Monday 20 November 2006

Cooperative Eyes

The Journal of Human Evolution prepares an issue on the evolution of human eyes; two articles are already downloadable on line; one of them by Michael Tomasello and his team. It defends a "cooperative eyes" hypothesis, according to which human eyes evolved to be white around the pupil, because it made our conspecifics' gaze more conspicuous, and hence allowed for increased cooperation in tasks involving joint attention. The function of human eyes would not only be seeing, but also sharing visual information. I offer a dissenting view on this remarkable experiment.

Pictures from Live Science show chimpanzee and human eyes.


Monday 13 November 2006

Un Air de Famille (Family Resemblances)

Are kinship coefficients written on your face? Two recent studies, one in PNAS, (see also here), the other in the Journal of Vision, suggest that they may be, or at least that we can read them fairly well. But, as I want to argue, these studies ignore the effects of empathy, and generally of living together, on facial similarity.

Picture: Details of The Marsham Children by Thomas Gainsborough, 1787 (Staatliche Museen, Berlin; from the Journal of Vision).


Tuesday 17 October 2006

The rampant manager and…the evolutionary psychology of personality

Is mating primacy as the most glamorous topic in evolutionary psychology being challenged? It is what a new study (featuring nothing less that the king of evolutionary psychology of mating David Buss) on the tactics of hierarchy negotiation in businessmen may suggest.


Saturday 7 October 2006

The emergence of a convention without selection

In a post on language evolution, Hugo lamented the fact that pragmatics and social cognition were not taken into account by students of the field. They usually focus their attention on evolutionary models of conventions among agents lacking theory of mind, that is to say the ability to think about what others are trying to communicate. They treat human communication as (non-human) animal communication (Vervet monkeys or bees for example). In a recent experiment, Galantucci adds to the growing evidence that adults (and children) are able to create and negotiate complex communication systems from scratch and relatively quickly, without a blind selective process.


Thursday 5 October 2006

The death of Terror Management Theory?

In a recent post on the psychology of religion, Hugo judged “dubious that we should be endowed with a fear of death so strong that we need to have other mechanisms to hold it in check”. Actually, Carlos Navarrete and Dan Fessler, two evolutionary psychologists, have already suggested that existential concerns are not an ecological category but rather can be subsumed under a larger category of adaptive challenges that prime coalitional thinking. There is a relation between death and religion, but it is not an adaptive one. People support religion when they are threatened not because it helps them alleviating their anxiety but rather because they advertise their adherence to their own group’s social norms in a situation where allies are potentially useful.


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.


Tuesday 19 September 2006

Language evolution: Where is my mind?

The publication of a short review paper on language evolution, and the coming out of a blog specially dedicated to the topic give me the opportunity to deplore the quasi total ignorance of what links language with the rest of cognition, pragmatics, in this blossoming field.


Saturday 26 August 2006

Evolution gives Daddy a break

Being a father is not always easy, even less so when scientists assure you that there is a 10-percent chance the kid might not be yours... But recent evidence has come to reassure every primate father on earth, while another study reveals how paternity can rewire a monkey brain.


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