Wednesday Round Up #59


Tom Rees, The Problem with Studies on the Social Effects of Religion
Religion is often associated with positive effects – but correlation is not cause, what people say and do differ, and problems in defining “religion.” Nicely done.

Ritual Blogging, Week Five Recap
Great site providing summaries, powerpoints, links and discussion for an anthro class on Ritual in the Modern World. This week they covered political rituals, including some good YouTube clips.

Judith Harris & Jonah Lehrer, Do Parents Matter?
An interview at Sci Amer with the author of The Nurture Assumption, which argues that peers are more important than parents in shaping developmental outcomes. I’ve often wondered why anthropologists haven’t paid more attention to Harris’ work, it really is an argument for culture in one sense. Still, though Harris questions the role of parenting in good outcomes, she does seem to avoid the role that bad parenting can play in producing bad outcomes (e.g., family trauma).

SlowTV, The Brain: How It Can Change, Develop and Improve. Featuring Dr Norman Doidge
A video lecture by the author of The Brain That Changes Itself in Melbourne

Atul Gawande, Hellhole
“The United States holds tens of thousands of inmates in long-term solitary confinement. Is this torture?” The short answer is yes. A powerful piece from The New Yorker.


Filip Spagnoli, Human Rights Facts (59): The Vicious Cycle of Poverty and Ill Health
Poverty traps, with the effects of poverty on health as one main engine – quite a good overview

International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs
A good site with the following goals: “IWGIA’s overall goal is to endorse and promote indigenous peoples’ right to self-determination, their cultural integrity and their right to development on their own conditions. In order to fulfil this mission, IWGIA works within a wide range of areas: Documentation, publication, human rights, lobbying, advocacy, research and projects.”

Natasha Mitchell, Your Appendix Is Useless, But Is Low Mood? Darwinian Doctoring
Randolph Nesse on the radio in Australia

Dave Munger, Even Isolated Cultures Understand Emotions Conveyed by Western Music
An interesting study about cross-cultural music appreciation – with an increasingly obvious result: universal vs. local is the wrong dichotomy. There are both commonalities and differences. Includes the music clips, which is cool.

Brooks Barnes, Disney Expert Uses Science to Draw Boy Viewers
Anthropologists and other social scientists as “kid whisperers” for profit

Pascal Boyer, Institutions Again – What Is a Primitive Society?
Richard Posner and the origins of formal institutions. Primitive is a pretty bad word, but the historical changes in societal organization is a fascinating topic

Maximilian Forte, Worldwide Popular Interest in Anthropology, 2004-2009: Online Search Statistics
Max continues with his mining of Google Insights, this time about anthro search terms


Ed Yong, Bilingual Infants Have Better Mental Control
Fascinating research on infants at 7 months and how dealing with two languages rather than one seems to have some broad cognitive effects

Scicurious, Things I Like to Blog About: Amphetamine
Quite a nice overview of the drug from Neurotopia

William Ecenbarger, Buckle Up Your Seatbelt and Behave
Risk compensation – like driving more dangerously because you are wearing a seat belt – examined over at the Smithsonian

Vaughan Bell, The Unclear Boundary between Human and Robot
Cortical prosthetics and controlling thoughts with machines

Psique, Self-determination for the 21st Century
The contrast to the Mind Hacks piece – Laura is in favor of iPlants, which would regulate monoamines through technology


Debbie Elliot, Officials Probe E-Cigarettes’ Health Claims
The newest consumable – electronic cigarettes that deliver nicotine and release water vapor – and the debate over their health impact and their regulation. A good NPR story.

Jonah Lehrer, Business Books
The fundamental errors underlying popular business books – anecdotes don’t make logic, attribution is trumped by luck and context

AthensBoy, Shakespeare Was Wrong, Says NPR
Names do matter!

Furious Seasons, Microchip Tells Docs If Patients Have Taken Their Pills, Why That’s Scary
Now the panopticon goes inside us. More options for social monitoring and control.

Matthew Gurewitsch, Composing Concertos in the Key of Rx
Music pharmacology!

Natalie Angier, Taxing, A Ritual to Save the Species
The evolutionary roots of taxation, or giving up something for the common good

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