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October 2019

Lynette Shaw – Cognition, Culture, and Complexity: Modeling the Emergence of Shared Social Realities from Individual Mental Representation

Lynette Shaw: University of MichiganThe cultures we belong to affect far more than our practices and beliefs - they also fundamentally shape how we perceive the world, each other, and ourselves. Many rich theoretical traditions in the social sciences and humanities have emphasized these “socially constructed” aspects of our experienced realities. To date, however, insights in this arena have largely resisted formal specification and modeling. In this talk, I will show how this historical barrier can be transcended by using…

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October 14, 2019 @ 12:00 am

Terry Deacon – On Human (Symbolic) Nature: How the Word Became Flesh.

Terry Deacon: University of California, BerkeleyAbstract: The concept of human nature has been challenged by social scientists because of its inability to clearly delineate the distinction between the biologically inherited and experientially acquired attributes of being human. Yet the very fact of being susceptible to acquired cultural influences irrelevant to other species makes clear that this is an evolutionarily constrained susceptibility. Symbolic processes are the source of the most important and distinctively human acquired influences, and include both linguistically mediated…

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October 21, 2019 @ 12:00 am

Tao Gao – Modeling Theory of Mind for Competition, Cooperation and Communication

Tao Gao: University of California, Los AngelesTheory of mind (ToM) refers to the attribution of an agent’s motion to its mental states, including belief, desire and intention. Modeling ToM is built upon two principles. First, the “rationality principle” (utility theory), assuming that an agent takes actions to maximize its utility. Second, the Bayes’ theorem, solving ToM by maximizing the posterior of mental states conditioning on the observed actions. A model of ToM is a model of social commonsense that can…

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October 28, 2019 @ 12:00 am

November 2019

Johanna Eckert – The Evolutionary Roots of Intuitive Statistics

Johanna Eckert: University of California, Los AngelesIntuitive statistics is the capacity to draw intuitive probabilistic inferences based on an understanding of the relations between populations, sampling processes, and resulting samples. This capacity is fundamental to our daily lives and one of the hallmarks of human thinking. We constantly use sample observations to draw general conclusions about the world, use these generalizations to predict what will happen next and to make rational decisions under uncertainty. Historically, statistical reasoning was thought to…

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November 4, 2019 @ 12:00 am

Caitlin O’Connell – The costs and benefits of sociality explored in the semi-solitary orangutan

Caitlin O'Connell: University of Southern CaliforniaSocial relationships are an integral part of primate life for humans and non-humans alike, but the extent to which a primate devotes its time and energy to socializing can vary tremendously within and between species. With a semi-solitary social system, orangutans present a unique opportunity to examine both social and solitary conditions within a single population to test predictions regarding the costs and benefits of sociality. While the socioecological model predicts that orangutans display reduced…

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November 25, 2019 @ 12:00 am

December 2019

Max Kleiman-Weiner – Reverse Engineering Human Cooperation

Max Kleiman-Weiner: Massachusetts Institute of TechnologyHuman cooperation is distinctly powerful. We collaborate with others to accomplish together what none of us could do on our own; we share the benefits of collaboration fairly and trust others to do the same. I seek to understand these everyday feats of social intelligence in computational terms. I will present a formal framework based on the integration of individually rational, hierarchical Bayesian models of learning, together with socially rational multi-agent and game-theoretic models of…

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December 2, 2019 @ 12:00 am

January 2020

Rafael Nuñez – Is there really a biologically evolved capacity for number? Quantical vs. numerical cognition and the biological enculturation hypothesis

Rafael Nuñez: University of California San DiegoIs there a biologically endowed capacity specific for number and arithmetic? A widely accepted view in cognitive neuroscience, child psychology, and animal cognition gives an unproblematic ‘yes’ for an answer to this question, claiming that there is a biologically evolved capacity specific for number and arithmetic that humans share with other species. However, data from various sources—humans from non-industrialized cultures, trained nonhuman animals in captivity, and the neuroscience of symbol processing in schooled participants—do…

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January 27, 2020 @ 12:00 am

February 2020

Josh Armstrong – The Social Origins of Universal Grammar

Josh Armstrong: UCLAContemporary linguistic theory takes the generative features of language use as a central focus of study. Many linguists—most notably Noam Chomsky—have maintained that explaining these generative features of language requires an appeal to a human language faculty or a universal grammar: a biologically guided, species-typical, set of cognitive procedures for building linguistic meanings in ways that are highly creative but also highly constrained. My talk explores the evolutionary origins of universal grammar. I will argue that contemporary human…

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February 3, 2020 @ 12:00 am

Cailin O’Connor – Dynamics of Equity

Cailin O'Connor: University of California IrvineWhy do some groups get more and others less? And why is this sort of pattern so pervasive across human cultures? In this talk, I'll discuss cultural evolutionary modeling work that address these questions. In particular, I look at the dynamics of bargaining and coordination in cultural evolution when groups are divided into social categories such as gender and race. These models make clear why inequity is so common, and also suggest an approach towards…

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February 10, 2020 @ 12:00 am

Robert Seyfarth – The social origins of language

Robert Seyfarth: University of PennsylvaniaDespite their differences, human language and the vocal communication of nonhuman primates share many features. Both constitute a form of joint action, rely on similar neural mechanisms, and involve discrete, combinatorial cognition. These shared features suggest that during evolution the ancestors of modern primates faced similar social problems and responded by evolving similar systems of perception, communication and cognition. When language later evolved from this common foundation, many of its distinctive features were already in place.

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February 24, 2020 @ 12:00 am

March 2020

Kensy Cooperrider – Fifteen ways of looking at a pointing gesture

Kensy Cooperrider: University of California San DiegoThe human pointing gesture may be viewed from many angles. On a neutral description, it is an intentional movement, often of the hand, by which one person tries to direct another’s attention—it is, in short, a bodily command to look. But this bland definition is only a start. Pointing may also be seen as a semiotic primitive, a philosophical puzzle, a communicative workhorse, a protean universal, a social tool, a widespread taboo, a partner…

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March 1, 2020 @ 12:00 am

Robbie Burger – Metabolic scaling, brain size, pace of life history, and the rise of hyper-dense cities

Robbie Burger: University of ArizonaMetabolic scaling provides a universal theoretical framework to evaluate the life history trade-offs and population consequences across the tree of life. In this talk I will present new research applying metabolic scaling theory to brain size and the pace of living in birds and mammals. I will then present new extensions of metabolic scaling to understand the non-linear trade-offs in growth and mortality and size and number of offspring across animals. I will end by applying…

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March 16, 2020 @ 12:00 am

April 2020

Heidi Lyn – Dogs, Apes, Dolphins, and Environment Effects on Communication and Cognition

Heidi Lyn: University of South AlabamaThe study of animal communication and cognition has a long history, and one that frequently focuses on the human lineage (looking for homologous traits). In recent years, true comparative cognition has become more frequently reported in the literature. However, these studies can often be flawed, with many researchers failing to account for methodological changes that accompany a change in species. In addition, there is a strong tendency to assume that all differences in evidence between…

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April 6, 2020 @ 12:00 am

Ryan Nichols – Evaluating the Labor Market Explanation of Footbinding: Theoretical, Methodological, and Statistical Problems

Ryan Nichols: Cal State University FullertonFootbinding refers to a historical practice of the Han Chinese involving, typically, the repeated ritual wrapping of the feet of young girls, often involving the breaking of toes, in an effort to create small. This presentation presents and discusses the Labor Market theory of footbinding (Brown et al. 2012; Bossen et al. 2011; Gates & Bossen, 2017; etc.). According to the Labor Market theory, footbinding’s maintenance over 1,000 years is explained as the product of…

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April 13, 2020 @ 12:00 am

Barry Bogin – Stunting is not a synonym of malnutrition

Barry Bogin: Loughborough University & University of Michigan-DearbornThe World Health Organization defines stunting as, “…impaired growth and development that children experience from poor nutrition, repeated infection, and inadequate psychosocial stimulation.” Most of the recent research literature equates stunting with malnutrition, less with infection, and rarely with psychosocial issues. In contrast, most of the historic literature indicates that growth in height is largely independent of the extent and nature of the diet. We are sceptical that the estimated global prevalence of…

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April 20, 2020 @ 12:00 am

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
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