MIND

Evolutionary Psychology

Topic: 

  • MIND
http://vimeo.com/80905650

"There's a mismatch between the modern versus ancestral world. Our minds are equipped with programs that were evolved to navigate a small world of relatives, friends, and neighbors, not for cities and nation states of thousands or millions of anonymous people. Certain laws and institutions satisfy the moral intuitions these programs generate.

Language and Human Nature

Topic: 

  • MIND
http://vimeo.com/80905898

"Language is an adaptation to the "cognitive niche". It facilitates exchange of information, negotiating of cooperation. But indirect speech (polite requests, veiled threats & bribes, sexual overtures) are a puzzle for the theory that language is an adaptation for efficient communication. Language is an adaptation to the "cognitive niche". ..."

The Evolutionary Approach to the Social Sciences

[9.30.09]

The modern social sciences are built on an Aristotlean blank slate foundation. On the Aristotlean view the mind is like a tape recorder or video recorder assumes: the mechanisms of recording (learning) do not impart any content of their own to the signal that it absorbs our mental content is therefore wholly supplied by the senses, especially from social sources (culture). Basing the social sciences on the mistaken theory that the mind is like a blank slate was a fundamental error that has kept the social sciences from being as fully successful as the natural sciences.

FIVE PROBLEMS IN THE PHILOSOPHY OF MIND

[8.6.09]

Since Descartes invested the Western mind with res cogitans and res extensa, the seemingly insurmountable philosophic and scientific questions his dualism posed have stalked us. Indeed, a friendly observer of the past 350 years of the philosophy of mind might be forgiven for saying that res cogitans and res extensa, despite all our efforts with Dualism, Materialism, Idealism, and now the Mind Brain Identity Theory, have held us at bay. I say 'at bay' because it is clear that there is no agreement that we have solved the mighty problems of consciousness and mind.

STUART A. KAUFFMAN is a professor at the University of Calgary with a shared appointment between biological sciences and physics and astronomy. He is also the leader of the Institute for Biocomplexity and Informatics (IBI) which conducts leading-edge interdisciplinary research in systems biology.

Dr. Kauffman is also an emeritus professor of biochemistry at the University of Pennsylvania, a MacArthur Fellow and an external professor at the Santa Fe Institute. He is the author of Reinventing the Sacred, The Origins of Order, At Home in the Universe: The Search for the Laws of Self-Organization, and Investigations.

Stuart A. Kauffman's Edge Bio Page

BRAIN TIME

[6.23.09]

Your brain, after all, is encased in darkness and silence in the vault of the skull. Its only contact with the outside world is via the electrical signals exiting and entering along the super-highways of nerve bundles. Because different types of sensory information (hearing, seeing, touch, and so on) are processed at different speeds by different neural architectures, your brain faces an enormous challenge: what is the best story that can be constructed about the outside world?

BRAIN TIME 
By David M. Eagleman

DAVID M. EAGLEMAN is director of Baylor College of Medicine's Laboratory for Perception and Action, whose long-range goal is to understand the neural mechanisms of time perception. He also directs BCM's Initiative on Law, Brains, and Behavior, which seeks to determine how new discoveries in neuroscience will change our laws and criminal justice system. He is the author of Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives, and Wednesday is Indigo Blue: Discovering the Brain of Synesthesia.

David M. Eagleman's Edge Bio Page


From WHAT'S NEXT?
Dispatches on the Future of Science
Edited By Max Brockman 


THE SIMPLIFIER

Topic: 

  • MIND
http://vimeo.com/80908084

"We discovered a new vein of research — the relation between physical and social or psychological concepts — that we came to by taking evolutionary principles seriously and applying them to psychology. We weren't using evolutionary psychology, which has largely been focused on mating and reproduction. Our focus, rather, was in terms of evolutionary biology and the basic principles of natural selection: and that field makes clear that humans must have had these kinds of mechanisms or these processes to guide our behavior prior to evolution or emergence of consciousness."

THE SIMPLIFIER

[6.15.09]

We discovered a new vein of research — the relation between physical and social or psychological concepts — that we came to by taking evolutionary principles seriously and applying them to psychology. We weren't using evolutionary psychology, which has largely been focused on mating and reproduction. Our focus, rather, was in terms of evolutionary biology and the basic principles of natural selection: and that field makes clear that humans must have had these kinds of mechanisms or these processes to guide our behavior prior to evolution or emergence of consciousness.


[16:52 minutes]

Introduction

"They say that in science there are complicators and there are simplifiers," says John Bargh, Yale social psychologist known for his early work on the topic of automaticity, and more recently for bringing experimental methodology to the philosophical question of free will.

According to Bargh, the tension between the complicators and the simplifiers is a good thing in any field of ideas or science. "I've always been a simplifier." he says, "looking for the simple mechanisms that produce complex effect, instead of building a complicated model. Once we find one of these veins — one of these avenues of research — we just go for it and mine it and mine it until we run out of gold.

Bargh's lines of research all focus on unconscious mechanisms that underlie social perception, evaluation and preferences, and motivation and goal pursuit in realistic and complex social environments. That each of these basic psychological phenomena occur without the person's intention and awareness, yet have such strong effects on the person's decisions and behavior, has considerable implications for philosophical matters such as free will, and the nature and purpose of consciousness itself.

He maintains that the resulting findings "are very consistent and in harmony with evolutionary biology. And this is very unlike psychology, which has always presumed a kind of consciousness bottle-neck or a self, some kind of a homunculus type of self sitting there, making all the decisions and deciding without any explanation of where they comes from or what's causing the self or what's causing the conscious choices. Emphasizing what our unconscious systems do for us, in turn, links us very strongly to other organisms and other animals very closely. Recent primate research is showing that primates are closer to us than we thought. They fall for the same kind of economic fallacies that Kahneman and Tversky talked about in humans 30 years ago."

— Russell Weinberger, Associate Publisher, Edge

 

JOHN A. BARGH is professor of social psychology at Yale University and director of the ACME (Automaticity in Cognition, Motivation and Evaluation) Lab.

John Bargh's Edge Bio Page

HOW DOES OUR LANGUAGE SHAPE THE WAY WE THINK?

[6.11.09]

For a long time, the idea that language might shape thought was considered at best untestable and more often simply wrong. Research in my labs at Stanford University and at MIT has helped reopen this question. We have collected data around the world: from China, Greece, Chile, Indonesia, Russia, and Aboriginal Australia. What we have learned is that people who speak different languages do indeed think differently and that even flukes of grammar can profoundly affect how we see the world. Language is a uniquely human gift, central to our experience of being human. Appreciating its role in constructing our mental lives brings us one step closer to understanding the very nature of humanity.

HOW DOES OUR LANGUAGE SHAPE THE WAY WE THINK? 
By Lera Boroditsky

LERA BORODITSKY is an assistant professor of psychology, neuroscience, and symbolic systems at Stanford University, who looks at how the languages we speak shape the way we think.

Lera Boroditsky's Edge Bio Page


From WHAT'S NEXT?
Dispatches on the Future of Science
Edited By Max Brockman
 

CHIMERAS OF EXPERIENCE

Topic: 

  • MIND
http://vimeo.com/80905220

"The paradox of modern neuroscience is that the one reality you can't describe as it is presently conceived is the only reality we'll ever know, which is the subjective first person view of things. Even if you can find the circuit of cells that gives rise to that, and you can construct a good causal demonstration that you knock out these circuit of cells, and you create a zombie; even if you do that... and I know Dennett could dismantle this argument very, very quickly ...

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