follow-up with your post on uncertainty and the Milgram experiment described at the end of the Wed round up. In one sense, I hope this blog fills the space between the sort of work you are doing and what is described in that NY Times article.

    The impact of situational features, the specific role of a social relationship, the step-up process in administering the punishment – these are all factors that can be illumatinated by social psychology and embodied cognition. That’s one reason we talk a lot about those sorts of things on this blog.

    But there are more connections to be made. You wrote a set of rules about pathological governance at the end of your Christmas message post, which highlighted the management of authority and uncertainty. These “rules” (however tongue-in-cheek, accuracy thru humor, eh?) connect in specific, dynamic ways with the sorts of things studied in the Milgram experiments. One point for neuroanthropology is to better describe and understand those specifics, those dynamics, because they are differences that make a difference.

    That’s why the posts I did on Sapolsky and Blakey I still consider among my best, because I got beyond a stress-as-biology model and started to think more creatively how stress might mediate between the sorts of things like torture and embodied experience and the management of power and social relations by social groups and institutions.

  3. As usual Daniel, WordPress detained your comment and that of another, both extremely useful and interesting, along with yours immediately above here. In the new year, and this is delayed like so many other things I wanted to cover, I will try to write one or two roundup type posts to point people to these questions and these resources, and try to extract what strike me as some of the most significant findings. Maybe Dr. Arbor will come back in and discuss the responses. There is also some Canadian news, getting older and older now, about torture that I wanted to mention. Unfortunately the new year is looking so busy that I doubt I will manage more than a post or two per week for the next few months.

    Until soon, many thanks again, and Happy New Year to everyone at Neuroanthropology — and thanks as well for that great Best of Blogging collection which I just looked at moments ago.

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