Grad conference: Culture, Cognition & Construction

dropletAll kinds of conference announcements are coming into us here at Neuroanthropology! We have another one that may be of interest to our readers, scheduled for London in May 2009. Among the guest speakers will be Harvey Whitehouse (Oxford), Rom Harré (LSE), George Gaskell (LSE), and Fathali Moghaddam (Georgetown).

The London School of Economics is proud to announce the hosting of the 10th Anniversary Inter-University Graduate Conference: Culture, Cognition and Construction, May 22-23 2009, London, in collaboration with Cambridge University.

The Conference has traditionally supported the integration of diverse viewpoints across the social science disciplines. As the title suggests, this year’s event focuses on the cultivation of synergy between constructionist and cognitivist perspectives in the social sciences. Graduate and post-graduate students are invited to submit abstracts of no longer than 250 words to lsecamconf (at)

The deadline for submission is April the 10th 2009. For further details visit our website

Conference: Language, culture & mind

I just received this announcement through the Society for Psychological Anthropology, and it looks like something that our readers might find interesting although we’re pretty far out in front of the meeting date (note: 2010):

We are pleased to announce the 4th International Conference on Language, Culture and Mind (LCM 4), to be held in Turku, Finland, at Åbo Akademi University, 21-23 June 2010.

Currently confirmed plenary speakers are:
Bradd Shore, Emory University
Dan Zahavi, Centre for Subjectivity Research, Copenhagen
Cornelia Müller, Berlin Gesture Centre and Europa Universität Viadrina
Peggy Miller, University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana

The LCM conferences are interdisciplinary fora, targeted primarily at researchers in the disciplines of anthropology, linguistics, philosophy and psychology who consider that they have something both to impart to, and to learn from, each other in the study of language as a social, cultural, cognitive and biological phenomenon. More information can be found at:

Wednesday Round Up #56

I know things have been kind of sparse on my side of late; for those of you wondering, it’s just the time crunch. Three conferences in two weeks; teaching; funding to secure; and even more stuff. But Greg and I are excited about what’s to come, and soon we’ll be making a big announcement on the Neuroanthropology front.

So with that opening, let’s get down to business – the top, mental health, anthro and the brain.

Top of the List

Mouse Trap, Self Relevance and the Reality-Fiction Blur
Sandy’s useful summary and reflection on a new PLoS article, Reality = Relevance? Insights from Spontaneous Modulations of the Brain’s Default Network when Telling Apart Reality from Fiction. Neuronarrative also summarizes and reflects on the success of reality TV. My take – it means self-reference and specific memories can make even imaginary things “real”, and that’s a big step towards culture.

Sue Sheridan, Very Funny
The Onion Video: Experts Agree Giant, Razor-Clawed Bioengineered Crabs Pose No Threat

Brian Crecente, Maria Montessori: The 138-Year-Old Inspiration Behind Spore
Learning as exploration and growth in imagination, and how that inspired a modern-day video game that is sort-of about evolution

Archaeoastronomy, An Astronomical Experiment YOU Can Contribute To
A worldwide study of light pollution and why we don’t see the sky at night like we once did. Hurry to participate – the deadline is March 28th!

Supercourse: Epidemiology, The Internet, and Global Health
More than 3000 lectures from world experts, delivered in 26 different languages. Wow.

Mental Health

David Dobbs, Soldiers’ Stress: What Doctors Get Wrong about PTSD
Scientific American article on overdiagnosis and mistaking adjustment back to civilian life as dysfunction. David provides some great follow-up and engages readers over at Neuron Culture, beginning here, with sources and links, and debate on war and medicalization, and finally David responding forcefully to a snarky critique.

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Evolution of altruism: kin selection or affect hunger?

bridgecoverWalter Goldschmidt, Emeritus Professor of Anthropology from the University of California Los Angeles got in touch with us here at to give us a bit of a (friendly) hard time about unfortunate neologisms (touché) and to ask if we were familiar with his work. With my repeated posts on evolutionary psychology, he thought it might be of interest, especially his discussion of affect hunger.

What Prof. Goldschmidt did not realize is that I have an autographed copy of his book, Bridge to Humanity: How Affect Hunger Trumps the Selfish Gene (Oxford U Press listing, Amazon), and I’ve long thought it was both an excellent counter-argument to the ‘selfish gene’ hypothesis as well as a much more persuasive account of the possible evolutionary origins of altruism than the typical explanation: kin selection.

So, as a bit of a ‘thank you’ to Prof. Goldschmidt for providing such a compelling work, I’m going to post a bit of a book discussion here, focusing especially on Prof. Goldschmidt’s account of ‘affect hunger,’ which I find a much more neuroanthropologically plausible account of altruism than the usual account provided by evolutionary psychology discussions of ‘kin selection.’
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Cognitive Science conference in Oz

For all our Australian readers, the 9th conference of the Australasian Society for Cognitive Science will be held at Macquarie University, Sydney, from Wednesday 30 September to Friday 2 October 2009. The Macquarie Centre for Cognitive Science is hosting the event, and my colleague, John Sutton, will be convening the event. The announcement can be found here.

Lots of interesting speakers are already confirmed, including Thomas Metzinger of Johannes Gutenberg-Universität and Barbara Tversky from Stanford.

If you’re in Australia, and you’re interested in neuroanthropology or cognition and culture more broadly, drop me a line because we may try to put something together around the conference to meet up and talk over future directions in the field.