The Homunculus

Psychology, Anthropology, Evolution

Archive for the ‘anthropology’ Category

Look beneath the floorboards

Posted by Joy Icayan on December 17, 2009

Probably my favorite Sufjian Stevens’ song, John Wayne Gacy Jr ends with stanza ‘And in my best behavior / I am really just like him  / Look beneath the floorboards / For the secrets I have hid.’ But are we really just like John Wayne Gacy, who put up a facade of respectability while he murdered a string of boys?

Technically no. It was earlier mentioned that psychopaths have an impaired capacity to detect fearful expressions. In his book How We Decide, Jonah Lehrer wrote about Gacy’s inability to feel for his victims. These stem out of malfunctions in the brain. Thankfully, there is a very small percentage of people who are like these.

In the sense that we are capable of doing much evil, then yes. From the history of world genocides and human brutality, we have seen that much of these has been done not by psychopaths, but by ordinary citizens caught in senseless and difficult situations. Theorists and social scientists have proposed their share of theories to explain this behavior: Milgram’s obedience studies, Zimbardo’s studies on roleplaying and others.

So perhaps, evil in the sense of doing wrong, is just all too human.

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Cognitive Science 3D Mind Map

Posted by Joy Icayan on December 7, 2009

CogSpace has a wonderful 3D mind map of cognitive science which plots the six academic domains of cognitive science which are: psychology, linguistics, anthropology, neuroscience, computer science, and philosophy on the Cartesian system. Subdomains like Neurolinguistics, Computational Neuroscience and others plotted accordingly, according to proximity and relations to these fields.

From the abstract:

“With this dynamic arrangement of organizational factors, the model renders a unique integral perspective and informative cartography of the “terrain”, and provides a “navigational instrument” for our explorative traversing across the frontier of consciousness research. By plotting each sub-domain in scope of the relative positions of all other domains, areas of knowledge and research concentration and lack of concentration (“unexplored regions”) become apparent. When referencing any particular disciplinary sub-domain within the manifold model, where it is at and what color it is can suggest something about it’s qualitative proximity to either more discrete and concrete or more continuous and abstract types of knowledge and research. .. The closer a sub-domain is to the exact center, the closer it is to blending and fusing with an absolute, unified, and direct knowing and application of consciousness itself…”

Michael Gaio, who is currently developing the map, has placed instructions for better navigation, so you can play around with it for some geeky fun.

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Hello Ardi

Posted by Joy Icayan on October 2, 2009

ardiScience writes on the discovery of Ardi, the oldest human skeleton found which predates famous Lucy by at least a million years. Ardi belonging to the species Ardipithecus ramidus lived 4.4M years ago and was female, weighed 110 pounds, and had a small brain. She was found in the Afar desert in Ethiopia, 76 km from where Lucy was also found more than three decades ago.

One of the more surprising findings on Ardi suggest that the species was bipedal but crawled on trees. Since Ardi was found to be living in a wooded area, this finding challenges the earlier notion that bipedalism evolved when hominids left the woodlands for the open grasslands. Anthropologist Owen Lovejoy of Kent State University suggests it all had to do with sex and food.

Most importantly, the dicovery disproves the missing link theory that humans originated from a chimp like ancestor. It suggests that chimpanzees and humans evolved from a common ancestor around six to seven million years ago, and have been evolving independently since. National Geographic News provide an interactive timeline on our redefined evolutionary history, where you can also, uhm, explore Ardi’s body parts.

Links:

Ardipithecus Ramidus (free articles!) from Science

Oldest Human Skeleton Found – Disproves Missing Link

Did Early Humans Start Walking for Sex?

Ardipithecus Ramidus Lights the Way

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