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  • August 13, 2010
  • 12:14 PM
  • 985 views

New Studies: Music Makes People Nicer

by David Berreby in Mind Matters


Birds do it. Bees do it. But primate species don't sing and dance, except for Homo sapiens. Why is music-making part of human nature, then? Why do we enjoy singing in three-part harmony or clapping together in church, which wouldn't appeal for a single second to our chimp or orangutan cousins? This paper proposes an explanation: Music, it says, makes little kids nicer. Maybe it evolved because it made our ancestors more cooperative, and hence more successful.
Sebastian Kirschner and Michael Tomasello recruited 96 four-year-olds from German day care centers and set them to playing games in pairs. Some played musical instruments and sang with the experimenter, while others played the same game, but without music. A later game was set up so that one child needed help from the other, who had to choose whether to aid the partner or keep playing.
Kids who had played music together were considerably more likely to help, the authors report (a pdf of the entire paper, which details their ingenious experimental methods, is here). Perhaps, Kirschner and Tomasello write, music evolved because it focuses attention on collective goals, and so satisfies an innate human desire to be "in sync."
That's in line with this finding, from an upcoming issue of the International Journal of Hospitality Management, which reports that when restaurants offer background music —at least, nice background music in the form of songs with "prosocial lyrics"—customers leave bigger tips. (Credit to Tom Jacobs for reporting on it.)
Kirschner, S., & Tomasello, M. (2010). Joint music making promotes prosocial behavior in 4-year-old children☆☆☆ Evolution and Human Behavior DOI: 10.1016/j.evolhumbehav.2010.04.004
Jacob, C., Guéguen, N., & Boulbry, G. (2010). Effects of songs with prosocial lyrics on tipping behavior in a restaurant International Journal of Hospitality Management, 29 (4), 761-763 DOI: 10.1016/j.ijhm.2010.02.004
... Read more »

  • August 12, 2010
  • 10:24 AM
  • 591 views

Smells From the Past: The Fulton Fish Market

by Krystal D'Costa in The Urban Ethnographer

It’s been a very hot summer here in New York City. And the city smells. It’s more than the smell of baking asphalt, exhaust fumes, and lack of deodorant—these smells are around all year. The heat has awakened older smells. Around midday, if you happen to stroll down by the South Street Seaport you can [...]... Read more »

Cann A, & Ross DA. (1989) Olfactory stimuli as context cues in human memory. The American journal of psychology, 102(1), 91-102. PMID: 2929788  

Djordjevic J, Zatorre RJ, Petrides M, & Jones-Gotman M. (2004) The mind's nose: Effects of odor and visual imagery on odor detection. Psychological science : a journal of the American Psychological Society / APS, 15(3), 143-8. PMID: 15016284  

  • August 11, 2010
  • 04:56 PM
  • 1,346 views

The Earliest Known Use of Flaked Stone Tools by Hominids?

by Greg Laden in Greg Laden's Blog

It is possible that a much earlier than previously known date for the use of flaked stone tools has been established in Ethiopia, dating to prior to 3.39 million years ago.

Read the rest of this post... | Read the comments on this post...... Read more »

  • August 11, 2010
  • 01:25 PM
  • 1,334 views

New Primate Fossil Informs Us of the Ape-Monkey Split During the Oligocene

by Greg Laden in Greg Laden's Blog

The newly reported Saadanius hijazensis may or may not be a "missing link" but in order for this monkey to climb onto the primate family tree, a new branch had to be sprouted. So, not only is Saadanius hijazensis a new species, but it is a member of a new taxonomic Family, Saadaniidae, which in turn is a member of a new Superfamily, Saadanioidea. Why is this important? It's complicated. But not too complicated.

The fossil was found while University of Michigan paleontologist Iyad Zalmout was busy looking for dinosaur fossils in western Saudi Arabia. He found the monkey, from a much later time period, instead. Ooops. Read the rest of this post... | Read the comments on this post...... Read more »

Zalmout, I., Sanders, W., MacLatchy, L., Gunnell, G., Al-Mufarreh, Y., Ali, M., Nasser, A., Al-Masari, A., Al-Sobhi, S., Nadhra, A.... (2010) New Oligocene primate from Saudi Arabia and the divergence of apes and Old World monkeys. Nature, 466(7304), 360-364. DOI: 10.1038/nature09094  

  • August 10, 2010
  • 11:30 PM
  • 534 views

The Turkey Connection

by teofilo in Gambler's House

In a comment to the previous post, Alan Reed Bishop brings up an issue closely related to the recent evidence for early maize cultivation in Chaco Canyon: the introduction of domesticated turkeys to the Southwest.  A recent study of archaeological turkey remains found that the majority of the turkeys found in Southwestern archaeological sites are [...]... Read more »

  • August 10, 2010
  • 02:02 PM
  • 611 views

Hauser Of Cards

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic

A major scandal looks to be in progress involving Harvard Professor Marc Hauser, a psychologist and popular author whose research on the minds of chimpanzees and other primates is well-known and highly respected. The Boston Globe has the scoop and it's well worth a read (though you should avoid reading the comments if you react badly to stupid.)Hauser's built his career on detailed studies of the cognitive abilities of non-human primates. He's generally argued that our closest relatives are smarter than people had previously believed, with major implications for evolutionary psychology. Now one of his papers has been retracted, another has been "corrected" and a third is under scrutiny. Hauser has also announced that he's taking a year off from his position at Harvard.It's not clear what exactly is going on, but the problems seem to centre around videotapes of the monkeys that took part in Hauser's experiments. The story begins with a 2007 paper published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B. That paper has just been amended in a statement that appeared in the same journal last month:In the original study by Hauser et al., we reported videotaped experiments on action perception with free ranging rhesus macaques living on the island of Cayo Santiago, Puerto Rico. It has been discovered that the video records and field notes collected by the researcher who performed the experiments (D. Glynn) are incomplete for two of the conditions.The authors of the original paper were Hauser, David Glynn and Justin Wood. In the amendment, which is authored by Hauser and Wood i.e. not Glynn, they say that upon discovering the issues with Glynn's data, they went back to Puerto Rico, did the studies again, and confirmed that the original results were valid. Glynn left academia in 2007, to work for a Boston company, Innerscope Research, according to this online resume.If that was the whole of the scandal it wouldn't be such a big deal, but according to the Boston Globe, that was just the start. David Glynn was also an author on a second paper which is now under scrutiny. It was published in Science 2007, with the authors listed as Wood, Glynn, Brenda Phillips and Hauser.However, crucially, Glynn was not an author on the only paper which has actually been retracted, "Rule learning by cotton-top tamarins". This article appeared in the journal Cognition in 2002. The three authors were Hauser, Daniel Weiss and Gary Marcus. David Glynn wasn't mentioned in the acknowledgements section either, and according to his resume, he didn't arrive in Hauser's lab until 2005.So the problem, whatever it is, is not limited to Glynn.Not was Glynn an author on the final paper mentioned in the Boston Globe, a 1995 article by Hauser, Kralik, Botto-Mahan, Garrett, and Oser. Note that the Globe doesn't say that this paper is formally under investigation, but rather, that it was mentioned in an interview by researcher Gordon G. Gallup who says that when he viewed the videotapes of the monkeys from that study, he didn't observe the behaviours which Hauser et al. said were present. Gallup is famous for his paper "Does Semen Have Antidepressant Properties?" in which he examined the question of whether semen... oh, guess. The crucial issue for scientists is whether the problems are limited to the three papers that have so far been officially investigated or whether it goes further: that's an entirely open question at the moment.In Summary: We don't know what is going on here and it would be premature to jump to conclusions. However, it is notable that the only author who appears on all of the papers known to be under scrutiny, is Marc Hauser himself.Hauser MD, Weiss D, & Marcus G (2002). Rule learning by cotton-top tamarins. Cognition, 86 (1) PMID: 12208654Hauser MD, Glynn D, & Wood J (2007). Rhesus monkeys correctly read the goal-relevant gestures of a human agent. Proceedings. Biological sciences / The Royal Society, 274 (1620), 1913-8 PMID: 17540661Wood JN, Glynn DD, Phillips BC, & Hauser MD (2007). The perception of rational, goal-directed action in nonhuman primates. Science (New York, N.Y.), 317 (5843), 1402-5 PMID: 17823353Hauser MD, Kralik J, Botto-Mahan C, Garrett M, & Oser J (1995). Self-recognition in primates: phylogeny and the salience of species-typical features. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 92 (23), 10811-14 PMID: 7479889... Read more »

Hauser MD, Weiss D, & Marcus G. (2002) Rule learning by cotton-top tamarins. Cognition, 86(1). PMID: 12208654  

Hauser MD, Glynn D, & Wood J. (2007) Rhesus monkeys correctly read the goal-relevant gestures of a human agent. Proceedings. Biological sciences / The Royal Society, 274(1620), 1913-8. PMID: 17540661  

Wood JN, Glynn DD, Phillips BC, & Hauser MD. (2007) The perception of rational, goal-directed action in nonhuman primates. Science (New York, N.Y.), 317(5843), 1402-5. PMID: 17823353  

Hauser MD, Kralik J, Botto-Mahan C, Garrett M, & Oser J. (1995) Self-recognition in primates: phylogeny and the salience of species-typical features. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 92(23), 10811-14. PMID: 7479889  

  • August 8, 2010
  • 07:15 PM
  • 1,260 views

Why did the Tasmanians Stop Eating Fish?

by Greg Laden in Greg Laden's Blog

Georges Bank is a very large shallow area in the North Atlantic, roughly the size of a New England state, that serves as a fishing ground and whaling area (these days for watching the whales, not harpooning them) for ports in New England, New York and Eastern Canada. Eighteen thousand years ago, sea levels were globally at a very low point (with vast quantities of the Earth's water busy being ice), and at that time George's Bank would have been a highland region on the very edge of the North American continent, extending via a lower ridge to eastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island, and separated by a low plain (covered in part by glaciers) to the rest of New England.1

As sea levels began rising around twelve thousand years ago, George's bank became a narrower peninsula and eventually an island visible from the mainland. We know that people lived on this island because artifacts of early Native American groups have been dredged up here, along with the teeth of Pleistocene elephants and other items. Read the rest of this post... | Read the comments on this post...... Read more »

Davidson, Iain, & Roberts, David Andrew. (2009) On Being Alone: The Isolation of the Tasmanians. Book: Turning Points in Australian Prehistory. info:other/

  • August 5, 2010
  • 03:51 PM
  • 538 views

The Context for Early Maize at Chaco

by teofilo in Gambler's House

In my earlier post about Stephen Hall‘s recent paper reporting on maize pollen at Chaco Canyon dating as early as 2500 BC, I said briefly that this really shouldn’t be surprising to anyone who’s been following this kind of research closely, and also that I would discuss the context for it later.  Basically, the context [...]... Read more »

Merrill, W., Hard, R., Mabry, J., Fritz, G., Adams, K., Roney, J., & MacWilliams, A. (2009) The diffusion of maize to the southwestern United States and its impact. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 106(50), 21019-21026. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0906075106  

  • August 5, 2010
  • 11:21 AM
  • 855 views

Inevitability and oil, Pt. 2: the “end of oil” and human empathy

by Hannah Waters in Culturing Science – biology as relevant to us earthly beings

Never thought I’d actually get around to a Pt. 2, eh?  Well, I’ve shown you!  Here’s the first part: Inevitability and Oil, Pt. 1: the inherent risk for accidents in complex technology For decades now economists and scientists have predicted the “end of oil:” the day when we use up our oil reserves, potentially resulting [...]... Read more »

  • August 5, 2010
  • 12:16 AM
  • 1,342 views

Language and inflation

by Ingrid Piller in Language on the Move

Some Language-on-the-Movers based here in Sydney had the opportunity to attend Professor Masaki Oda’s lecture about the current state of the English language in Japan yesterday. With major Japanese companies announcing a switch to English as their official company language … Continue reading →... Read more »

  • August 4, 2010
  • 12:59 PM
  • 1,459 views

Persistent ethnic differences in test performance may be entirely an artifact of the method used to 'adjust' the test

by Greg Laden in Greg Laden's Blog

It is well established among those who carry out, analyze, and report pre-employment performance testing that slope-based bias in those tests is rare. Why is this important? Look at the following three graphs from a recent study by Aguinis, Culpepper and Pierce (2010):
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Aguinis, H., Culpepper, S., & Pierce, C. (2010) Revival of test bias research in preemployment testing. Journal of Applied Psychology, 95(4), 648-680. DOI: 10.1037/a0018714  

  • August 4, 2010
  • 12:35 PM
  • 967 views

What Makes Humans Unique ?(IV): Shared Intentionality – The Foundation of Human Uniqueness?

by Michael in A Replicated Typo 2.0

What Makes Humans Unique (IV): Shared Intentionality – The Foundation of Human Uniqueness? Shared or collective intentionality is the ability and motivation to engage with others in collaborative, co-operative activities with joint goals and intentions. (Tomasello et al. 2005). The term also implies that the collaborators’ psychological processes are jointly directed at something and take place within a joint attentional frame (Hurford 2007: 320, Tomasello et al. 2005).
Michael Tomasello and his colleagues at the Max-Planck-Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany have proposed that shared intentionality and the cognitive infrastructure supporting it may be the crucial feature that makes humans unique.
→ Read More: What Makes Humans Unique ?(IV): Shared Intentionality – The Foundation of Human Uniqueness?... Read more »

Moll, H., & Tomasello, M. (2007) Cooperation and human cognition: the Vygotskian intelligence hypothesis. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 362(1480), 639-648. DOI: 10.1098/rstb.2006.2000  

Tomasello, M., & Carpenter, M. (2007) Shared intentionality. Developmental Science, 10(1), 121-125. DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-7687.2007.00573.x  

Tomasello, M., Carpenter, M., Call, J., Behne, T., & Moll, H. (2005) Understanding and sharing intentions: The origins of cultural cognition. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 28(05). DOI: 10.1017/S0140525X05000129  

  • August 3, 2010
  • 08:33 PM
  • 1,026 views

Slow-burning Orangs

by zinjanthropus in A Primate of Modern Aspect

Lately, I’ve been a little stressed.  Long hours in the lab and moving into a new apartment have created the perfect storm for “treating myself” to restaurant food, served with a side of inactivity and sloth.  As I sit here at my desk, chowing down on crackers and reading the latest issue of the PNAS, [...]... Read more »

Pontzer, H., Raichlen, D., Shumaker, R., Ocobock, C., & Wich, S. (2010) Metabolic adaptation for low energy throughput in orangutans. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1001031107  

  • August 3, 2010
  • 04:52 PM
  • 792 views

Study: Dining Hall In the Dorm Means More Flab on the Freshmen

by David Berreby in Mind Matters

How do you persuade people to eat less and exercise more? We love to think it's a matter of getting them to see facts and make good decisions, because that implies that people are thoughtful and that their choices matter. But this paper, published online yesterday by the Journal of Adolescent Health, points to a more humble solution: Ignore people's thoughts and feelings, and just move the food further away.

Why don't we have more policies like that? I think it's because we're emotionally attached to a bankrupt theory of behavior. "Rational economic man" lies to us about human nature. But it's a flattering lie, and we cling to it. Behavioral research says that even in important decisions, we're unaware of our own motives, indifferent to facts, and governed by a mix of trivial accidents and psychic rules we don't know we are following. Rational economic man says we're self-aware, informed, consistent and logical—cool appraisers of our own best interests. Who wouldn't rather hear that?

Trouble is, self-flattery is the enemy of self-management: If you think you can quit smoking by deciding to, or that you'll stick to a diet just because you're clear on the benefits of weight loss, then you won't recognize, or cope with, the effects of advertising, marketing, social networks and other irrational forces. If you imagine that your behavior is decided by the complicated to-ing and fro-ing of your conscious mind, you will feel important, for sure. But—as Alcoholics Anonymous and other addiction programs have long maintained—you'll have more success changing yourself if you admit you're simpler, dumber and less complex than your conscious mind wants to believe.

The new paper I mentioned is a case in point. It suggests a very simple and quite unflattering method for preventing weight gain in college freshmen: Just don't put a cafeteria in their dorm.

Kandice Kapinos and Olga Yakusheva tracked 388 first-year students at Marquette University in Wisconsin. In four of the seven different dormitories in which they were living, there was a dining hall that served three meals a day. Students in the other three had to go outside to eat. Over the course of their freshman year, men in the dining-hall equipped dorms ate an average of one and a half meals more each week than did their counterparts in the foodless dorms, and averaged almost three more snacks per week too. Women in the dormitories with food service ended the year weighing nearly two pounds more, on average, than their peers in the other buildings. They also exercised less.

If you dismiss this data as obvious or trivial, you have, I think, fallen for the flattering wiles of rational economic man. He invites you to think obesity is a problem to be combatted with facts and figures; that dignified, autonomous individuals need to be persuaded to lay off the cookies and get to the gym. How undignified and dull, by contrast, is the thought that people's thoughts and convictions can be ignored—that you can help them avoid obesity just be putting the food outside. Yet in this case, at least, flattering ourselves less might help us control ourselves more.

Kapinos, K., & Yakusheva, O. (2010). Environmental Influences on Young Adult Weight Gain: Evidence From a Natural Experiment Journal of Adolescent Health DOI: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2010.05.021... Read more »

  • August 3, 2010
  • 04:50 PM
  • 1,132 views

Which is more safe: home birth or hospital birth?

by Kate Clancy in Laboratory for Evolutionary Endocrinology

An anthropologist's take on the current AJOG article and Lancet editorial on home birth and infant mortality... Read more »

Editorial staff. (2010) Home birth--proceed with caution. Lancet, 376(9738), 303. PMID: 20674705  

  • August 3, 2010
  • 02:19 AM
  • 594 views

Old Corn

by teofilo in Gambler's House

One important line of evidence in understanding the climatic history of Chaco Canyon, a subject of considerable interest given the harsh aridity of the current climate and the incongruous grandeur of the archaeological remains, has been the study of packrat middens.  These are collections made by packrats of materials found near their nesting locations, which [...]... Read more »

Hall, Stephen A. (2010) Early maize pollen from Chaco Canyon, New Mexico, USA. Palynology, 34(1), 125-137. info:/10.1080/01916121003675746

  • August 1, 2010
  • 11:10 PM
  • 1,464 views

Multilingualism 2.0

by Ingrid Piller in Language on the Move

The social networking market research site Inside Facebook has some intriguing language stats. In July, the fastest-growing languages on Facebook were Portuguese, Arabic, Spanish and French. The Portuguese growth rate was a staggering 11.8%. Arabic grew by 9.2%, Spanish by … Continue reading →... Read more »

Otsuji, E., & Pennycook, A. (2010) Metrolingualism: fixity, fluidity and language in flux. International Journal of Multilingualism, 7(3), 240-254. DOI: 10.1080/14790710903414331  

  • July 30, 2010
  • 04:00 PM
  • 1,051 views

Does drinking beer increase your attractiveness .... to mosquitoes?

by Greg Laden in Greg Laden's Blog

The anopheles mosquito, Anopheles gambiae, is the primary vector for human malaria. Mosquitoes in general, the A. gambiae included, find their prey by tracking body odor exuded from the breath and skin. Apparently, the composition of body odor determines A. gambiae's preference for one individual over another. It has been known for some time now that A. gambiae preferentially seek out and draw blood from pregnant women (Linsay et al 2000; Ansell et al 2002; Himeidan, Elbashir and Adam 2004), preferring pregnant over none pregnant women at about a 2:1 ratio.

Read the rest of this post... | Read the comments on this post...... Read more »

Lefèvre, T., Gouagna, L., Dabiré, K., Elguero, E., Fontenille, D., Renaud, F., Costantini, C., & Thomas, F. (2010) Beer Consumption Increases Human Attractiveness to Malaria Mosquitoes. PLoS ONE, 5(3). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0009546  

  • July 30, 2010
  • 03:30 PM
  • 890 views

Koreans, not quite the purest race?

by Razib Khan in Gene Expression

PLoS One has a paper out on Korean (South) population genetics and phylogeography, Gene Flow between the Korean Peninsula and Its Neighboring Countries:
SNP markers provide the primary data for population structure analysis. In this study, we employed whole-genome autosomal SNPs as a marker set (54,836 SNP markers) and tested their possible effects on genetic ancestry [...]... Read more »

Jung J0, Kang H, Cho YS, Oh JH, & Ryu MH. (2010) Gene Flow between the Korean Peninsula and Its Neighboring Countries. PLoS ONE. info:/10.1371/journal.pone.0011855

  • July 30, 2010
  • 02:41 PM
  • 704 views

It’s all in the toes – Why Old World monkeys change their limb posture to run

by Laelaps in Laelaps

Just by looking at its limbs, you can tell that a cheetah is born to run. Not only does this felid have non-retractable claws which act like cleats on a runner's shoe - a unique feature among big cats - but it also has the familiar tip-toe limb posture which allows the carnivore to reach [...]... Read more »

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