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April 2020

Colin Allen – 40 Years On: The Quest for a Scientific Philosophy of Animal Minds

Colin Allen: University of Pittsburgh2020 marks the 40th anniversary* of the publication of the pioneering work on vervet monkey alarm calls by Robert Seyfarth, Dorothy Cheney, and Peter Marler, as well as the 30th anniversary of the publication of Cheney & Seyfarth's book How Monkeys See the World. Although not everyone was as willing as they were to embrace the label of “cognitive ethology” — coined by Donald Griffin in 1978 — the shift from Griffin’s anecdotal approach to seemingly…

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April 27, 2020 @ 12:00 am

May 2020

Alison Gopnik – Life history and learning: Childhood as a solution to explore-exploit tensions

Alison Gopnik: University of California BerkeleyI argue that the evolution of our life history, with its distinctively long, protected human childhood allows an early period of broad hypothesis search and exploration, before the demands of goal-directed exploitation set in. This cognitive profile is also found in other animals and is associated with early behaviours such as neophilia and play. I relate this developmental pattern to computational ideas about explore-exploit trade-offs, search and sampling, and to neuroscience findings. I also present…

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May 4, 2020 @ 12:00 am

Gordon Burghardt – The Origins, Evolution, and Functions of Play

Gordon Burghardt: University of TennesseeOur understanding of the evolution, phylogeny, and functions of playfulness in animals is surprisingly minimal, largely because the function of play in both human and nonhuman animals remains controversial. Consequently, biologists have typically ignored play. After all, something frivolous and fun cannot be too important as compared to feeding, mating, fighting, and rearing young. In recent years, however, much research has advanced our understanding of play. This includes identifying play and its diversity, the neuroscience of…

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May 18, 2020 @ 12:00 am

June 2020

Matt Cartmill –

Matt Cartmill: Boston University

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June 1, 2020 @ 12:00 am

October 2020

L. Ian Reed – The communicative functions of facial expressions

The communicative functions of facial expressions L. Ian Reed Clinical Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology, NYU Previous research suggests that some facial expressions of emotion serve a communicative function by signaling private feelings and action tendencies.  Further, some expressions such as smiles and scowls affect receivers by increasing the credibility of accompanying verbal and/or written statements.  Here, I will discuss the credible signaling hypothesis and the evidence in support of it.  This will include a discussion of experiments using economic…

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October 5, 2020 @ 12:00 pm - 1:30 pm

Heidi Colleran – Rethinking reproduction in human evolutionary research

Rethinking reproduction in human evolutionary research Heidi Colleran BirthRites Independent Research Group, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig, Germany Department of Human Behavior, Ecology and Culture, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig, Germany In this talk I would like to critique and try to reframe the way that evolutionary researchers approach human reproductive behavior. Master narratives of human evolution have long promoted a naturalized, eco- logically determinist account of reproductive decision-making: these are usually narrowly tied to resource…

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October 12, 2020 @ 12:00 pm - 1:30 pm

Nadya Vasilyeva – Structural thinking about social categories

Structural thinking about social categories Nadya Vasilyeva Postdoctoral Scholar, Geography of Philosophy Project, UCLA Department of Anthropology Categorical reasoning is one of the cornerstones of psychological functioning, supporting explanation, induction, and learning in virtually every domain of knowledge, including reasoning about social categories. Dominant theories of social cognition focus on the role of internal/essential characteristics in representations of social kinds. Drawing upon an emerging literature in philosophy, I introduce an alternative to internalist thinking, called "structural thinking", in which observed…

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October 19, 2020 @ 12:00 pm - 1:30 pm

Tyler Marghetis – A history of our times

A history of our times Tyler Marghetis Assistant Professor of Cognitive and Information Sciences, University of California, Merced & Omidyar Fellow, The Santa Fe Institute This is a talk about Time. I start with the tension between, on the one hand, the global diversity in how people conceive of time, and on the other, the sense of stability—even necessity—that we often assign to our own idiosyncratic conceptions. I then argue as follows. First, conceptualizations of time are best understood, not…

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October 26, 2020 @ 12:00 pm - 1:30 pm

November 2020

Zaneta Thayer – How social inequities create health inequities: An integration of social and biological mechanisms

How social inequities create health inequities: An integration of social and biological mechanisms Zaneta Thayer Department of Anthropology and Ecology, Evolution, Environment & Society Program, Dartmouth College A remarkably consistent pattern of human variation is the social gradient in health. This is the observation that, both within and between societies, individuals who are socially disadvantaged tend to have poorer health outcomes and shorter life expectancy than individuals who are more socially advantaged. In this talk I will use data from…

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November 2, 2020 @ 12:00 pm - 1:30 pm

Samuel Mehr – Representation and understanding in music across cultures

Representation and understanding in music across cultures Samuel Mehr The Music Lab and Department of Psychology, Harvard University Discovering the universal features of human musicality is a prerequisite for explaining the biological and cultural evolution of music. What is universal about our psychology of music, and what varies? In this talk I will present analyses of the Natural History of Song Discography, which includes songs recorded in 86 mostly small-scale societies, and experiments using these songs. We find that acoustical…

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November 9, 2020 @ 12:00 pm - 1:30 pm

Pascal Boyer – Why divination? A salient cultural attractor, an explanatory model, and some lessons for how to understand the generation of culture

Why divination? A salient cultural attractor, an explanatory model, and some lessons for how to understand the generation of culture Pascal Boyer Professor of Sociocultural Anthropology and Psychology​ and Henry Luce Professor of Collective and Individual Memory, Washington University in St. Louis Divination is a good example of a cultural attractor - almost all human societies have some documented form of divination, a procedure that supposedly guarantees the truth of the statements it produces. I propose a model of the…

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November 16, 2020 @ 12:00 pm - 1:30 pm

Willem Frankenhuis – Hidden talents in harsh conditions

Hidden talents in harsh conditions Willem Frankenhuis Department of Psychology, Utrecht University, the Netherlands It is well established that people living in adverse conditions tend to score lower on a variety of social and cognitive tests. However, recent research shows that people may also develop ‘hidden talents’, that is, mental abilities that are enhanced through adversity. The hidden talents program sets out to document these abilities, their development, and their manifestations in different contexts. In this talk, I present studies…

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November 23, 2020 @ 12:00 pm - 1:30 pm

Hugo Mercier – Impression management as signaling

Impression management as signaling Hugo Mercier Evolution and Social Cognition and Collective Intelligence Teams, Institut Jean Nicod, CNRS, Paris I claim that impression management can be usefully understood as signaling. One consequence is that impression management should be mostly honest, that is, it should benefit on average both senders (i.e. those who are managing the impression they give), and receivers (i.e. those who are evaluating others). This contrasts with the view that self impression is largely deceptive (and thus requires…

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November 30, 2020 @ 12:00 pm - 1:30 pm

December 2020

Rebecca Saxe – What is theory of mind? Implications for mind, brain and culture

What is theory of mind? Implications for mind, brain and culture Rebecca Saxe McGovern Institute and Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, MIT Nearly all research on "theory of mind" has focussed on three kinds of inference: (i) explaining observed behaviour in terms of inferred mental states (given she did that, what did she want?); (ii) morally evaluating observed behaviour in terms of mental states (how much blame does she deserve for causing that harm, given what she believed and…

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December 7, 2020 @ 12:00 pm - 1:30 pm

January 2021

Aaron Panofsky – Citizen scientific racism: White nationalist appropriations of genetic research

Citizen scientific racism: White nationalist appropriations of genetic research Aaron Panofsky UCLA Institute for Society and Genetics, Public Policy, and Sociology This talk presents research from a study about white nationalists and their efforts to appropriate genetics research for their own ideological and identity projects. Using historical sources and online data and interpretive methods, I show that ideas from genetics have been prominent in public pronouncements and in online discussions among white nationalists. For example, they discuss genetic ancestry tests…

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January 4 @ 12:00 pm - 1:30 pm

Evelina Fedorenko – The human language system in the mind and brain

The human language system in the mind and brain Evelina Fedorenko McGovern Institute for Brain Research and Department of Brain & Cognitive Sciences, MIT The goal of my research program is to understand the computations and representations that enable us to share complex thoughts with one another via language, and their neural implementation. A decade ago, I developed a robust new approach to the study of language in the brain based on identifying language-responsive cortex functionally in individual participants. Originally…

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January 11 @ 12:00 pm - 1:30 pm

Quayshawn Spencer – A metaphysical mapping problem for race theorists and human population geneticists

A metaphysical mapping problem for race theorists and human population geneticists Quayshawn Spencer Robert S. Blank Presidential Associate Professor of Philosophy and Race, Science, & Society Working Group, University of Pennsylvania In this talk, I identify and clarify a metaphysical mapping phenomenon that’s almost twenty years old. The phenomenon is that the populations at a fivefold subdivision of humans into biological populations—the so-called human continental populations—correspond one-to-one with the five official races of the Office of Management and Budget in…

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January 25 @ 12:00 pm - 1:30 pm

February 2021

Michael Tomasello – Becoming human: A theory of ontogeny

Becoming human: A theory of ontogeny Michael Tomasello Duke University and the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology Humans are biologically adapted for cultural life in ways that other primates are not. Humans have unique motivations and cognitive skills for sharing emotions, experience, and collaborative actions (shared intentionality). These motivations and skills first emerge in human ontogeny at around one year of age, as infants begin to participate with other persons in various kinds of collaborative and joint attentional activities,…

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February 1 @ 12:00 pm - 1:30 pm

Dorsa Amir – The development of decision-making across diverse cultural contexts

The development of decision-making across diverse cultural contexts Dorsa Amir Boston College Department of Psychology The human behavioral repertoire is uniquely diverse, with an unmatched flexibility that has allowed our species to flourish in every ecology on the planet. Despite its importance, the roots of this behavioral diversity — and how it manifests across development and contexts — remain largely unexplored. I argue that a full account of human behavior requires a cross-cultural, developmental approach that systematically examines how environmental…

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February 8 @ 12:00 pm - 1:30 pm

Paul Smaldino – The evolution of covert signaling in diverse societies

The evolution of covert signaling in diverse societies Paul Smaldino Department of Cognitive and Information Sciences, University of California, Merced Identity signals are common components of communication transmissions that inform receivers of the signaler’s membership (or non-membership) in a subset of individuals. Signals can be overt, broadcast to all possible receivers, or covert, encrypted so that only similar receivers are likely to perceive their identity-relevant meaning. I'll present an instrumental theory of identity signaling as a mechanism for social assortment,…

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February 22 @ 12:00 pm - 1:30 pm
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