Re: NYer on Ev Psych

1

It's so unobjectionable that there's not much to say about it. But perhaps somebody will prove me wrong.


Posted by: x.trapnel | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 11:10 PM
horizontal rule
2

The article may be unobjectionable (I don't actually know; I haven't read it yet), but I predict that at least one person will object to the post.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 11:13 PM
horizontal rule
3

Having now read the article, it's quite good.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 11:39 PM
horizontal rule
4

The NYer publishes articles about science that don't get retracted?


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 11:50 PM
horizontal rule
5

Maybe. We'll see.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 11:53 PM
horizontal rule
6

Has anyone collected all the "back on the veldt" stories to give us a complete picture of paleolithic homo sapiens? I predict that such a compendium would be extremely funny.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 09-18-12 11:58 PM
horizontal rule
7

Someone I know/used to know/wouldn't be surprised if any other UKUnfoggeteers knew too is writing this - http://www.womanology.co.uk/ I've been loath to link because, awkwardly, I am worried about being mentioned, but it does seem like perfect Mineshaft fodder.


Posted by: asilon | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 12:37 AM
horizontal rule
8

It's embarrassing that the New Yorker is now publishing articles by people who don't seem to be aware that Claudius is Hamlet's uncle.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 1:33 AM
horizontal rule
9

Also, "how ridiculous that evo-psych is so interested in evolutionary explanations for women's physiology! I will now speculate for 200 words on evolutionary explanations for women's physiology".


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 1:34 AM
horizontal rule
10

On the veldt, men who speculated about what women's physiology had been like in the trees were able to impress mates with their erudition, so now for evolutionary reasons it's hard for men to resist speculating on veldty female physiology.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 1:54 AM
horizontal rule
11

It's embarrassing that the New Yorker is now publishing articles by people who don't seem to be aware that Claudius is Hamlet's uncle.

Also technically his stepfather, no? After he marries Gertrude.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 3:25 AM
horizontal rule
12

Point is, though, that stepfathers are more likely to be violent than fathers because they aren't genetically related to their children. This doesn't apply to Claudius, who is actually related to Hamlet. It's a bad example.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 3:30 AM
horizontal rule
13

You're not going to trick me into defending ev psych again, oh no.

Anyhow, that article's pretty dopey, and awfully reductionist for somebody who is apparently offended by reductionism.

FOR INSTANCE:

In theory, if you did manage to trace how the brain was shaped by natural selection, you might shed some light on how the mind works. But you don't have to know about the evolution of an organ in order to understand it.

This is stupid.

Also:

Natural selection would have played some role in the development of any such general aversions, which may have their origins in distant species, somewhere far back down the line that leads to us. But that's another story, one that evolutionary psychologists have less interest in telling, because they like tales about early man.

That's dopey, too. None of the work on fear of spiders argues that it's specifically a human trait, also evolutionary psychologists are gaga for comparative animal cognition research, also it's an ev psych argument.

In conclusion, I agree with ajay and essear, but have to go work on my talk.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 4:48 AM
horizontal rule
14

12: Genetically, he should beat Hamlet 1/2 as much as he beats his own kids and 1/4 as much as he beats himself.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 5:28 AM
horizontal rule
15

UKUnfoggeteers

I keep briefly interpreting UK as University of Kentucky before the context settles in to turn it into United Kingdom, despite *never once* having meant the former here. Does this provincialism make my ass look big?


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 5:39 AM
horizontal rule
16

14: Not if he assumes that killing Hamlet will result in Gertrude coming back into oestrus. This is yet another missed plot strand that should be included in the remake of The Lion King.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 5:50 AM
horizontal rule
17

Isn't Hamlet 20 or something?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 5:55 AM
horizontal rule
18

I found this

To confirm any story about how the mind has been shaped, you need (among other things) to determine how people today actually think and behave, and to test rival accounts of how these traits function. Once you have done that, you will, in effect, have finished the job of explaining how the mind works. What life was really like in the Stone Age no longer matters. It doesn't make any practical difference exactly how our traits became established. All that matters is that they are there.

kind of irritating. It makes a bloody huge practical difference how traits became established because if they are hard wired it's a fool's game trying to change them. If you only care about psychology from a purely descriptive standpoint that's fine, but part of the point of the field for a lot of people is to figure out how to change things for the better.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 6:01 AM
horizontal rule
19

17 He was away at University immediately prior to the action, but in Shakespeare's time that could make him anything over about 14. If he's a bit on the young side it would explain him being such a wuss, but who knows.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 6:03 AM
horizontal rule
20

I think it's actually sort of insulting to compare that dumbass article to the often fairly cogent arguments rallied against ev-psych-as-she-is-spoke here.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 6:07 AM
horizontal rule
21

If it makes you feel better, I haven't read the article and have no intention to do so. As soon as I saw "New Yorker" I looked at the cartoons and then put it away.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 6:09 AM
horizontal rule
22

What does evolutionary psychology tell us about (i) the issue of whether Hamlet was fat and (ii) how that sword-exchange-thingy in the Hamlet-Laertes duel actually worked in Shakespeare-era dramaturgy?


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 6:33 AM
horizontal rule
23

On the veldt, men easily distracted by cartoons lost access to the youngest, most fertile women to the men who knew enough to skip the listings section, "Talk of the Town" if Hertzberg is writing about unicameral legislatures, Denby's reviews and that Nussbaum woman lecturing the poor subscriber about the moral superiority of the same television series that the Internet was boring him to death about months ago.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 6:36 AM
horizontal rule
24

if they are hard wired it's a fool's game trying to change them

I don't know if this is true. It's possible that you can see Trait X manifest across a lot of contexts because it's something of an attractor state, given our genetic inheritance, and that a sufficiently powerful context that influences people not to manifest Trait X can succeed. For example, I think it's reasonable to both believe that the existence of rape is in part well-explained as a manifestation of an evolved male sexuality that in some contexts can be aggressive, violent, and undiscriminating because it conveys a selective advantage, and that changing the context could powerfully affect the incidence of rape.


Posted by: Tia | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 6:39 AM
horizontal rule
25

24 is a powerful argument against the quoted passage in 18 as well, of course. Actually a rather more powerful one.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 6:42 AM
horizontal rule
26

It makes a bloody huge practical difference how traits became established because if they are hard wired it's a fool's game trying to change them.

I, too, think it makes an important difference how traits are established. Plain-old Darwinian evolution is hugely important to biology, and a functional science of evo psych would be similarly important.

But the unfortunate thing about evo psych is its insistence hard-wiring as an explanation. Human beings have a lot of choices in how they behave.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 6:42 AM
horizontal rule
27

And now I am off to have my laughable attempts at "science" torn to shreds.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 6:43 AM
horizontal rule
28

But the unfortunate thing about evo psych is its insistence hard-wiring as an explanation. Human beings have a lot of choices in how they behave.

As Katherine Hepburn says in "The African Queen", "Nature, Mr Allnutt, is what we are put on this world to rise above".


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 6:44 AM
horizontal rule
29

26 was said better in 24 and 25.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 6:44 AM
horizontal rule
30

That was a great movie.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 6:45 AM
horizontal rule
31

I think I'd prefer my Trait X to be something like Wolverine's healing factor or at least nice hair, rather than a propensity to sexual violence.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 6:45 AM
horizontal rule
32

18, 26: What irks me about the 'hardwiring' claim -- that if a trait is really hardwired, it's a waste of resources to try to change it -- is that it frequently gets pulled out as an argument to resist a social change that's demonstrably happening, or has demonstrably happened in at least some societies. If something were an innate, unchangeable facet of human nature, no one would need to be lobbying against change, change just wouldn't happen.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 7:04 AM
horizontal rule
33

32: what, you don't support the Campaign to Save Binocular Vision?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 7:08 AM
horizontal rule
34

24: I think you are right that traits are more likely to be attractors than really hard wired and I'm oversimplifying a bit in 18. A more nuanced way to put it is that if the attractor exists it has to be taken into account in any effort to change it the frequency of the associated behavior. I'm just irritated by the glib dismissal of "why?" as an interesting question in the article, as it seems to me that the answers to questions of that sort are important in figuring out what is and isn't possible.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 7:11 AM
horizontal rule
35

32: On the veldt we were hardwired for a 1950s white suburban middle class lifestyle.

There's no doubt that evolutionary psych suffers from a bollocks problem, but so did psych generally during it's formative years. I'm convinced that there is something real and useful in among the swirling clouds of nonsense.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 7:14 AM
horizontal rule
36

35: I'm really torn about it. I don't know jack about the actual respectable science end of evolutionary psych -- all the stuff that drives me nuts is what makes it into the Science Times and so on. But the pop-science end of it seems so thoroughly poisoned by people pushing their views of how people naturally are as evolutionarily hardwired that I start suspecting that anything actually interesting and useful is going to have to come from a research community that's not tightly connected to the people producing all the 1950s Orange County-style veldt crap.

But I really don't know from the state of the respectable science out there.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 7:25 AM
horizontal rule
37

How well can people characterize the phenotypes associated with human behavior? I think not very well, personally. Competition and cooperation seem like useful abstractions for essay-style thinking and for individual decisionmaking, but as entities of study...

Without clear phenotypes, it's pretty hard to say much.

Gary Marcus writes nicely about neural development; a common pattern is that there are rough developmental templates hardwired for various cognitive patterns (like grammar) which are finished in the course of the organism's development. If a propensity to cooperate is like this, putting people into orderly pens might produce more sheep and fewer wolves.

Marcus link


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 7:33 AM
horizontal rule
38

36: in genral, the higher-order (more abstract, more social) the behavior, the more likely the actual science is to be hand-wavey and untrustable. But that goes for regular ol' non-evolutionary psychology/neuroscience/whatever. And then assume that pop science writers are taking the very fruitiest claims from the very fruitiest science and then spinning them into elaborate yarns miles away from the data.

There are those in this thread who could well take issue with portions of the above paragraph.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 7:40 AM
horizontal rule
39

I'm actually very prone to believing in a strong link between genetics and behavior on an individual level -- anecdotally, cognitive/behavioral family resemblances seem too strong to be explained as all environmental (and to be transmitted in a way where environment doesn't make sense offhand). So I'm primed to believe in some sort of evolutionary psychology as valid and interesting, I just have trouble with most of the actual results that get reported.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 7:41 AM
horizontal rule
40

39. So your mother was also argumentative?


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 7:49 AM
horizontal rule
41

our deeds are fetters we forge ourselves, but the world brings the iron.

My trailing complaint about 18 is, surely the plasticity of a behavior is one of the things we have to test in the present? As primate researchers occasionally cross-transplant between species, and sometimes discover that aggressive or cooperative behavior is learnt in very simple primates?


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 7:55 AM
horizontal rule
42

40: You have no idea.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 8:00 AM
horizontal rule
43

but the world brings the iron.

Excepting the odd meteorite


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 8:01 AM
horizontal rule
44

Tweety is doing yeoman's work here; it's not that I know much, but I stopped trusting the New Yorker article once it decided that it could dismiss an entire line of research because it derived from an experiment conducted with fruit flies in 1948. Well then!

The article seemed like it was correcting for bad lazy science journalism by doing bad lazy science journalism, with the characteristic "smart undergrad counterintuitive essay" style beloved of our journalistic elites.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 8:03 AM
horizontal rule
45

And then assume that pop science writers are taking the very fruitiest claims from the very fruitiest science and then spinning them into elaborate yarns miles away from the data.

I dunno. I don't think you can blame the science writers (much) for this. E.O. Wilson, to pick an example, is correctly regarded as a scientific luminary, but he's as much into elaborate bullshit yarns as anyone, and he's far from alone. There's just a phenomenal amount of nonsense emanating from this field.

It's like economics: Theoretically a useful science, but in practice, mired in foolishness.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 8:44 AM
horizontal rule
46

||

Well, that talk went better than the last one. I think if I keep working/presenting on this stuff until I actually have answers to the questions people keep asking, I'll know quite a bit.

|>


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 9:54 AM
horizontal rule
47

I think if I keep working/presenting on this stuff until I actually have answers to the questions people keep asking, I'll know quite a bit.

This is the point, n'est-ce-pas?


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 10:07 AM
horizontal rule
48

Well, pretty much, yeah. I've moved on from being unable to answer questions like "so why are you doing this?" and am now getting questions like "is there any reason to believe this will work?"


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 10:42 AM
horizontal rule
49

You know you're getting somewhere when the relevant question is "My God, what have I done?"

Preferably with a lightning storm in the background.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 10:44 AM
horizontal rule
50

You know you're getting somewhere when the relevant question is "My God, what have I done?"

"Oh, right, minorly advanced the state of human understanding in a hopefully useful way."


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 11:02 AM
horizontal rule
51

"BWAHAHAHAHA."


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 11:05 AM
horizontal rule
52

"Now to find some babies and BREAK THEIR BRAINS!"


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 11:09 AM
horizontal rule
53

50: Wait, when did the research drift away from DEATH ROBOT. Bring that project back.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 11:09 AM
horizontal rule
54

Oh, okay. I will have minorly advanced the state of KILLER ROBOT understanding in a hopefully useful way.

(Quite possibly, come to think of it.)


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 11:19 AM
horizontal rule
55

I thought the robot was supposed to make drinks.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 1:04 PM
horizontal rule
56

KILLER DRINKS


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 1:08 PM
horizontal rule
57

The cocktail robot research community is already pretty impressive.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 2:18 PM
horizontal rule
58

||
So I'm going to be in DC and NYC at the end of October/beginning of November. Who wants to sex Mutombo?
|>


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 2:27 PM
horizontal rule
59

You could do it at the original "Who wants to sex Mutumbo" location.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 2:43 PM
horizontal rule
60

57: We do our best.


Posted by: J, Robot | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 2:47 PM
horizontal rule
61

I think a core issue is that humans most likely evolved to be extremely plastic and responsive to our cultural environment for a huge number of higher-order traits. We are incredibly dependent on culutral learning and imitation for core survival skills. This book gives a nice pop-sci overview. When you combine evolved plasticity with the incredible difficulty of confirming evolutionary explanations for even physical traits which *are* completely hard wired the situation is pretty hopeless.

It makes a bloody huge practical difference how traits became established because if they are hard wired it's a fool's game trying to change them.

I think the article was actually trying to get at an important point (albeit in a stupid way) by saying the origin of traits 'doesn't matter'. Obviously the origin and evolution of traits is interesting and important. But if you want to know something about human traits, from how they operate to whether they are hard wired, it is probably a better bet to examine the actual human beings around you right now than it is to start doing guesswork about evolution. We have a vast amount of information about real societies and real people, and can add to it through study and experimentation today.

Agree this was a pretty mediocre article though.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 3:00 PM
horizontal rule
62

58: There's a decent chance I'll be in DC on or around Halloween, and the added draw of a meetup would make it even likelier.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 7:55 PM
horizontal rule
63

Huh. Well, I liked the article.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 7:56 PM
horizontal rule
64

59 to 62; 60 to 59.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 7:57 PM
horizontal rule
65

63: wrongity wrong wrong!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 7:57 PM
horizontal rule
66

Well, I thought I liked it when I read it last night after drinking a couple beers. I don't care enough to read it again to check.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 8:02 PM
horizontal rule
67

Now that's the spirit!

What kind of beer do you drink in Alaska?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 8:02 PM
horizontal rule
68

Do you really have to ask?


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 8:07 PM
horizontal rule
69

More importantly: in Alaska, what color do the Coors Light cold-activated cans turn?


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 8:31 PM
horizontal rule
70

I certainly wouldn't know.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 8:57 PM
horizontal rule
71

I certainly wouldn't know.

Because, obviously, it's always cold in Alaska, so you never see them in an unturned state.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 9:05 PM
horizontal rule
72

That would be one possible interpretation of my statement, yes.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 9:06 PM
horizontal rule
73

Although it does require interpreting Stanley's question as being about what color they turn when they are de-activated by warmth, which isn't the most natural reading to me.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 9:07 PM
horizontal rule
74

58, 62: A meetup would be fun. (Although I've never been clear about the business with Mutumbo?)


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 9:12 PM
horizontal rule
75

(74 was me.)


Posted by: YK | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 9:12 PM
horizontal rule
76

Anyway, Alaskan beer is good stuff. I like the amber.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 9:12 PM
horizontal rule
77

Naked Archaeologist today said someone published the claim that autism-spectrum behavior annealed in the alleles because it's effective for solitary hunter-gatherers, e.g. those living in very resource-sparse environments, who would need to be systematic and have excellent memories for trivia rather than managing multi-digit Dunbar numbers.

There didn't seem to be any actual evidence, but I was (a) persuaded despite (b) not checking any of this because I was (c) crawling over my semiarid field mapping every dirt-pile larger than 2cm, and recognizing individual plants. It's so easy to believe Just So stories that tell me I'm okay.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 9:17 PM
horizontal rule
78

Although it does require interpreting Stanley's question as being about what color they turn when they are de-activated by warmth, which isn't the most natural reading to me.

No, it doesn't. If they're always cold then you could plausibly claim that you don't know which are the parts that change color and which are the parts that don't.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 9:20 PM
horizontal rule
79

Sorry to see that they don't sell Moose Drool in Alaska. It'd probably do pretty well there.

I'm going low carb nowadays, though, so I'll be drinking whiskey when I'm there next month. Teo, has the microdistillery thing hit ANC yet?


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 9:21 PM
horizontal rule
80

78: Ah, I see. I hadn't thought of that interpretation.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 9:22 PM
horizontal rule
81

(I also couldn't tell you a single thing about Coors Light except that if you're going to someone's house, you shouldn't be bringing any.)


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 9:22 PM
horizontal rule
82

Sorry to see that they don't sell Moose Drool in Alaska. It'd probably do pretty well there.

Oh, they do, and judging by how many liquor stores seem to carry it I'm sure it does.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 9:23 PM
horizontal rule
83

Teo, has the microdistillery thing hit ANC yet?

Not that I know of, but I'm not really into hard liquor so I wouldn't be the best source for that sort of knowledge. There's a place near me that makes a big deal out of the artisanal bourbons they serve, so that might be something to look into.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 9:28 PM
horizontal rule
84

Glad to hear it.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 9:29 PM
horizontal rule
85

I'm not sure I really see how whiskey counts as low-carb, though.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 9:31 PM
horizontal rule
86

I wonder about this as well! I would like it to be low carb, certainly.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 9:35 PM
horizontal rule
87

http://www.carbs-information.com/carbohydrate-alcohol/whiskey.htm

I see there's a vodka maker in Anchorage. Truuli. I've not been much of a liquor drinker either, although I've been know to enjoy a bit of well aged single malt now and then.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 9:39 PM
horizontal rule
88

I see there's a vodka maker in Anchorage. Truuli.

Oh yeah, I've heard of them. They made the news for some crazy infused vodka they made a while back. I forget what it was.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 9:41 PM
horizontal rule
89

Wait, I must have been thinking of some other distillery. It looks like Truuli is just a single vodka, and isn't infused with anything. Here's an interesting post on the name.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 09-19-12 9:50 PM
horizontal rule
90

Alaskan amber is pretty tasty and very drinkable.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 09-20-12 1:42 AM
horizontal rule
91

77 makes a lot of sense if you've ever done any survival training too. Essentially you become a mushroom spotter. Either you develop an obsessive interest in gill colours, stem fluting etc, or you die.
Also "annealed in the alleles" is a great phrase.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 09-20-12 2:11 AM
horizontal rule
92

74: http://rumorsontheinternets.org/2011/09/15/dikembe-mutombos-request-for-sex-how-did-he-phrase-it-and-where-was-it-uttered-an-roti-investigation/

Apparently the original may have been "Who will sex Dikembe tonight?" which, the article says (and I agree) is far better - it has the implications that
a) inevitably one of you is going to, all we have to do is work out who it is and
b) it's a one night only offer. Tomorrow, it will be someone else.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 09-20-12 2:15 AM
horizontal rule
93

I've recently been reading up on textual criticism and the synoptic problem, and that Mutombo article is really amusing in that context.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 09-20-12 2:26 AM
horizontal rule
94

If I'd been reading up on textual criticism and the synoptic problem, I'd probably find almost anything unrelated really amusing as well. It's like when you get back home from Vietnam and think everyone's really tall.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 09-20-12 3:06 AM
horizontal rule
95

But the point is that it's totally related! It's all about trying to reconstruct the exact wording and context of a saying whose early history is oral but which was eventually standardized in written sources. Many of the same issues come up.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 09-20-12 3:18 AM
horizontal rule
96

92

And I thought it was just some unfogged weirdness.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 09-20-12 5:06 AM
horizontal rule
97

32

... If something were an innate, unchangeable facet of human nature, no one would need to be lobbying against change, change just wouldn't happen.

But it would make sense to lobby against spending a lot of money trying to change something innate. Which is what I think a lot of educational spending amounts to (not that this has anything to do with evolutionary psychology per se).

And the claim isn't generally that change won't happen but that an attempt to move from a present location A to a more desirable location B will likely instead (because of basic human nature) end up in a less desirable location C.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 09-20-12 5:28 AM
horizontal rule
98

I didn't know the specific derivation of "just so" until I read this. I assumed it was a descriptor someone else used for Kipling's stories, more like:

"And that's how the leopard got its spots?"
"Just so."


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 09-20-12 7:24 AM
horizontal rule
99

So what's the best single source for the right ... epistemic attitude to bring towards ev-psych as a field? I was thinking Cosma would have written something perfect, but I couldn't find the sort of thing I had in mind.

This is partly because I got into a bit of an argument last night with a woman who thought my dismissive attitude towards sex-difference studies was Anti-Science.


Posted by: x.trapnel | Link to this comment | 09-21-12 12:56 AM
horizontal rule
100

Unfogged, obviously.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 09-21-12 12:58 AM
horizontal rule
101

We had sex, too, interspersed with the arguing. She must never know about this place.


Posted by: x.trapnel | Link to this comment | 09-21-12 1:04 AM
horizontal rule
102

Woo, sex!


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 09-21-12 1:06 AM
horizontal rule
103

I still think you should send her here, though. What could go wrong?


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 09-21-12 1:07 AM
horizontal rule
104

I got into a bit of an argument last night with a woman who thought my dismissive attitude towards sex-difference studies was Anti-Science.

On the veldt, women with blind unquestioning faith in authority tended to get their children vaccinated, and thus more of their offspring survived to breed.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 09-21-12 1:28 AM
horizontal rule
105

99. For the anti-EP perspective, probably David Buller. Counter argument here.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 09-21-12 2:24 AM
horizontal rule
106

I recommended the Buller book here, before. My recollection is that opinions on it from those who read it were mixed. I liked it, but it's been a while.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 09-21-12 3:42 AM
horizontal rule
107

I found the Buller book interesting, but I don't think it's what x's friend is looking for. Delusions of Gender, by Cordelia Fine, is good on how weak sex difference studies particularly tend to be.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09-21-12 4:32 AM
horizontal rule
108

99.1: Cosma is basically positive towards ev psych done right.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-21-12 4:59 AM
horizontal rule
109

That actually sounds like what x is looking for, if he's got anything accessible on what "done right" means.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09-21-12 5:04 AM
horizontal rule
110

Hm. He glances on it in this old review.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-21-12 5:16 AM
horizontal rule
111

And here is his page specifically on Evo. Psych.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-21-12 5:20 AM
horizontal rule
112

re: 108

I don't think Buller is against it [evolutionary explanations of human behaviour] in principle, either, fwiw.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 09-21-12 5:39 AM
horizontal rule
113

112. In broad enough principle, I don't see how you can be against it without denying that humans evolved.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 09-21-12 5:55 AM
horizontal rule
114

Well, right. Whatever the effects of culture, a large part of the. cognitive differences between people and squirrels isn't going to be about culture.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09-21-12 6:05 AM
horizontal rule
115

Delusions of Gender, by Cordelia Fine, is good on how weak sex difference studies particularly tend to be.

Ha! I know her! Or I used to when we were kids.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 09-21-12 6:08 AM
horizontal rule
116

Sure, but then the broad enough principle could be that evolution directs our brains to be, say, "big", and the rest is environmental.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-21-12 6:08 AM
horizontal rule
117

Things get hairier when you're trying to decide if you think the phenomena in this paragraph are fundamentally the products of evolutionary adaptation:

Moreover, the mind is not a single, general-purpose computer, but a collection of them, of "mental modules" or "mental organs," specialized as to subject matter, each with its own particular learning mechanism ("an instinct to acquire an art," in a phrase Pinker lifts from Darwin). This modularity is evident in studying how children learn (recall Pinker's background in language acquisition), and also from tracing the effects of brain lesions which, if sufficiently localized, impair specific abilities depending on where the brain is hurt, and leave others intact. Just as, bar[r]ing developmental defects, wounds, or the ravages of disease, all human beings have the same physical organs, we all have the same mental organs, whose general structure is, again, the same from person to person.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-21-12 6:12 AM
horizontal rule
118

No duh, Sifu.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-21-12 6:34 AM
horizontal rule
119

Does anybody else ever get that feeling that they're delivering exposition in a shitty movie?

"As you know, chris, ttam and LB..."


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-21-12 6:35 AM
horizontal rule
120

Never thought of it quite that way, but sort of yes.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 09-21-12 6:37 AM
horizontal rule
121

Didn't we establish theme music for many recently? Next step, avatars or the website where cut-and-pasted dialogue is combined with minifig cinematography.

Wasn't a paid version of this the idea behind Second Life, which glossy magazines explained in 2009 to be the future of the internet?


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 09-21-12 7:27 AM
horizontal rule
122

A couple years ago, I think because of a recommendation here, I read Lise Eliot's Pink Brain, Blue Brain, which was an interesting survey of sex differences and the extent to which studies in children show them to be possibly innate versus due to socialization.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 09-21-12 7:39 AM
horizontal rule
123

the website where cut-and-pasted dialogue is combined with minifig cinematography

Or Machinima. Unfogged dialogue spoken by armoured space marines against the background of a strange alien world.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 09-21-12 7:43 AM
horizontal rule
124

That actually sounds like what x is looking for, if he's got anything accessible on what "done right" means.

Yes, basically. I'm willing to confess that I've probably gone over too far in the direction of dismissal. Thanks for the suggestions.


Posted by: x.trapnel | Link to this comment | 09-21-12 9:49 AM
horizontal rule
125

re: 113

Yeah, but proponents of some of the cruder forms of EP often accuse their critics of something like that. Mysticism, or some sort of crude opposition to the concept of adaptation, or whatever.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 09-21-12 10:09 AM
horizontal rule
126

125: See Stephen Pinker's The Blank Slate, arguing against pretty much exactly that strawman.

The EP argument is funny in that the crude pop-science form is very strawman heavy on both sides: "Funny how the paleolithic veldt looked just like Leave It To Beaver" vs. "For a bunch of liberals who get all bent out of shape about creationism, it sure seems weird that you don't believe in evolution above the neck."


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09-21-12 10:15 AM
horizontal rule
127

125, 126: to be fair(-er), premises not unlike those were relatively prominent in psychology as late as the middle of the 20th century (and of course a lot of 20th century psychology took of from the empiricists, who believed it wholesale). So it's not so much a straw man as a real man who ceased to exist some decades ago.

You could even argue (that is, people do argue) that some strains of cognitive science have not moved so far away from the purely empiricist position. So what seems like a straw man in The Blank Slate may be really more like an uncharitable reading of Pinker's ideological opponents from the '60s and '70s.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-21-12 10:23 AM
horizontal rule
128

Isn't the hedging you have to do there ("not unlike those" and "so far away") what makes it more of a strawman? I mean, the ridiculous position is that evolution has no effect on human behavior and cognition. Being skeptical about any particular evolutionary effect, on the other hand, may be wrong, but it's not absurd in that way.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09-21-12 10:32 AM
horizontal rule
129

Isn't the hedging you have to do there ("not unlike those" and "so far away") what makes it more of a strawman?

Eh, I probably didn't have to do that hedging. I just didn't feel like digging up cites. I agree that it's a ridiculous position, and I don't think that many actual scientists hold it these days. But if you go back to the '60s and '70s there were certainly plenty of people arguing that 1. the idea of functional modules in the brain is nonsense and that 2. there are no non-experiential limits on the plasticity of the human brain and 3. that evolution has nothing useful whatsoever to tell us about human cognition. I mean, there are still people arguing those things -- the last argument, for instance, was made as recently as the link in the OP.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-21-12 10:39 AM
horizontal rule
130

It really wasn't until the late '50s or so that there was any empirical evidence for the innateness of any cognitive function. So it might seem per se obvious now that evolution plays a role in the structuring of mental ability, but I'm not sure that it was obvious then and I'm also reasonably sure that at the time you could make the counter-argument on relatively sound scientific ground (and people did).

Remember, Wilson's Sociobiology didn't come out until 1975. These ideas are fairly (okay, forty years, but still) new.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-21-12 10:42 AM
horizontal rule
131

Not really -- see, e.g., this from the article:

In theory, if you did manage to trace how the brain was shaped by natural selection, you might shed some light on how the mind works.

The article is aggressively skeptical about EP in practice, but it's not taking the position that evolution couldn't be informative about cognition.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09-21-12 10:43 AM
horizontal rule
132

131 to 129.last.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09-21-12 10:44 AM
horizontal rule
133

(None of which is to say that it was a terribly meaningful or comprehensible situation for Pinker to be staking out in 2002. But what that book actually consisted of was a pop-science codification of an argument he'd been having/making for decades. It just happened that he didn't quite realize that the argument had been thoroughly won (at least in terms of public conception of these issues) by the time he wrote the book. It makes for dopey reading, but he wasn't exactly trying to attack a straw man.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-21-12 10:45 AM
horizontal rule
134

)


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-21-12 10:46 AM
horizontal rule
135

18 to 131.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-21-12 10:46 AM
horizontal rule
136

Anyhow, going back to the field history, the wire mother experiments were performed in 1966; think about the intellectual context that would lead somebody to believe those were important results to establish.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-21-12 10:54 AM
horizontal rule
137

Not really contradictory -- saying that studying the evolutionary roots of any behavioral trait isn't a practically useful way of learning about psychology may be wrong, but it's not the same as the absurd claim that nothing about cognition evolved.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09-21-12 10:58 AM
horizontal rule
138

137 to 135, and I don't understand 136. If people had conceived of cognition as evolved, the results of the wire mother experiment would have been a priori obvious? If that's what you're saying, I don't follow you, and if it's not what you're saying, I really don't follow you.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09-21-12 11:00 AM
horizontal rule
139

137: the absurd claim that nothing about cognition evolved.

If you look at 129 this is not the argument I accuse the dude in the OP of making.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-21-12 11:01 AM
horizontal rule
140

138: if people had believed that there were likely to be innate cognitive traits then the idea that maternal attachment was not one of them would be a priori sort of absurd, yes. The position that Harlow was trying to debunk with those experiments held that parental attachment was a learned response to the availability of food.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-21-12 11:05 AM
horizontal rule
141

Also, the idea of innate mental modules depends on the idea that there is actually functional specialization in the brain, which is a hard argument to make when the most prominent voices in your field argue against either the accessibility of mental representations to study or the actual existence of mental representations in the brain (depending who you asked), which was the situation that obtained until sometime in the '70s, pretty much.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-21-12 11:10 AM
horizontal rule
142

"Has nothing useful to tell us" and "isn't practically useful" are importantly different, no? The first is a claim that the data isn't there, and the second is a claim that it's not a useful way of getting at it.

But more importantly, saying that evolutionary psychology isn't likely to be useful might be wrong, but it's not equivalent to a claim that evolution didn't have an effect on cognition. The latter is the strawman, that I've seen only put forth by EP proponents as a position held by opponents.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09-21-12 11:11 AM
horizontal rule
143

if people had believed that there were likely to be innate cognitive traits then the idea that maternal attachment was not one of them would be a priori sort of absurd, yes.

You're stretching a priori pretty far here. How would it be absurd to think that babies could have evolved to attach to whoever fed them? Isn't that how ducklings work? (I don't actually know anything about imprinting in ducklings, but assuming whatever it was that made me think that's how they work is right.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09-21-12 11:14 AM
horizontal rule
144

the wire mother experiments were performed in 1966

Wow. I would have guessed two decades earlier.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 09-21-12 11:16 AM
horizontal rule
145

Nope. Wire mommy got to watch her stories while she raised the kids.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-21-12 11:21 AM
horizontal rule
146

The latter is the strawman, that I've seen only put forth by EP proponents as a position held by opponents.

That's probably approximately accurate when talking about the past 1.5-2 decades or so (and was exactly my reaction upon first reading the blank slate) but I would suspect (and here we're going to run into "don't feel like digging up a cite" again) it was argued quite seriously (and not unpersuasively) more recently than you might expect (certainly I'd imagine that it came up plenty in the behaviorist literature).


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-21-12 11:22 AM
horizontal rule
147

I'm pretty sure that BF Skinner believed in evolution, he just thought that it didn't matter for cognition because the mind was fundamentally shaped by experiential factors and nothing else. So that doesn't seem like a straw man at all. In other words, we evolved to have basically plastic brains shaped by experience, as did other animals. And it's that line that the early ev psych people were pushing up against.

Caveat: I have no idea what I'm talking about, really.

The NYorker article is a little bit different; it just seems like superficially appealing sophistry.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09-21-12 11:26 AM
horizontal rule
148

Target brand oyster crackers are actually quite good. So put that in your pipe and smoke it, ev psych proponents!


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 09-21-12 11:30 AM
horizontal rule
149

97.1: No. Shortsightedness is for many people innate/genetic. That simply doesn't have anything to do with whether it is worth spending a lot (or a little) money on eyeglasses to try to change it.


Posted by: Spysander Looner | Link to this comment | 09-21-12 11:32 AM
horizontal rule
150

Well, ok, for example: do we think the Cinderella Effect studies are telling us something useful about human psychology, in a way that, absent the evolutionary arguments, we'd be likely to miss?


Posted by: x.trapnel | Link to this comment | 09-21-12 11:45 AM
horizontal rule
151

I don't think Skinner was committed to a blank slate position on cognition. See, e.g., this of his from 1984 (emphasis added):

We behave in a given way both because we are members of a given species and because we live in a world in which certain contingencies of reinforcement prevail. Thus, we avoid going over a cliff, we dodge objects, we imitate others, we struggle against restraint, we turn toward a movement seen out of the corner of an eye and all for two kinds of reasons: contingencies of survival and contingencies of reinforcement. It would be hard to say how much of the strength of the behavior is due to each. Only a first instance can be said to be necessarily innate, and first instances are hard to spot. An example of current interest is aggression. We may have an innate repertoire of aggressive behavior, but similar behavior is generated by many contingencies of reinforcement. It does not matter whether a given instance is phylogenic or ontogenic unless we are concerned with doing something about it. When we are, the variables to be changed must be identified.

Obviously, he thinks learned behavior is very very important, but he's not ruling out direct evolutionary effects on human behavior.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09-21-12 11:46 AM
horizontal rule
152

150: Wire mommy was always nicer than wire stepmommy


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-21-12 11:47 AM
horizontal rule
153

This is pretty awesome (tiny bit NSFW towards the end)
http://www.autostraddle.com/150-years-of-lesbians-144337/


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 09-21-12 11:54 AM
horizontal rule
154

151: I wandered off, but coming back it's worth pointing out how late in his career that publication is. By that point he was very much out of the psychological mainstream and was probably trying to counter the cognitive (which is to say functional modules and innateness) types (such as Pinker, who had briefly been an assistant professor in the department two years prior) who were taking over his department. He had to grant that possibility, in other words, to be taken seriously at all. But he was very much arguing the opposite view, I think.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-21-12 2:32 PM
horizontal rule
155

Is About Behaviorism, from 1974, ten years earlier, early enough to count? I can't cut and paste, but if you search inside on Amazon books for 'evolution' he says the same sorts of things as in the blockquote.

Obviously, he has huge disagreements with people like Pinker, but I don't think they can be characterized as a denial that evolution affects cognition and behavior.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09-21-12 2:55 PM
horizontal rule
156

Skinner lived a long time. Walden Two was from 1948. I'm not sure Skinner would have been relevant anymore in 1974? Old people usually aren't.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 09-21-12 2:58 PM
horizontal rule
157

Skinner lived a long time.

Every time he tried to die, the students stopped paying attention.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-21-12 3:00 PM
horizontal rule
158

Well, I'm not arguing that he was right about anything at all, or that if he believed in evolution as a partial explanation of human behavior then no one ever believed in a complete blank slate, or anything like that. Just that Halford brought him up as an example of someone who did think that evolution "didn't matter for cognition because the mind was fundamentally shaped by experiential factors and nothing else" and with respect to whom the blank slate wasn't a strawman, and that seems to me to be false at least after 1974.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09-21-12 3:06 PM
horizontal rule
159

I thought the deal with Skinner, which I tried to shorthand above, was that he thought external stimulus was sufficient to explain behavior. In other words, he wouldn't deny that the external stimulus has to get processed through an organism that's the product of human evolution, but that everything is a behavior and every behavior is produced as a response to some kind of external stimulus. So (aside from creating the overall structure in which the behavioral leaning takes place) evolution doesn't matter for cognition -- there are no inherent mental modules sufficient to produce any given behavior. You've evolved a mental structure that allows you to adapt to external stimulii, but there aren't functional modules in your brain that are guiding your behavior as a result of evolution.

So, e.g., we've evolved in such a way that we are capable of developing something called "love" for our parents in response to our need for food, but that we need the positive reinforcement of the access to food to generate love. That's very very very different than the idea that the brain is "hard wired" to exhibit certain behaviors as a result of evolution alone.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09-21-12 4:08 PM
horizontal rule
160

But, as I say, I really don't have much idea what I'm talking about.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09-21-12 4:09 PM
horizontal rule
161

Not totally relavent, but there was a pro-Skinner article in the atlantic this year:

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2012/06/the-perfected-self/308970/

Can Pinker help you lose weight?


Posted by: lemmy caution | Link to this comment | 09-21-12 4:09 PM
horizontal rule
162

156

... Old people usually aren't.

Ouch.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 09-21-12 4:52 PM
horizontal rule
163

You guys might be talking slightly at cross-purposes here. What people are often talking about when they say loosely that evolution is 'important for human cognition' is not just that humans start with some unlearned cognitive mechanisms that are evolutionarily selected for, which is something that behaviorists/associationists/anti-modularists would typically agree with.

Any old-school behaviourist would have been (as Quine said) 'knowingly and cheerfully up to his neck in innate mechanisms of learning-readiness. The very reinforcement and extinction of responses, so central to behaviorism, depends on prior inequalities in the subject's qualitative spacing, so to speak of stimulations'. And, as LB's quote from Skinner shows, they can easily say "sure, it's evolutionarily selected for that certain stimuli (pleasurable ones) reinforce behaviours and others (painful ones) inhibit them". So LB is right about what she is literally claiming.

But I think Sifu's point was in effect that when people say that evolution is 'important for human cognition' in the sexy sense, they're not talking about the idea that we have general learning mechanisms that are adaptations, but about the idea that we have domain-specific mechanisms (ones that help us learn about particular subject-matters as opposed to others) e.g. a language-learning module or modules, mathematical modules, a face-recognition module.* And why Slate-types find the domain-specific idea titillating in a way that they don't with the general-learning capacity, is that it opens up the possibility that e.g. men and women typically differ in the strength of these modules, that women typically have a better face-recognition module and men a better spatial-relationships module (part of the toolkit of mathematical modules) because on the veldt ... blah ... more socially-oriented... blah... throwing spears... blah.

*Where this also differs from behaviourism is that the domain-specific mechanisms are supposed to be genuinely cognitive, helping us learn facts, rather than just develop reflexes. Skinner is open to the idea that aggessive behaviour might be the result of an innate propensity, because that sort of innate disposition can be explained without invoking internal representations of the world; but he'd be against innate tendencies corresponding to genuinely cognitive modules.


Posted by: One of Many | Link to this comment | 09-21-12 7:53 PM
horizontal rule
164

Skinner is open to the idea that aggessive behaviour might be the result of an innate propensity, because that sort of innate disposition can be explained without invoking internal representations of the world

Yup. The tabula rasa not-exactly-straw man that Pinker is actually arguing against is one who is arguing that (innate) internal mental representations are irrelevant or nonexistent. This was a very common argument, to the point of being the mainstream of social science up until maybe the early '70s.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-21-12 7:58 PM
horizontal rule
165

It's the bell bottom pants of psychology.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-21-12 7:59 PM
horizontal rule
166

I think that role is spoken for.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-21-12 8:01 PM
horizontal rule
167

164 cont'd: which, if you're a cognitive psychologist (and actually I think probably if you're Skinner) is tantamount to saying that evolution has no meaningful role on behavior.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-21-12 8:10 PM
horizontal rule
168

164: Related views as I understand it are still about, even in proximity to cognitive science.

There's a great bit in the review when Dennett asks mock-plaintively: "Don't these authors despite anybody?". (Hands raised in sorrowful incomprehension: "I ask you, where's the contempt?")


Posted by: One of Many | Link to this comment | 09-21-12 8:39 PM
horizontal rule
169

Oh my, Dennett taking on Eleanor Rosch?

For all my protestations in this thread I tend to be much more instinctively sympathetic to the empiricist lineage than the hardcore nativists, although obviously everything is muddy synthetic middle views these days. But yeah I dunno the data-driven models of the cognitive revolution have not proven to have so much in the way of practical legs when it comes to implementation.

But all that aside who fights with Rosch? She's awesome and so weirdly, obviously right.

N.B. neuroscientists tend to be much more empiricist than psychologists. Make of that what you will.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-21-12 8:44 PM
horizontal rule
170

Oh, I think he quite liked the book overall. He was just worried it was a bit too ecumenical.


Posted by: One of Many | Link to this comment | 09-21-12 8:48 PM
horizontal rule
171

168: "despite" s/b "despise"


Posted by: One of Many | Link to this comment | 09-21-12 8:57 PM
horizontal rule
172

Merleau-Ponty is totally due for a comeback.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-21-12 9:01 PM
horizontal rule
173

Man. He makes that book sound awesome. I want to be an enactivist!

Well, mostly, some of the inclusions in that ring are a bit off-putting.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-21-12 9:04 PM
horizontal rule
174

I should read that Rod Brooks.

Thanks OoM! That review is sort of swell.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-21-12 9:08 PM
horizontal rule
175

Merleau-Ponty is totally due for a comeback. ... I want to be an enactivist!

Sure, a bit of social Merleau-Ponty now and then sounds harmless. Before you know it you're on to the hard stuff.


Posted by: One of Many | Link to this comment | 09-21-12 9:24 PM
horizontal rule
176

174: You're very welcome.


Posted by: One of Many | Link to this comment | 09-21-12 9:25 PM
horizontal rule
177

These debates on innateness of mental structures vs. environmental determination go back hundreds and probably thousands of years, they are much older than the last couple of decades of psychology. Plato describes an innate 'mathematics module' in the Meno Lacking Darwin he describes it as the memory of an idea planted there by God at the original creation of one's immortal soul. Plato is always a fond of a good metaphor but the basic idea of an innate knowledge module is recognizable. A couple of centuries ago you get Leibniz vs. Locke on innate ideas.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 09-21-12 11:27 PM
horizontal rule
178

The broad notion that experience and innate structure are both very important in shaping the mind seems to just be obvious to any observant human being. (The hard and very non-obvious work sciencey part is figuring out how exactly that shaping works). Psychological theories that push to one extreme or the other -- either claims of a 'tabula rasa' or claims that even high-order cultural roles are biologically pre-determined -- often seem to be embedded in some larger ideological project. E.g. extreme associationism and the idea of the 'tabula rasa' were promoted by political philosophers like Hobbes and Locke who were looking for a psychological base for Enlightenment theories of social engineering. And I don't think it's a coincidence that pop evolutionary psychology is associated with right-wing politics and a reaction to perceived 60s utopianism.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 09-21-12 11:39 PM
horizontal rule
179

or, social engineering is the wrong description of Locke in particular, but his politics was grounded in his psychology, in the idea that individuals and society are both free/self-authored.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 09-21-12 11:45 PM
horizontal rule
180

social engineering is the wrong description of Locke in particular

Well, he did give it a shot at one point.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 09-22-12 12:03 AM
horizontal rule
181

175: ahhh, that's fantastic.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-22-12 6:13 AM
horizontal rule
182

The debates about innate mental structures do go way back.

It's worth distinguishing here (a) the traditional question of whether we have innate knowledge (innate 'principles' involving innate 'ideas'), which empiricists like Locke would answer with a "no", from (b) related traditional questions about the innate 'faculties' or 'powers' of the mind (psychological mechanisms) through the use of which you come to know things, where the question wasn't "are there any (such faculties or powers)?" but "what sorts are there?". Even empiricists like Locke didn't deny that that there were some such innate fundamental cognitive mechanisms; they just thought that they were going to be ones that applied very generally (association, memory) and didn't require innate knowledge in order to work.

I think the thread in the traditional debates that foreshadowed the contemporary modularity debate most closely relates more directly to the second question than the first. (Of course, the questions are related in that rationalists thought that we have some cognitive mechanisms, like those via which we come to know mathematical theorems, that do require innate knowledge in order to function.)

(Just a drive-by comment - as usual, I can't stick around, unfortunately. Apologies.)


Posted by: One of Many | Link to this comment | 09-22-12 11:10 AM
horizontal rule
183

Sort of related to the discussion of mental structures, this is cool.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 09-22-12 4:55 PM
horizontal rule
184

If I'm understanding it correctly, that's awesome. Parrots name their chicks and the chicks continue to use the same name when they grow up?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09-22-12 6:07 PM
horizontal rule
185

If they use a different name than what is one their card, they have trouble flying because of issues with TSA.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-22-12 6:11 PM
horizontal rule
186

183: Now you can fear them by name.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 09-22-12 6:17 PM
horizontal rule
187

Parrots name their chicks and the chicks continue to use the same name when they grow up?

Yeah, that seems to be the conclusion. It's not clear from the post how widespread this might be outside the one species that was studied, but it's pretty cool regardless.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 09-22-12 6:20 PM
horizontal rule
188

I mean, this one study can't really establish whether they actually continue to use the same names, since it only looked at the period when they were chicks. But it does show that the parents seem to name them, and previous studies have apparently shown that individual parrots have unique names, so it's pretty reasonable to conclude that adults' names are the same ones they were given as chicks.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 09-22-12 6:23 PM
horizontal rule
189

Has anyone collected all the "back on the veldt" stories to give us a complete picture of paleolithic homo sapiens? I predict that such a compendium would be extremely funny.

I don't know, but someone has compiled just-so stories from prominent conservatives to create a history of the U.S.. (From the New Yorker, no less.)


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 09-22-12 6:47 PM
horizontal rule
190

186: The budgie who must not be named.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-22-12 6:56 PM
horizontal rule
191

Parrots are the best. If apes hadn't evolved first, parrots (or at least some other kind of bird) were clearly next in line to evolve into a superintelligent species. Perhaps in a few million years we'll have battles between the next species of human and a new superintelligent parrot species.*

*No I am not writing erotic slash fiction about the human/parrot future conflict, why do you ask?


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09-22-12 7:00 PM
horizontal rule
192

If apes hadn't evolved first, parrots (or at least some other kind of bird) were clearly next in line to evolve into a superintelligent species.

Corvids are also impressively smart. I'd put them slightly ahead of parrots in probability of evolving into a superintelligent species.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 09-22-12 7:07 PM
horizontal rule
193

191.2: "I Ache-a for Cloaca."


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-22-12 7:08 PM
horizontal rule
194

No I am not writing erotic slash fiction about the human/parrot future conflict, why do you ask?
I might know someone who's interested.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 09-22-12 7:15 PM
horizontal rule
195

Someone should try to create parrot/crow hybrids to get the language skills of the former and the problem-solving ability of the latter. Then take over the world.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 09-22-12 7:21 PM
horizontal rule
196

I think James Alan Gardner has a birdy intelligent species, with some erotic regurgitation. Not erotic for any of the humans nearby, though.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 09-22-12 7:22 PM
horizontal rule
197

Thanks to you people and your strange topics, I had a dream that I went to a lecture given by Ron Paul in which he explained how evolution has resulted in some people unsuited to gymnastics on the pommel horse. This was illustrated by pictures of people whose thighs had square crosssections. I woke up before he applied the lesson to economics.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-23-12 5:50 AM
horizontal rule
198

Pommel horse ability, like Ron Paul, is innate.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-23-12 6:04 AM
horizontal rule
199

197: That's amazing. My recent spate of intense work has left me having weirdly detailed dreams about spreadsheets.


Posted by: Turgid Jacobian | Link to this comment | 09-23-12 6:20 AM
horizontal rule