Today's issue of Science has a letter from neuroscientist Martha Farah and theologian Nancey Murphy warning against 'non-materialist neuroscience' becoming the new front-line in the religion wars. (Mind Hacks)
Takahasi et al. show that experiencing envy at another person's success activates pain-related neural circuitry, whereas experiencing schadenfreude--delight at someone else's misfortune--activates reward-related neural circuitry. (Deric Bownds' MindBlog)
I will raise some questions about Tye’s argument. I will not challenge his claims about how Burgean intuitions apply to phenomenal concepts. Nor will I deny that those claims create problems for the phenomenal concept strategy, as it is usually formulated. Instead, I will suggest that there is a viable fallback position available to the phenomenal concept strategist: a revised strategy. (BrainPains)
Reading the minds of others can be darned hard. Are their intentions good, bad or indifferent? Whether we hold people accountable for their behaviour depends on the answer. Scientists probe questions like this through experiments. Philosophers traditionally appeal to intuition and argument. But now a young band of experimental philosophers are taking armchair philosophy to task, and digging for data. (All In The Mind - 21 February 2009)
One of the mysteries of gambling is that even when we should know we're going to lose, we somehow think we're going to win. Dr. Luke Clark, from the Department of Experimental Psychology at the University of Cambridge, may have discovered one of the reasons why. Using MRI, he studied brain activity in people gambling, looking particularly at "near misses" in which a loss seems close to a win. He found that the brain activated the same reward system that is activated in a real win, despite the fact that people report that these near misses are unpleasant. (CBC Radio | Quirks & Quarks | February 21, 2009)
In our legal system, judges and juries have to assign responsibility for crimes and decide on appropriate punishments. A new imaging study reveals which area of the brain plays a key role in these cognitive processes. (Scientific American)
Jerry Fodor has a lively and thoughtful review of Andy Clark's new book Supersizing the Mind in the latest issue of the London Review of Books. The paper is in effect a critique of the extended mind thesis, targeting Andy's and my joint paper "The Extended Mind", Andy's book, and my foreword to the book. Fodor makes two or three interesting objections to the extended mind thesis. (fragments of consciousness)
According to a new study, our gut feelings can enhance the retrieval of explicitly encoded memories - those memories which we encode actively - and therefore lead to improved accuracy in simple decisions. The study, which is published online in Nature Neuroscience, also provides evidence that the retrieval of explicit and implicit memories involves distinct neural substrates and mechanisms. (Neurophilosophy)
Given only a small dose of oxytocin, individuals in a recent study found that their memory significantly improved. Not for historical dates, strings of digits, or bars of music, but for something much more significant: each other. (Seed)
Tired of all that mushy nonsense that comes with Valentine's Day - the schmaltzy cards, the heart-shaped box of chocolates, the earnest whispers and secret nothings? It's about time someone took a cold, harsh look at love and expose it for what it really is: chemistry. That's right, forget about magic - when you boil it down, love is nothing more than a molecular stew, sloshing around inside our skulls. Researchers have begun to identify these compounds and understand exactly what they do.
another interesting study from the group at Wellcome Center group at University College associated with Ray Dolan - cognitive neuroscience that is directly relevant to our current economic and political reality: (Deric Bownds' MindBlog)
Of course, it should be noted that there may be alternate architectures that incorporate forward models satisfying criteria for being sensory. However, the core idea of a forward model does not alone satisfy such criteria. It is also worth noting that the characterization of imagery as the willful reactivation of input systems threatens to make the imagery account collapse into a kind of non-sensory view. This is so if a crucial part of a state’s being imagery is its activation of a control signal. (Brain Hammer)
The technique, called targeted muscle reinnervation, involves taking the nerves that remain after an arm is amputated and connecting them to another muscle in the body, often in the chest. Electrodes are placed over the chest muscles, acting as antennae. When the person wants to move the arm, the brain sends signals that first contract the chest muscles, which send an electrical signal to the prosthetic arm, instructing it to move. The process requires no more conscious effort than it would for a person who has a natural arm. (NYTimes.com)
Supersizing the Mind: Embodiment, Action, and Cognitive Extension, a recent book by philosopher Andy Clark is reviewed by Melvyn Goodale in Nature, and I pass on some clips from his review, because Clark's views exactly mirror the sentiments expressed in my Biology of Mind Book. (Deric Bownds' MindBlog)
There is a gap between the mind and the world, and (as far as anybody knows) you need to posit internal representations if you are to have a hope of getting across it. Mind the gap. You’ll regret it if you don’t. (Jerry Fodor review of Clark)
Dan Jones writes an interesting essay in a recent issue of Science (PDF here) on how work in evolutionary theory, moral philosophy, and neuroscience casts doubt on the idea that disgust embodies a deep-seated wisdom. Instead it provides an emerging portrait of an evolutionarily constrained emotion that is a poor guide to ethical action. (Deric Bownds' MindBlog)
How, and for whom, does disgust influence moral judgment? In 4 experiments participants made moral judgments while experiencing extraneous feelings of disgust. Disgust was induced in Experiment 1 by exposure to a bad smell, in Experiment 2 by working in a disgusting room, in Experiment 3 by recalling a physically disgusting experience, and in Experiment 4 through a video induction. In each case, the results showed that disgust can increase the severity of moral judgments relative to controls. Experiment 4 found that disgust had a different effect on moral judgment than did sadness. In addition, Experiments 2-4 showed that the role of disgust in severity of moral judgments depends on participants’ sensitivity to their own bodily sensations. Taken together, these data indicate the importance - and specificity - of gut feelings in moral judgments.
Our understanding of disgust and morality is in its infancy, yet technological advances in neurobiology, an increasing willingness to engage in interdisciplinary dialogue, to take religion seriously as a dimension of human nature and experience, and growing knowledge of cultural differences, have created a climate within which a breakthrough in our understanding of morality could soon occur. (Heather Looy :: Global Spiral)
The Disgust Scale is a self-report personality scale that was developed by Jonathan Haidt, Clark McCauley, and Paul Rozin as a general tool for the study of disgust. It is used to measure individual differences in sensitivity to disgust, and to examine the relationships among different kinds of disgust. This page contains information on the emotion of disgust and on the Disgust Scale. Please feel free to print any of the papers on this page, and to use the Disgust Scale for research, education, or other non-commercial purposes. If you obtain any interesting findings with the Disgust Scale, we would appreciate hearing about them, and we would be happy to post a link to you or your work on this page.
This finding—that having more mature brains did not help the adoptees avoid the toddler-talk stage—suggests that babies speak in baby talk not because they have baby brains, but because they only just got started learning and need time to accrue sufficient vocabulary to be able to expand their conversations. Before long, the one-word stage will give way to the two-word stage, and so on. Learning how to chat like an adult is a gradual process. (Scientific American)
To understand the role of gestures in the origins of human language, Amy Pollick and Frans de Waal decided to see how they are used by our closest relatives - the chimpanzee and the bonobo. (Not Exactly Rocket Science)
there's some suggestive evidence that the brain might contemplate other people very differently when that person is a virtual Facebook "page" and not a flesh and blood individual, with a tangible physical presence. Humans, after all, are social primates, blessed and burdened with a set of paleolithic social instincts. We aren't used to thinking about people as computerized abstractions. (The Frontal Cortex)
What do your dreams mean? Do men and women differ in the nature and intensity of their sexual desires? Can apes learn sign language? Why can’t we tickle ourselves? This course tries to answer these questions and many others, providing a comprehensive overview of the scientific study of thought and behavior. It explores topics such as perception, communication, learning, memory, decision-making, religion, persuasion, love, lust, hunger, art, fiction, and dreams. We will look at how these aspects of the mind develop in children, how they differ across people, how they are wired-up in the brain, and how they break down due to illness and injury. (20 video lectures by Paul Bloom at Yale)