Wednesday Round Up #94

After the top selections, a great selection of research papers on primate cultures, human evolution and the like (including a lot of pdfs). And then mind and anthro.

Top of the List

Lisa Wynn, CEAUSSIC Publishes Final Report on HTS
The American Anthropological Association committee examining the Human Terrain System provides its final say, emphasizing the incompatibility of the HTS with disciplinary ethics

Harvey Whitehouse, Anthropology in Crisis – What, Still?
The Oxford professor lays out the case against borrowed intuitions while arguing for a scientific framework for the field

Michael Thomas & Victoria Knowland, Sensitive Periods in Brain Development – Implications for Education Policy
Take functional plasticity, add more sensitive periods (“maximal plasticity”), and think about how to teach children better

Juan Dominguez et al., The Brain in Culture and Culture in the Brain: A Review of Core Issues in Neuroanthropology
Juan and colleagues publish their latest overview of the field, this time in Progress in Brain Research, looking at how cultural practices are manifest in the brain and how brain processes contribute to socially shared meanings and practices. If the title link doesn’t work for you, here’s the doi link for Brain in Culture.

The New York Times Magazine, Ninth Annual Year in Ideas
A wonderful review of eclectic ideas and ingenuity from 2009. The Social Science and Health sections are particularly relevant.

Primates: Cognition & Culture

Peter Kappeler & Joan Silk, Mind the Gap: Tracing the Origins of Human Universals
Google Books title page for this 2009 edited volume. Looks excellent, with contributions from the leaders in the fields of primatology, psychology and evolutionary anthropology. You can also go right to the Amazon page for Mind the Gap.

Stephen Lycett et al., Cladistic Analysis of Behavioural Variation in Pan troglodytes: Exploring the Chimpanzee Culture Hypothesis
Pdf of a 2009 Journal of Human Evolution article that uses cladistics to examine the genetics, vertical transmission, and adaptability of behavioral traditions among eastern and western subspecies of chimpanzee

Alex Thornton & Nichola Raihani, The Evolution of Teaching
Pdf of a 2008 Animal Behaviour article on teaching in nonhuman animals, and understanding under which conditions it might evolve, including a differentiation between teaching for procedural and declarative information

Gergely Csibra & Gyorgy Gergely, Natural Pedagogy
Final draft of the 2009 Trends in Cognitive Science article proposing that human infants carry adaptations for grasping teachable moments

Nicholas Toth and Kathy Schick, The Oldowan: The Tool Making of Early Hominins and Chimpanzees Compared
Abstract for a 2009 Annual Review of Anthropology article looking at the evidence and methods behind doing this important type of comparative work, including understanding modern experiments with primate tool making

Thibaud Gruber et al., Wild Chimpanzees Rely on Cultural Knowledge to Solve an Experimental Honey Acquisition Task
2009 Current Biology abstract – “Our results indicate that, when genetic and environmental factors are controlled, wild chimpanzees rely on their cultural knowledge to solve a novel task.”

Sarah Marshall-Pescini & Andrew Whiten, Chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) and the Question of Cumulative Culture: An Experimental Approach
Can chimps engage in cumulative social learning? The first experimental data in this 2008 Animal Cognition pdf

Caspar Schoning et al., The Nature of Culture: Technological Variation in Chimpanzee Predation on Army Ants Revisited
Do differences in predation techniques represent cultural differences among chimpanzee communities, or behavioral responses to the anti-predator techniques of the specific species of army ants? Looks like both in this balanced consideration in a 2008 Journal of Human Evolution pdf

SurfDaddy Orca, Why Chimps Can’t Talk
Looking to genetics and brain evolution for the answers

Nicholas Wade, Boom! Hok! A Monkey Language Is Deciphered
Campbell’s Monkeys from the Ivory Coast – do they have a primitive form of syntax?


Duff Wilson, Poorer Children Likelier to Get Antipsychotics
“Children covered by Medicaid are given powerful antipsychotic medicines at a rate four times higher than children whose parents have private insurance. And the Medicaid children are more likely to receive the drugs for less severe conditions than their middle-class counterparts, the data shows.”

Emma Cohen, Three Questions for Simon Baron-Cohen
The autism expert answers what has him excited, what cross-cultural evidence he yearns for, and engine capacity

Science Daily, How Do Some Athletes Play Through Intense Pain?
It’s brain power, or really, brain wiring and how higher-level processing can modulate lower-level processing

Gary Stix, Head Chaise: Couching One’s Thoughts into a Brain Wave Sofa
A slideshow of how two Belgian designers used brain waves to construct a very unusual couch. Their motto – you think it, you design it.

Sandy Gautam, Why Belief in Free Will Is Important: Its Pro-social and Moral Implications
If we, Westerners that is, believe in determinism, then we are more likely to behave badly

Melissa Healy, A Theory for Toddlers’ Turbo-charged Learning Style
For young children, the idea is that the prefrontal cortex just gets in the way of learning language and complex environmental correlations – they just soak it all in

Seth Lerer, The Edifice of Pinkerism
We’ve been known to bash Pinker here on occasion, but I appreciated this positive take on his own most recent book, The Stuff of Thought

Jason Luv, Lost in the Filth Simulacrum
4chan – the anonymous image board prompts H+ to ask, “Is 4chan the Future of Human Consciousness?”


Los Angeles Times – Homeboys
Photoessay on gangs in Alabama – LA’s Homeboy Industries goes every year to Alabama Village, confronted by poverty that astonishes even them while finding much that is familiar about the desperate situation and actions of youth

John Allen Paulus, Mammogram Math
The social uproar vs. evidence-based medicine

John Hawks, Why Didn’t They Let Kenyanthropus Save Them? and The Trouble about Kenyanthropus and Ardi
Two illuminating posts about hypotheses, methods, sharing data, and science in the world of human evolution.

Tim Jones, A New Homo erectus (Zhoukoudian V) Brain Endocast From China – Free to Access
Free is always good, but the paper itself is quite intriguing as it is arguing for the out-of-Africa hypothesis (species replacement) with materials often used to argue for multi-regionalism. Plus insight into brain evolution around 500,000 years ago

Ed Yong, Prejudice vs. Biology – Testosterone Makes People More Selfish, But Only If They Think It Does
I thought testosterone made us nasty and brutish – but here it is linked to fair play

Nicholas Wade, We May Be Born With an Urge to Help
“Children are altruistic by nature,” argues Michael Tomasello

Steve Cole et al., Social Regulation of Gene Expression in Human Leukocytes
Full-text article from Genome Biology that links social isolation so that “Impaired transcription of glucocorticoid response genes and increased activity of pro-inflammatory transcription control pathways provide a functional genomic explanation for elevated risk of inflammatory disease in individuals who experience chronically high levels of subjective social isolation.”

Rex @ Savage Minds, Getting from Topics to Problems
Some useful insights for how anthropologists can move from the things that interest us, often people, places, and things, to substantive research problems

Adam Waytz, The Psychology of Social Status
“How the pursuit of status can lead to aggressive and self-defeating behavior.”

4 thoughts on “Wednesday Round Up #94

  1. What a fascinating cross-cultural research question about the link between foetal testosterone and empathy! Thanks for the link to Simon Baron-Cohen’s interview. I never realised the guy looked so young. I was expecting someone much older looking. I seem to have such a wacked imagination when it comes to the authors and researchers whose books and articles I read. Although, Oliver Sacks looks exactly as I imagined him! …Mind you Daniel Dennet’s Darwin impersonation leaves nothing to the imagination…

  2. I looked up Harvey Whitehouse’s dissection of anthropology (“Anthropology in Crisis – What, Still?”) and I was a bit taken aback. I am a political scientist and I am almost reconciled to seeing my own discipline taken over by people who are, essentially, engineers at heart. It was much more disheartening to see anthropologists trying to reason in such an emotionally lifeless language about the study of culture. There is all that research suggesting that our attitudes to ideas largely depend on the intuitive emotional reaction they provoke. But then – how do we evaluate the kind of ideas presented by Prof. Whitehouse and his intellectual fellow travelers whose writing is so utterly devoid of emotional appeal? One of the comments posted below Prof. Whitehouse’s text suggests an amicable divorce between scholars pursuing rigorous science and those committed to a more artistic expression. What’s the point of maintaining the pretense that the two groups belong under the same disciplinary umbrella, really? Be it anthropology, political science, or anything else…

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