Friday 22 September 2006

A Primer on Social Cognition

An interesting primer on social cognition has been published in the last volume of Current Biology. Klaus Zuberbühler and Richard Byrne squeeze quite a lot of information in five pages, and their 'tour' of social cognition covers several domains that tend to be forgotten when we focus on human cognition.


Taper dans l’oeil or taping into our modules?

It has been repeatedly shown that in some domains at least people tend to prefer prototypical stimuli, stimuli that are close to the ‘typical’ exemplar of a category. For example, and even if it can seem surprising, people show a preference for ‘more average’ faces. Piotr Winkielman and his colleagues suggest a new interpretation of these findings. Their interpretation is in terms of ease of processing and the agreeable feeling that accompanies easy processing. They back up this interpretation with some experiments. Even though they couch their theory in domain general terms, I argue that it is good news for views of cultural transmission that rely on modular psychological mechanisms.


Attack of the Doppelgängers

A team of swiss neuroscientists, by stimulating epileptic subjects in the temporoparietal junction, elicited the illusion that they could feel a presence nearby, whose posture was the same as their own. They said they could feel what this illusory shadow wanted. This casts new light on a myth of popular and (romantic) litterary culture.

(image taken from composer Hilary Kahn's website)


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