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August 2010

Drew Westen: What Created the Populist Explosion and How Democrats Can Avoid the Shrapnel in November

Interesting article by Drew Weston looks at populist anger and what the Democratic Party must do now. Read the whole (long) article at Huffington Post.

Excerpt:

To say that the American people are angry is an understatement. The political brain of Americans today reflects a volatile mixture of fear and fury, and when you mix those together, you get an explosion. The only question at this point is how to mitigate the damage when the bomb detonates in November.

via www.huffingtonpost.com


Bering in Mind: Oedipus Complex 2.0

Like it or not, parents shape their children's sexual preferences

In a forthcoming report in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin by University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign psychologist Chris Fraley and New Mexico State University’s Michael Marks—a study that would make Freud smile in his grave and give a long-fingered salute to his many critics—these investigators show that sexual attraction to one’s own biological parents isn’t as deviant or abnormal a thing as you might assume. In fact, evidence of these hidden desires, say Marks and Fraley, raise important questions for traditional psychological accounts of incest avoidance.

via www.scientificamerican.com

Great article at Scientific American by Jesse Bering. Read all of Jesse's post here.

From PubMed page for Fraley and Marks study:

Westermarck, Freud, and the Incest Taboo: Does Familial Resemblance Activate Sexual Attraction?

Fraley RC, Marks MJ.

Abstract

Evolutionary psychological theories assume that sexual aversions toward kin are triggered by a nonconscious mechanism that estimates the genetic relatedness between self and other. This article presents an alternative perspective that assumes that incest avoidance arises from consciously acknowledged taboos and that when awareness of the relationship between self and other is bypassed, people find individuals who resemble their kin more sexually appealing. Three experiments demonstrate that people find others more sexually attractive if they have just been subliminally exposed to an image of their opposite-sex parent (Experiment 1) or if the face being rated is a composite image based on the self (Experiment 2). This finding is reversed when people are aware of the implied genetic relationship (Experiment 3). These findings have implications for a century-old debate between E. Westermarck and S. Freud, as well as contemporary research on evolution, mate choice, and sexual imprinting.



Neuroanthropology

Evolutionary theorists have long recognized that the domestication of animals represented a major change in human life, providing not just a close-at-hand food source, but also non-human muscle power and a host of other advantages. Penn State anthropologist Prof. Pat Shipman argues that animal domestication is one manifestation of a larger distinctive trait of our species, the ‘animal connection,’ which unites and underwrites a number of the most important evolutionary advances of our hominin ancestors.

Louis

Shipman’s proposal is discussed in a recent forum paper in Current Anthropology and is the subject of her forthcoming book, The Animal Connection. The paper is interesting to us here at Neuroanthropology.net because Shipman indirectly poses fascinating questions about the evolutionary significance of human-animal relationships, including the cognitive abilities of both and how they interact.

As Shipman puts it in the Penn State press release about the research, if we only think about what domesticated animals do for us as a species, we miss the truly curious thing about our relationship to them:

via neuroanthropology.net


Psyche, Brain, Culture

I spent some time updating the blog roll for In Hawk Space (see the "Hawk's Brain" typelist in the sidebar), and thought I'd write a blurb about two of them: Bill Benzon's New Savanna, and Neuroanthropology, a blog with several contributors for whom the primary contact for blog purposes is Greg Downey.

Like me, all of these writers are interested in the brain.

Here's how Bill describes New Savanna:

Humankind got its start on the African savannas some hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of years ago. At various times in our cultural history we’ve moved to distinctly new cultural ground, as it were. And so we are moving now, and have been for the past half century. This blog, mostly intellectual, but not entirely so, is how I see that move. Intellectually, I'm broadly interested in culture and the brain. Within that compass, anything could show up here (but most likely won't). Literature and films (including animation), certainly, music as well, and graffiti. But, other things may show up as well. It's a blog, don't you know, it moves.

I connected with New Savanna more strongly earlier this month when I began reading his 5-part series entitled Mode and Behavior. You can read the first one and find links to the others here.

I found Neuroanthropology through this post that linked to a YouTube video, Matthew Taylor on human psychology and political change.

I very much appreciate the writers at both blogs for their very different explorations of a common interest: human culture and the human brain. Check them out and see what you think.


Your Brain Unleashed – Outdoors and Out of Reach « Neuroanthropology

Here's an clip from interesting post that challenges some of the ideas in the New York Times article linked in my previous entry (read the whole article here):

Ah, rafting the San Juan River in southern Utah, camping and hiking for a week – for most people, a vacation. But for a select group of brain researchers, and some accompanying journalists, it was “serious work.”

It was a primitive trip with a sophisticated goal: to understand how heavy use of digital devices and other technology changes how we think and behave, and how a retreat into nature might reverse those effects.

The whole technology vs. nature theme is a hit, as the NY Times article, Your Brain on Computers: Outdoors and Out of Reach, Studying the Brain, is the most popular article there right now. But that dichotomy of technology as bad and nature as good is a false one. Worse, the prism of the brain proves to be dangerous rapids rather than a river of explanation.

via neuroanthropology.net


Your Brain on Computers - Studying the Brain Off the Grid, Professors Find Clarity - NYTimes.com

It is a small thing, the kind of change many vacationers notice in themselves as they unwind and lose track of time. But for Mr. Braver and his companions, these moments lead to a question: What is happening to our brains?

Mr. Braver, a psychology professor at Washington University in St. Louis, was one of five neuroscientists on an unusual journey. They spent a week in late May in this remote area of southern Utah, rafting the San Juan River, camping on the soft banks and hiking the tributary canyons.

It was a primitive trip with a sophisticated goal: to understand how heavy use of digital devices and other technology changes how we think and behave, and how a retreat into nature might reverse those effects.

via www.nytimes.com


When Positive Thinking Becomes Religion: How “The Secret” and Law of Attraction Poison Spirituality

We must understand that the founder of a cult or new religion has no room for compromise: absolutes are necessary. True believers in mystical psychotherapy will not embrace a gospel with modest claims: it must be all or nothing. – Martin Larson

via www.commonsensereligion.com

Great article by Be Scofield -- some interesting background on the concept of "positive thinking" and some goods points about what can happen when it "becomes religion."