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Posts Tagged "Social Cognition"

Bering in Mind

Autistic Savants: Geniuses of Obscure Devotions

(The following is a companion piece to the Slate article, “Eugene Hoskins Is His Name: The long-forgotten story of a black autistic man in Oxford, Miss., who crossed paths with William Faulkner.” You can read that story by clicking here.) When Professor Hiram Byrd opened up the autistic savant Eugene Hoskins’ private notebook back in [...]

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Bering in Mind

“Natural Theologians” Are God’s Psychoanalysts

The following is an edited excerpt from The Belief Instinct, which will be released as a paperback on Feb. 20. When I moved to my previous house in a small village in Northern Ireland in late 2007, there was still quite a bit of work to be done, including laying flooring in an intolerably small, [...]

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PsySociety

The Zombies In Our Midst

morgan_wife_the_walking_dead

Every Halloween, we find ourselves surrounded by zombies, vampires, ghouls, and other mythical monsters. But even though this is the one day each year that we consciously realize we are surrounded by these creatures (at least in their human-costumed forms), are we surrounded by more common forms of these monsters every day without even realizing [...]

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PsySociety

Atonement, Forgiveness, And Our Most Fundamental Error.

goodintentions

Today is the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur. Although it is often called the “holiest day of the Jewish year,” what is notable about Yom Kippur is not the fact that it is particularly holy, nor is it the fact that many Jews you know might be particularly hungry today. Yom Kippur is notable because [...]

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PsySociety

Are your 9/11 memories really your own?

911Memorial

I can remember exactly where I was twelve years ago when I learned why the sky was starting to fill with smoke about 30 miles to the west. Though I live in Illinois now, I’m originally from Long Island. In September 2001, I was just beginning the 9th grade at Friends Academy, my new high [...]

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The Thoughtful Animal

Studying Contagious Yawning Might Help Us Build Better Societies

SONY DSC

We often turn to dogs and to chimpanzees to understand our species. Chimpanzees are our closest relatives (with bonobos), while centuries of selective breeding have turned dogs into a species uniquely suited to comprehend our own social cues. If anybody can help us understand contagious yawning, it’s them. This week, primatologists Matthew Campbell and Frans [...]

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The Thoughtful Animal

Wolves Can Learn From Humans. What Does That Mean For Dogs?

Fotocredit_WolfScienceCenter

Where did dogs come from? The question is harder to answer than it seems. The problem with much of the research on domestication is that the focus has been on how dogs and wolves interact with humans. Perhaps that’s understandable, since domestication is in part defined by a species’ incorporation into human culture. But to [...]

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The Thoughtful Animal

Nothing To Gobble At: Social Cognition in Turkeys

Turkeys

We tend to think of the domestic turkey as a fairly unintelligent bird, skilled at little more than waddling around, emitting the occasional gobble, and frying up golden-brown-and-delicious. But they can actually be quite clever.

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The Thoughtful Animal

Searching for the Social in Contagious Yawning

baby yawning

Evidence has been accumulating for several years that contagious yawning is driven by social cognition. But how? And is it related to empathy? A new study with chimpanzees sheds some light.

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The Thoughtful Animal

If You Need To Test Your New Robot, Ask A Dog

dog robot

The 1962 cartoon series The Jetsons featured a futuristic nuclear family: father George, mother Jane, and their offspring, Elroy and Judy. In the very first episode, we learn about the Jetson family’s purchase of a housecleaning robot named Rosey. Rosey is, according to paleofuturist Matt Novak, “perhaps the most iconic futuristic character to ever grace [...]

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The Thoughtful Animal

Wolves Howl For Friends, Challenging A Popular Theory of Animal Communication

wolf howl mazzini curr bio

It was thought that animal communication can be explained by lower-level physiological states, but new research shows that wolf howls reflect social dynamics. Rather than indicating stress, wolf howling is a reflection of the quality of social relationships.

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The Thoughtful Animal

Cooler Than #SharkWeek: Sharks Make Friends, Too

Blacktip Reef Shark

Shark Week is upon us, and rather than be fooled by sharky fakery or outright lies, how about some real, true, scientifically-accurate shark science? Here’s a piece I originally wrote in January, 2012. Many of us think of sharks as lone hunters. We imagine them spending most of their lives swimming alone, briefly seeking out [...]

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The Thoughtful Animal

Animating Anthropomorphism: Giving Minds To Geometric Shapes [Video]

shapes thumb

The brain has a problem. Information can only enter it through sensory apparatuses: the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, and skin. And the information that enters the brain is fairly simple. The brain therefore has an enormous task: to take sparse inputs and transform them into extremely complex cognitive representations. For example, the retina that coats [...]

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The Thoughtful Animal

Cricket Fight Club: How is a Cricket Like a Rat?

When my brother and I were young, we were very careful to share the last bit of dessert equally. It’s not that we were particularly magnanimous. In their wisdom, my parents instituted a rule in our house: one of us would divide the snack in half, and the other would select his half. “You cut, [...]

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The Thoughtful Animal

Ferrets: Man’s Other Best Friend

ferret-partial

If a human points his or her finger at something, a dog might infer that there’s hidden food, while the chimpanzee remains more or less clueless about the meaning behind that sort of non-verbal communication. As dogs have evolved in a social space occupied by human social partners, they’ve gained the unique ability not only [...]

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