Wednesday Round Up #19

The Consciousness and Metacognition YouTube Channel

Here’s one, a general overview of why understanding the brain can be useful to different people, from researchers to social workers.
Introduction to Brain and Consciousness 0.1 – Understanding Mental Health at Different Levels:

How to Write an Essay: A Guide for Anthropologists

There are two things you must know intimately before you start: your audience and your core point. Know these things and the rest will be far easier. Once you have locked down those two core elements, there’s a basic formula that you can master for almost any essay.

What Strength Really Means When You’re Sick

Equating disease with warfare, and recovery with strength, means that death and disability are linked to failure and weakness. That “does such a disservice to all of the families who have lost loved ones, or who are facing long-term consequences,” says Megan Ranney, an emergency physician at Brown University. Like so much else about the pandemic, the strength-centered rhetoric confuses more than it clarifies, and reveals more about America’s values than the disease currently plaguing it.

When Deafness Is Not Considered a Deficit

In the Maijuna community, those who can sign—primarily Maijuna men, due to the separation of labor by gender, and family members of Simón and Raul—never use their voices when signing, even when there are other hearing people nearby. There is no expectation that Simón and Raul will lip-read and as far as I was able to discern, they had no lip-reading abilities at all. Neither of them produced any mouthed Spanish—the dominant spoken language of the community—of even the simplest words. Both participated in all aspects of community life, from work parties to hunting and trading. One of Raul’s closest friends soon made it clear to me that he would rather not act as an interpreter. He wanted me to participate in interactions with Raul and encouraged me to sign myself rather than rely on his interpreting.

There was no deaf school for Raul and no access to hearing aids, cochlear implants, or speech therapy. His parents were unaware that national sign languages, such as American Sign Language, even existed, and they didn’t have the means to provide him with a deaf education. This is the reality for many deaf people around the world. Without outside ideologies impacting their choices, the Maijuna adapted as a community rather than enforcing conformity on the individual or reacting with ostracization. To the Maijuna, signing with their deaf community members was natural, not radical.

The Single Reason Why People Can’t Write, According to a Harvard Psychologist

For Pinker, the root cause of so much bad writing is what he calls “the Curse of Knowledge”, which he defines as “a difficulty in imagining what it is like for someone else not to know something that you know. The curse of knowledge is the single best explanation I know of why good people write bad prose.”

“Every human pastime –music, cooking, sports, art, theoretical physics –develops an argot to spare its enthusiasts from having to say or type a long-winded description every time they refer to a familiar concept in each other’s company. The problem is that as we become proficient at our job or hobby we come to use these catchwords so often that they flow out of our fingers automatically, and we forget that our readers may not be members of the clubhouse in which we learned them.”

What is HBES Doing About the WEIRD Problem?

Although EHB may fare better on inclusion of less WEIRD samples than many mainstream journals, particularly in psychology, there is still much more work to be done. In his contribution to the issue, H. Clark Barrett provides a bibliometric analysis of all 300 articles published in EHB in the last five years to assess “empirical representativeness.” This exercise revealed how contributions to EHB tend to be based on research with college students in the US, Europe, and East Asia or alternatively, with small-scale societies. This finding suggests that a broad swath of humanity remains under-represented. Akin to using college students, Barrett suggests that much cross-cultural research also relies on convenience sampling where the only justification provided is “this has never been studied in non-WEIRD people.”

This leads to another important concern raised in the special issue – the dichotomizing of WEIRD and non-WEIRD populations. In the introductory article for the special issue, Apicella, Norenzayan, and Henrich caution researchers against using WEIRD as a dichotomous construct. Such dichotomies, they argue, ignore the substantial variation that exists within and between populations. Paradoxically, perhaps, Apicella, Norenzayan, and Henrich note that the WEIRD acronym was chosen in part to de-exoticize less WEIRD populations. The acronym was meant to highlight the peculiarities of more WEIRD populations, that, in a global view, stand out.

This dichotomy also increases the likelihood that readers (and occasionally researchers) will fall back on inaccurate and harmful stereotypes when describing less WEIRD populations.

Face-specific brain area responds to faces even in people born blind

This area, known as the fusiform face area, is believed to be specialized for identifying faces.

Now, in a surprising new finding, Kanwisher and her colleagues have shown that this same region also becomes active in people who have been blind since birth, when they touch a three-dimensional model of a face with their hands. The finding suggests that this area does not require visual experience to develop a preference for faces.

“That doesn’t mean that visual input doesn’t play a role in sighted subjects — it probably does,” she says. “What we showed here is that visual input is not necessary to develop this particular patch, in the same location, with the same selectivity for faces. That was pretty astonishing.”

Introduction to Brain and Consciousness A.8 – Consciousness – Four Central Issues

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