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  • January 24, 2011
  • 02:22 AM
  • 1,224 views

Imitation and Social Cognition in Humans and Chimpanzees (II): Rational Imitation in Human Infants and Human-Raised Chimps

by Michael in A Replicated Typo 2.0


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In my last post I wrote about two experiments on imitation in young children and chimpanzees by Lyons et al. (2005) and Horner & Whiten (2005).  Their results suggested that young children tend to copy both the ‘necessary’ and the ‘unnecessary’ parts of a demonstrator’s action wh0 shows them how to get a reward out . . . → Read More: Imitation and Social Cognition in Humans and Chimpanzees (II): Rational Imitation in Human Infants and Human-Raised Chimps... Read more »

Buttelmann D, Carpenter M, Call J, & Tomasello M. (2007) Enculturated chimpanzees imitate rationally. Developmental science, 10(4). PMID: 17552931  

Gergely G, Bekkering H, & Király I. (2002) Rational imitation in preverbal infants. Nature, 415(6873), 755. PMID: 11845198  

  • January 23, 2011
  • 11:35 PM
  • 800 views

Holy Wars in Holy Lands

by teofilo in Gambler's House

In the year AD 1098 a spruce tree was chopped down in the Chuska Mountains, which run roughly along what is now the border between Arizona and New Mexico.  We don’t know who cut it down, exactly, since the people living in the area at the time had no system of writing and have therefore [...]... Read more »

Rubenstein, J. (2008) Cannibals and Crusaders. French Historical Studies, 31(4), 525-552. DOI: 10.1215/00161071-2008-005  

  • January 22, 2011
  • 11:18 PM
  • 778 views

Sacred Ridge

by teofilo in Gambler's House

The best-known of the various instances of alleged cannibalism in the prehistoric Southwest are a set of several that occurred around AD 1150 in the area around the modern town of Cortez, Colorado.  There are also scattered examples of similar assemblages dating to both before and after this and located both in southwestern Colorado and [...]... Read more »

  • January 21, 2011
  • 06:25 PM
  • 1,334 views

When & Were Grapes Domesticated

by Kambiz Kamrani in Anthropology.net

I got some archaeobotany for you to start your weekend off right with — a new open access study in PNAS announces a genome wide association of 8,000 years of grape domestication, spanning the Eastern Caucasus to Western Europe. Lead … Continue reading →... Read more »

Myles, S., Boyko, A., Owens, C., Brown, P., Grassi, F., Aradhya, M., Prins, B., Reynolds, A., Chia, J., Ware, D.... (2011) Genetic structure and domestication history of the grape. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1009363108  

  • January 21, 2011
  • 09:45 AM
  • 1,550 views

Tears as a human female adaptation to limit rape

by Greg Laden in Greg Laden's Blog

This came up a while ago and I assumed the idea would die the usual quick and painless death, but the idea seems to be either so fascinating or so irritating to people (mainly in various blog comment sections) that it still twitches and still has a heartbeat, but only as a result of the repeated flogging it is getting.
Read the rest of this post... | Read the comments on this post...... Read more »

Gelstein, S., Yeshurun, Y., Rozenkrantz, L., Shushan, S., Frumin, I., Roth, Y., & Sobel, N. (2011) Human Tears Contain a Chemosignal. Science, 331(6014), 226-230. DOI: 10.1126/science.1198331  

  • January 20, 2011
  • 08:32 PM
  • 931 views

Toumai and the Sabercats

by Laelaps in Laelaps

“They fight! And bite! They fight and bite and fight! Fight fight fight! Bite bite bite!”
That’s the theme from “The Itchy and Scratchy Show” – the ultra-violent riff on Tom and Jerry regularly featured on The Simpsons - but it could be easily applied to almost any documentary about prehistoric animals that you care to [...]... Read more »

de Bonis, L., Peigné, S., Taisso Mackaye, H., Likius, A., Vignaud, P., & Brunet, M. (2010) New sabre-toothed cats in the Late Miocene of Toros Menalla (Chad). Comptes Rendus Palevol, 9(5), 221-227. DOI: 10.1016/j.crpv.2010.07.018  

  • January 20, 2011
  • 11:00 AM
  • 606 views

Dobzhanksy on Posh Hybrids

by zacharoo in Lawn Chair Anthropology

Long-time readers may recall that one thing I wish I did active research on is hybridization: the crossing of divergent species or lineages, the developmental abnormalities arising from hybridization, and the potential role of hybridization in human evolution. One such developmental abnormality is "heterosis," a.k.a. 'hybrid vigor.' In general, heterosis refers to any trait in hybrids that is larger than the average of the two parents' (or the parents' species) values for that trait. The phenomenon was recognized in plant domestication as far back as the 19th century - crosses between different plant (namely corn) strains produced hybrid strains with much greater yield than their parent species.Implicit in the term is that heterosis, or larger size, is a more adaptive condition than found in the parents. Here's what the late, brilliant Theodosius Dobzhansky (1950: on hybrids: 557) had to say on the matter.The advisability of applying the term "heterosis" to cases in which heterozygotes are larger in body size, or show "increases" in any "traits," but no evidence of higher adaptive value compared to the corresponding homozygotes, is open to question. Perhaps the word "luxuriance" would be a better designation for such cases, the word "heterosis" or "euheterosis" to be used for adaptive superiority of heterozygotes to homozygotes. . . . it is clear that the mechanisms underlying euheterosis and luxuriance are quite different.I wonder if these luxuriant (not heterotic) hybrids also love diamonds, yoga and kopi luwak coffee? ReferenceDOBZHANSKY T (1950). Genetics of natural populations. XIX. Origin of heterosis through natural selection in populations of Drosophila pseudoobscura. Genetics, 35 (3), 288-302 PMID: 15414931... Read more »

  • January 20, 2011
  • 06:30 AM
  • 910 views

Medieval soldiers illuminate modern stunting

by Jeremy in Agricultural Biodiversity Weblog

A couple of sentences in one of The Economist’s celebrated Christmas articles brought me up short. The article detailed a forensic investigation of soldiers who fell in 1491 at Towton, “perhaps the bloodiest battle ever fought in England”. The good thing about Towton is that a mass grave yielded 40 skeletons, 28 of them complete, [...]... Read more »

  • January 19, 2011
  • 06:56 PM
  • 779 views

Entomophagy: moths for dinner

by Chris Grinter in The Skeptical Moth

I have always known that in many places of the world, especially off the beaten track, caterpillars of moths and butterflies are on the menu.  From Africa to Australia there are dozens of species that might taste good enough to be reasonably edible or even delicious.  But here in the US insects rarely . . . → Read More: Entomophagy: moths for dinner... Read more »

  • January 18, 2011
  • 11:11 PM
  • 787 views

Speciation and reticulation

by zacharoo in Lawn Chair Anthropology

Hey, "all you lovers out there," which is how Marvin Berry introduced "Earth Angel" at the Enchantment Under the Sea dance back in good-olde 1955. And by "lovers" I mean "geneticists."
Poring over the recent Neandertal nuclear genome paper (Green et al. 2010) for seminars, we're struck by two contradictory ideas. On the one hand, the authors demonstrate pretty convincingly that Neandertals and the more 'anatomically modern' humans of Europe and Asia interbred. This doesn't come from genetic comparisons of Neandertal and contemporaneous human fossils, but of Neandertals with living humans traipsing modern soil. But on the other hand, the authors estimate the time of the divergence of Neandertal and living human populations.
Herein lies the rub:"Population divergence [is] defined as the point in time when two populations last exchanged genes." (Green et al. 2010: 717)Which they estimate, based on genome sequence divergence and some other assumptions, to be anywhere from ~270,000 - 440,000 years ago. But then this:"[The Out-of-Africa] model for modern human origins suggests that all present-day humans tace all their ancestry back to a small African population that expanded and replaced [Neandertals] without admixture. Our analysis of the Neandertal genome may not be compatible with this view because Neanertals are on average closer to individuals in Eurasia..." (Green et al. 2010: 721)Though they say "may not" they probably should've just said "isn't." Either way, they estimate an ancient date at which the groups in question "last exchanged genes," but also demonstrate that these populations last exchanged genes much more recently.
So what is "population divergence," then? As a wise man asked, "what does divergence mean when there is reticulation?" (I'm assuming he would prefer to go nameless) Reticulation referring not to pythons or chipmunks, but to mating between individuals in different populations. Is "divergence" not so much the last time genes were exchanged, but rather the time when the genomes began to become different?
Now that I bring it up, wouldn't it also be neat to see a fight between the reticulated python and northern reticulated chipmunk?

ReferenceGreen, R., Krause, J., Briggs, A., Maricic, T., Stenzel, U., Kircher, M., Patterson, N., Li, H., Zhai, W., Fritz, M., Hansen, N., Durand, E., Malaspinas, A., Jensen, J., Marques-Bonet, T., Alkan, C., Prufer, K., Meyer, M., Burbano, H., Good, J., Schultz, R., Aximu-Petri, A., Butthof, A., Hober, B., Hoffner, B., Siegemund, M., Weihmann, A., Nusbaum, C., Lander, E., Russ, C., Novod, N., Affourtit, J., Egholm, M., Verna, C., Rudan, P., Brajkovic, D., Kucan, Z., Gusic, I., Doronichev, V., Golovanova, L., Lalueza-Fox, C., de la Rasilla, M., Fortea, J., Rosas, A., Schmitz, R., Johnson, P., Eichler, E., Falush, D., Birney, E., Mullikin, J., Slatkin, M., Nielsen, R., Kelso, J., Lachmann, M., Reich, D., & Paabo, S. (2010). A Draft Sequence of the Neandertal Genome Science, 328 (5979), 710-722 DOI: 10.1126/science.1188021... Read more »

Green, R., Krause, J., Briggs, A., Maricic, T., Stenzel, U., Kircher, M., Patterson, N., Li, H., Zhai, W., Fritz, M.... (2010) A Draft Sequence of the Neandertal Genome. Science, 328(5979), 710-722. DOI: 10.1126/science.1188021  

  • January 18, 2011
  • 01:57 PM
  • 2,190 views

The Emotional Depth of a Turnip—Do Men and Women Read Emotions Differently?

by Krystal D'Costa in Anthropology in Practice


She was clearly upset. The disgust on her face was apparent. As was her frustration when she shook her head at the man standing numbly beside her and said, "You have the emotional depth of a turnip!" The rest of us in the subway car did our best to look busy—headphones were put on, games were played on cell phones, even the morning newspaper made a few reappearances even though it was the evening rush hour.
I have to admit that I was somewhat amused by the situation because I'd recently directed this phrase at a male friend myself, albeit in a less charged environment. The subway man's response was interesting: He appeared bewildered. And the response was eerily similar to that of the recipient of my own statement (though in fairness he accepted my diagnosis with some grace). Admittedly, I don't know the cause of this couple's argument, and I certainly don't know anything about their personalities or the nature of their relationship. Still the perceived shared response made me pause. I don't mean to imply that all men lack complex emotional responses—emotions and relationships are difficult to analyze and label in broad, social terms. Appropriate social and emotional responses are often culturally driven, and produced to various degrees dependent on personality. Nonetheless, regardless of cultural association, some people, both male and female, seem more emotionally expressive and perceptive when compared to others—is there a biological explanation for this?
Possibly. But not in the way you would think.
Emotions are a conscious experience. They're physical and we know they're happening. Even when we incorrectly identify them (e.g., saying "I'm not angry!" when in fact you're furious), we still experience them. But researchers Winkielman and Berridge (2004) have suggested that in some cases, emotional processes may be unconscious, or implicit—that is, we may feel something without being aware that we're having the feeling or behaving in a certain way. We may be influenced by subliminal stimuli. For example, research participants were exposed to several expressive faces and asked to then either pour themselves a drink or rate the drink. After viewing happy expressions, participants were more likely to drink more and pay more for their drink, especially if they were in fact thirsty (122).  Participants were asked to rate their own mood and reported no changes, which suggests no awareness about changes in mood. This consequently implies that they were swayed by subliminal messaging.
Winkielman and Berridge argue that the evolutionary purpose of emotions is to regulate appropriate responses—it helps us negotiate our networks:Basic affective reactions are widely shared by animals, including reptiles and fish, and at least in some species may not involve conscious awareness comparable to that in humans. The original function of emotion was to allow the organism to react appropriately to positive or negative events, and conscious feelings might not always have been required (2004: 122).Basic affective responses, such as liking pleasant experiences or feeling fear in threatening situations, may be hardwired into our social circuitry. These responses are controlled by subcortical structures in the brain—such as the amygdala—which carry out preconscious operations. Anencephalic infants, for example, who possess only a brainstem still demonstrate positive reactions to agreeable experiences like tasting sugar, and negative reactions to tasting bitter items.
The role the amygdala plays in emotional response is not fully understood. As discussed above, there may be some connection between the amygdala and basic affective responses. Anderson and Phelps (2000) presented a case study of a patient known as SP who suffered from lesions in the region of the amydala. In tests that asked her to identify the emotions of others, she demonstrated a diminished sensitivity to interpreting disgust and happiness: Across patients, however, damage to the amygdala is most associated with impairments in the recognition of fear. Further, SP exhibited a pattern of impairment in the evaluation of expressions other than fear that is largely consistent with her extra-amygdalar damage in the right anteromedial temporal lobe. Thus, we conservatively assert that SP's deficits in recognizing expressions of fear are associated with lesions of her amygdala (Anderson and Phelps 2000: 108).There is some belief that the amygdala in particular may play a role in our ability to learn and interpret nonverbal social communication. Both Winkielman and Berridge (2004) and Anderson and Phelps (2000) make reference to the importance for nonhuman primates to recognize social displays of fear and suggest that these responses may be based in this structure: "fearful facial expressions may be important for learning to fear previously neutral environmental stimuli" (Anderson and Phelps 2000: 111).
However, I'm going to work with the assumption that both the subway man and my clueless friend have fully functional amydaloid regions. It's possible that there is a gender difference when it comes to emotional understanding and response. A recent article from Hoffman and colleagues (2010) reports that women are better at interpreting subtle emotional clues. When asked to appropriately label facially expressed emotions, women were significantly better at picking up on low intensity emotional cues, so a glance or a movement may be significant to woman in a way that's very different to a man. In light of the discussion by Winkielman and Berridge, I'll venture to say that women may be more likely to respond to subliminal stimuli as well. Men appear to have trouble distinguishing anger and sadness from each other at low intensity expressions—so men aren't likely to pick up that you're upset if you're silently fuming, ladies.
The reasons for this difference isn't clear. There isn't a clear biological divide as to why women may be more perceptive than men when it comes to emotions. Certainly socialization may play a role in emotional sensitivity. But is that all there is to it? Perhaps emotional sensitivity plays a role in our evolutionary history—in hierarchical groups, it would have been beneficial to be able to read the social cues of others, particularly when they ranked higher within the group. It could have potentially saved the lives of offspring, and assured continued group membership and protection. For example, knowing when to avoid the group's matriarch or the Alpha male, could have been useful knowledge to have.
In this case, and in my own experience, these studies highlight that that there is in fact the potential for a biological and social divide in communication between the sexes that goes beyond simple socialization. Again, this is not to suggest that all men are emotional turnips or that women are all hypersensitive and savvy to emotions, but it does advocate for a bit of patience on both of our parts—particularly in public confrontations.

Referenced:... Read more »

  • January 17, 2011
  • 07:19 AM
  • 1,423 views

Vital topics forum in AA: ‘Nature and the human’

by gregdowney in Neuroanthropology

The question of ‘human nature’ is a fraught one for many anthropologists, especially those of us who pay special attention to human variation, Darwinian theory, and dynamic approaches to diversity in developmental questions.
The very concept ‘human nature’ can be the theoretical equivalent of the double-bind question, ‘So can you confirm that you no longer are a Creationist?’  Even conceding to respond to the question places us in a position where we wind up between the Scylla of the essentialist fallacy and the Charybdus of the ‘blank slate,’ the Devil of ethnocentric universalism and the deep blue sea of ascribing innate and irreducible differences to human groups.
Nevertheless, former colleague Agustín Fuentes, Professor of Anthropology at the University of Notre Dame, has brought together a number of prominent anthropologists to ponder the question of ‘human nature’ in a ‘Vital Topics Forum’ in the American Anthropologist (AA): ‘On Nature and the Human’ (abstract here).  As Fuentes lays out the challenge for anthropologists:
Of late, psychologists, historians, political scientists, economists, and even philosophers have been in the public eye speaking about these issues of the human; anthropological voices have been muted in comparison. I propose we take this topic by the horns and advance a new public debate about it.  (Fuentes 2010: 512)
The Forum brings together Fuentes’s thoughts with short pieces by Jonathan Marks, Tim Ingold, Robert Sussman, Patrick V. Kirch, Elizabeth M. Brumfiel, Rayna Rapp and Faye Ginsburg, Laura Nader, and Conrad P. Kottak, some heavyweights from across our field.
Unfortunately, given the illiberal policies on publication access practiced by the American Anthropological Association, the forum is behind a subscription wall, so you cannot access it without going through an academic library (unless you’re an AAA member).  I’m still grousing about the complete absence of open-access journals in our field, as I think any discussion of ‘public outreach’ given the way we’ve locked up our publications is a bit hypocritical.  So, because you likely can’t get to it, I’m going to quote liberally from the original forum and reference each author’s contributions separately.

One of the first important points that gets made by biological anthropologists Prof. Jonathan Marks (UNC – Charlotte) is that, even though the comparative inter-species perspective on human evolution is important, too-simple equations between humans and other living great apes can be misleading.  Marks argues that we have ‘evolved into biocultural ex-apes’ (2010: 513).  His point is that, as Fuentes (2010: 519) clarifies, we are not simply ‘upgraded versions of out ancestors’ but something distinctive.
I don’t think, by any stretch, the Marks is advocating the polar opposite view, that humans are so exceptional that we can essentially disregard our relations to other animals.  Rather, attempting to roll back our species’ recent biological, cultural, cognitive, and social innovations in an attempt to get to what is really ‘human nature’ is misguided.  Or, as Marks puts it (and I’ve long admired his writing stylistically):
To imagine that we are nothing but apes, and to find human nature there (e.g., de Waal 2005; Wrangham and Peterson 1996), actually constitutes a denial of evolution. We evolved; get over it. In a classic midcentury synthesis, George Gaylord Simpson explained the problem with “nothing-butism”: “Such statements are not only untrue but also vicious for they deliberately lead astray enquiry as to what man really is and so distort our whole comprehension of ourselves” (1949:283). Evolution is the production of difference and novelty, and you are not your ancestors. (Marks 2010: 513)
I recently made a similar argument in filming a documentary on sexuality that will be broadcast here in Oz on SBS, supposedly in June: if you strip away everything that makes humans distinctive in reproduction, social relations, and expression as a species, you can’t then say you’ve discovered our ‘sexual nature.’  Likewise, you can’t try to imagine a human without language, culture, learning, sophisticated intelligence, tools and the like, and then say ‘that’s human nature.  We’re nothing but bald apes!’
The thought exercise of stripping human characteristics to discover (or more likely, invent) ‘human nature’ is certain to produce some other imagined non-human species of hominids, likely a hybrid of contemporary biases, comparative guesswork, and plain stabs into the paleoanthropological dark.  Interesting for science fiction, perhaps, but not as scientific theory.  Or, as Marks himself puts it much more acerbically, ‘the quest to imagine a human condition without culture is simply the tortured dream of a hack philosophe’ (2010: 513).
This argument follows from Marks’ critique of some of the most prolific and widely cited contemporary theorists of ‘human nature,’ ones who commit what I referred to above as the ‘essentialist fallacy.’  Marks describes the contemporary trend as a paradox: individuals who believe that they are upholding the theoretical legacy of Darwin are, in fact, operating with a pre-Darwinian concept that a species has an essential and irreducible ‘nature’:
One of the most extraordinary paradoxes of modern science is the way in which a pre-Darwinian concept (deriving the essential properties of the human beast) has been transformed into a Darwinian litmus test: if you don’t believe sufficiently in the idea of human nature, then you must be a creationist (Konner 2002; Pinker 2003). But in an intellectual arena where facts are notoriously difficult to come by, one fact is certain: human nature is a politically contested turf. Anyone who pronounces on it, while simultaneously arguing that their pronouncements are disconnected from society and politics, is not to be taken seriously. (2010: 513)
Marks is collapsing together what I think are two separate and equally important critiques: the first is that arguing any species has a ‘nature’ or essential being is not consistent with the most basic of Darwinian understandings of natural selection, which assume that variation is inherent in reproduction.  To argue that ‘human nature’ is any one thing — violent, cooperative, thoughtful, credulous or whatever — may be rhetorically important but it runs afoul of the most basic invariant of ‘descent with modification’: variation.
Marks’ second critique is that the invocation of ‘human nature’ is inevitably political, an argument that I don’t wholly agree with although I would concede that statements about human nature often have a political subtext, even if the person making them may not be aware of the subtext.  Marks (2010: 513) argues that ‘the most consistent scientific invocation of human nature has been to explore, or, rather, to construct, limits to human social progress,’ that arguments asserting human nature are often conservative ‘biopolitics,’ rearguard actions to defend hereditary aristocracy, racial inequality, sexual hierarchy or other social problem as inherently, biologically irreducible.
Professor Tim Ingold, Chair in the Department of Anthropology of Aberdeen University, parses the question of ‘human nature’ into what he argues are fundamentally two different questions: ‘What is a human being? What does it mean to be human?’  The first we typically answer biologically with a discussion  of our species, but the second of which we answer existentially because our self-awareness transcends our biological reality.  In other words, Ingold is pointing out that the question of ‘human nature’ is both biological and philosophical, and one question can’t be reduced to the other.
Ingold, for reasons slightly different from Marks, suggests that some current explorations of ‘human nature’ are profoundly inconsistent with evolutionary theory although they loudly profess to be ‘evolutionary.’  As Ingold writes, the problem is as obvious as the nose on your face (although you’re likely not to notice your own nose if you’re not looking for it), but some scholars:
persist in the search for a universal architecture underwriting the capacities of the human mind while attributing the evolution of these capacities to a theory—of variation under natural selection—that only works because the individuals of a species are endlessly variable. This is not a mistake that anatomists would make. Every human being, for example, has a protuberance in the centre of the face with two holes that allow the inhalation and exhalation of air. We call it the nose. No two noses are alike: they vary among individuals and among populations.  Yet no one conversant with modern biology would attribute these variations to developmentally induced inflections of a universal nasal architecture, identically keyed in to all humans. Did not Darwin finally refute the essentialist doctrine that for every species there exists a preestablished, formal template? Yet this is precisely the doctrine to which evolution... Read more »

Fuentes, A., Marks, J., Ingold, T., Sussman, R., Kirch, P., Brumfiel, E., Rapp, R., Ginsburg, F., Nader, L., & Kottak, C. (2010) On Nature and the Human. American Anthropologist, 112(4), 512-521. DOI: 10.1111/j.1548-1433.2010.01271.x  

  • January 17, 2011
  • 12:20 AM
  • 1,248 views

Plague DNA from Late Antique Bavaria

by Michelle Ziegler in Contagions

The first plague pandemic was not recorded in Bavaria, or anywhere in the Germanic territory that I am aware of. The grave was not a typical ‘plague pit’. It was a rich grave of an adult woman and a young girl (individuals 166 and 167) from a cemetery in Aschheim, Bavaria. With no visible signs [...]... Read more »

  • January 15, 2011
  • 04:53 AM
  • 876 views

Autistic Children In The Media

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic

Emory University's Jennifer Sarrett offers an interesting although sadly brief analysis of the way in which autism is treated in the mass media: Trapped Children.She examines media depictions of children with autism, first in the 1960s, and then today. In those 40 years, professionals radically changed their minds about autism: in the 60s, a lot of people thought it was caused by emotionally distant refrigerator mothers; nowadays, we think it's a neural wiring disorder caused by deleted genes.Yet, she says, while theories about the causes have changed, the media's view of what autism is hasn't, and assumptions from the 60s are still around (even amongst professionals). She identifies two enduring themes:Fragmentation. The child with autism is somehow not a whole person; they are fundamentally "broken". And the family with an autistic child is emotionally shattered, too. In the 60s, the theory was that the broken family caused the autism. Nowadays, it's the other way round: having an autistic child stresses family relationships to breaking-point.Imprisonment. The child with autism is at heart "normal", but their autism has them trapped, blocked-off from the world. Bruno Bettelheim, a leading champion of the refrigerator mother theory, called his major book The Empty Fortress. Either professionals, or parents, need to "break through" the autism to contact the "real" child imprisoned by the disorder. Likewise, this real child is eager to get out, but this is very difficult: they are crying out for help. In the 60s, it was psychoanalysis that could free the child. Today, it's anything from Prozac to chelation and other quack "biomedical" cures.The problem with these kinds of articles is that you can really make up any themes you want, and find examples to fit. That doesn't mean it's a pointless exercise, it just means that the examples can't prove the analysis right. You need to ask yourself: does this, in general, ring true?I think Sarrett's analysis does ring true, especially the theme of imprisonment, which is almost never made explicit, but it seems to lurk in the background of a lot of modern thought about autism. The autistic isn't really autistic. Their autism is something external - if only we could reach the normal child underneath! Every attempt to "cure" or "rescue" the autistic child relies on this belief.I said that this paper is sadly brief. There's so much more to say on this topic; in particular, I think we need to compare representations of autism to those of other developmental disorders like Down's syndrome, in order to work out what's specific to autism as opposed to just general "disability" or "disorder".However, I think if you did this, you'd probably end up agreeing with the paper. I can't remember Down's syndrome being portrayed as a kind of self-fragmentation or imprisonment; this article seems quite typical.Sarrett recommends accounts by authors who have autism themselves for an alternative and more valid view of autism: people like Temple Grandin and Daniel Tammet:autistic voices can promote a much needed faithfulness and tolerance to future representations of autism and those diagnosed with autism.Although she admits that these authors only speak for a subset of those with "high-functioning" autism or Asperger's, and thatthere remains a population of people with autism who are not writing, speaking and reading, making the representations advanced by these narratives subject to questions about generalizability.Sarrett JC (2011). Trapped Children: Popular Images of Children with Autism in the 1960s and 2000s. The Journal of medical humanities PMID: 21225325... Read more »

  • January 14, 2011
  • 04:58 PM
  • 1,248 views

The inevitable rise of Amish machines

by Razib Khan in Gene Expression

About 20 years ago I lived for a year in a rural area where Amish were a common feature of country roads and farmers’ markets. My parents, being Muslims, would sometimes buy chickens from the local Amish and slaughter them according to halal. We had a relationship with a particular family. They were nice people, [...]... Read more »

Rowthorn R. (2011) Religion, fertility and genes: a dual inheritance model. Proceedings. Biological sciences / The Royal Society. PMID: 21227968  

  • January 13, 2011
  • 02:00 AM
  • 716 views

When a “home” becomes a “house”: care and caring in the flood recovery process

by SAGE Insight in SAGE Insight

From Space and Culture             As Australia has become the latest victim of severe flooding, we are mindful of the potentially devastating consequences. This article looks back to the 2007 floods in North East England, to consider the care needs that are revealed, disrupted, and produced by the dependencies and vulnerabilities associated with flood recovery. It also uses diaries [...]... Read more »

  • January 12, 2011
  • 09:45 PM
  • 1,203 views

Chimpanzee Warfare?

by Dan Bailey in Smells Like Science

The Chimpanzees who live at the Ngogo site deep within Uganda’s Kibale National Park spend their days foraging and feeding, wrestling and playing, grooming and socializing. But every 10 to 14 days a group of males gathers and moves away from the rest of the group. They form a single-file line as they walk purposefully toward the edge of their territory, eventually striking out into the territory of a neighboring group of chimpanzees. They move in atypical silence, scanning the underbrush and listening for any sign of other chimps. If they encounter a large group of neighboring chimps, and are outnumbered, they flee back to their territory. But if they come across a single chimp from a neighboring group, they attack – surrounding, beating, and jumping on the victim. Some victims are killed outright, others manage to escape, broken, bleeding, and unlikely to survive. Infants are often torn away from female chimpanzees and are killed and cannibalized.... Read more »

  • January 11, 2011
  • 02:50 PM
  • 1,073 views

Chinese Mothers, American Anxieties and the Nature of Parenting

by David Berreby in Mind Matters


Over the weekend I read Amy Chua's paean to "Chinese parents" in The Wall Street Journal with morbid fascination. What felt morbid was Chua's "Mommie Dearest" anecdote about battling with her 7-year-old because the little girl couldn't master a difficult piano piece (which involved threatening to ...Read More
... Read more »

QUINN, N. (2003) Cultural Selves. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1001(1), 145-176. DOI: 10.1196/annals.1279.010  

  • January 11, 2011
  • 12:20 PM
  • 925 views

What Was Lost in the Fire: A Conservation Memorial

by Eric Michael Johnson in The Primate Diaries

The latest stop in the #PDEx tour is being hosted by Reconciliation Ecology:The modern conservation movement began at dawn on December 8, 1850, above the north fork of California's San Joaquin river. Soft orange light had just begun to spill over the craggy peaks of the eastern Ahwahnee mountains causing the jagged minarets to ignite like still burning embers from the Indian campfires below. All remained still inside the wigwams of the Ahwahneechee camp. But an attuned ear would have noticed that the early morning trills of the hermit thrush were strangely absent. A disturbed silence had entered the forest, broken only by the occasional clumsy snap of twigs as if from an animal unfamiliar with its surroundings. There was also the faint smell of smoke.Suddenly, fires roared to life throughout the camp as multiple wigwams were engulfed in flame. White men quickly scattered from the light and into shadow. A party of vigilantes in the company of Major John Savage had used smouldering logs from the Indians' own campfires to set the shelters ablaze. It was a tactic that those with experience in the Indian Wars knew to inspire panic and the crucial element of surprise. Dozens of Ahwahneechee fled their burning wigwams as the fire rapidly spread to the surrounding forest. Thick plumes of smoke were bathed in the same searing glow that was now descending from the rocky peaks above."Charge, boys! Charge!!" bellowed the gravelly voice of Lieutenant Chandler. A heavy drumbeat of foot falls now joined the sound of crackling pine. Thirty men, many wearing identical red shirts and crude suspenders purchased at the mining supply depot, dashed from the surrounding bushes with their rifles. Read the rest of the post here and stay tuned for the next entry in the Primate Diaries in Exile tour.Reference:Scholl AE, & Taylor AH (2010). Fire regimes, forest change, and self-organization in an old-growth mixed-conifer forest, Yosemite National Park, USA. Ecological applications : a publication of the Ecological Society of America, 20 (2), 362-80 PMID: 20405793... Read more »

  • January 11, 2011
  • 12:20 PM
  • 803 views

What Was Lost in the Fire: A Conservation Memorial

by Eric Michael Johnson in The Primate Diaries in Exile

The latest stop in the #PDEx tour is being hosted by Reconciliation Ecology:The modern conservation movement began at dawn on December 8, 1850, above the north fork of California's San Joaquin river. Soft orange light had just begun to spill over the craggy peaks of the eastern Ahwahnee mountains causing the jagged minarets to ignite like still burning embers from the Indian campfires below. All remained still inside the wigwams of the Ahwahneechee camp. But an attuned ear would have noticed that the early morning trills of the hermit thrush were strangely absent. A disturbed silence had entered the forest, broken only by the occasional clumsy snap of twigs as if from an animal unfamiliar with its surroundings. There was also the faint smell of smoke.Suddenly, fires roared to life throughout the camp as multiple wigwams were engulfed in flame. White men quickly scattered from the light and into shadow. A party of vigilantes in the company of Major John Savage had used smouldering logs from the Indians' own campfires to set the shelters ablaze. It was a tactic that those with experience in the Indian Wars knew to inspire panic and the crucial element of surprise. Dozens of Ahwahneechee fled their burning wigwams as the fire rapidly spread to the surrounding forest. Thick plumes of smoke were bathed in the same searing glow that was now descending from the rocky peaks above."Charge, boys! Charge!!" bellowed the gravelly voice of Lieutenant Chandler. A heavy drumbeat of foot falls now joined the sound of crackling pine. Thirty men, many wearing identical red shirts and crude suspenders purchased at the mining supply depot, dashed from the surrounding bushes with their rifles. Read the rest of the post here and stay tuned for the next entry in the Primate Diaries in Exile tour.Reference:Scholl AE, & Taylor AH (2010). Fire regimes, forest change, and self-organization in an old-growth mixed-conifer forest, Yosemite National Park, USA. Ecological applications : a publication of the Ecological Society of America, 20 (2), 362-80 PMID: 20405793... Read more »

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