October 2004

Old windbags or hard to find wisdom?

by Limbic on October 22, 2004

PeoplesArchive is dedicated to collecting for posterity the stories of the great thinkers and creators of our time. Biologists or filmmakers, physicists or craftsmen, the people whose stories you see on this site are leaders of their field, whose work has influenced and changed our world.


Who2.com – biographically interesting [Who2]

by Limbic on October 22, 2004

The biographical site who2.com has a fun feature called hoops:

What is a loop? It’s a collection of famous people who share something in common. That ‘something’ may be a job, a hobby, a mode of death or practically anything else.

Here are some examples:

Animated Babes
Bush Clan
Models Of Victoria’s Secret


Old film-making technique revived [NY Times]

by Limbic on October 10, 2004

Split Decision By David Thomson

A split screen is two or more separate images put together in one image, or one screen. Thus it was a split screen on ABC when similar images of Mr. Bush and Mr. Kerry were set side-by-side with a clear dividing line. But on PBS the shots were actually what are called two-shots: a single image in which we see two people at the same time with the space between them. Such a shot may not accommodate the full figures, but as the first debate revealed, an ingenious director with a good camera angle could show one person speaking, with another (in the background, or to one side) listening, reacting and generally behaving like a natural idiot.

In film studies, and once upon a time in filmmaking, the two-shot was a staple. Indeed, the shot of two or more people, not quite full length, but conversing and interacting, was often called “the American shot” in French film commentary. That is because it used to be a staple of good American movie-making. It can be found everywhere in the films of Howard Hawks, for example, a director whose work includes “Bringing Up Baby,” “His Girl Friday,” “To Have and Have Not,” “The Big Sleep” and “Red River,” among others. I could praise him at length. Let me just say here that he is both “cool” and “neat,” and on both accounts because of his skill with the group shot.


Deluge of Human Behaviour related articles

by Limbic on October 8, 2004

Too rushed to make individual posts so here are a selection of science articles in digest form:

Achieving ‘adulthood’ is more elusive; transition to adulthood occurring at a later age

oday, adulthood no longer begins when adolescence ends. In the bridge to adulthood, also referred to as early adulthood, many more young people are caught between the demands of employment (e.g., the need to learn advanced job skills) and economic dependence on their family to support them during this transition.

Study: Mothers turn fearless when peptide level drops

Everyone knows not to get between a mother and her offspring. What makes these females unafraid when it comes to protecting their young may be low levels of a peptide, or small piece of protein, released in the brain that normally activates fear and anxiety, according to new research published in the August issue of Behavioral Neuroscience.

Language, Reflection and the Dimensions of Conduct

Human conduct can be considered from a variety of standpoints, some of which are more concerned with its structural, universal, and abstract dimensions, and some of which are more focused on concrete practices and particularities. But inquiry into human conduct that loses sight of the interconnection between these dimensions misrepresents either, or both. I think something like this is often happening below the surface of the seemingly innocuous and widely accepted distinction between “ethics” and “morals,” that is frequently taken for granted in philosophy today. Yet, like “time,” “democracy,” and “being,” “ethics” and “morality” are terms we all seem to know how to use, but which provoke confusion and ambiguity when we turn to define them.

I suggest that confusion and ambiguity surrounding the distinction between the “ethical” and “moral” are clues to a broader inadequacy in our thinking about conduct. Implicit in our talk of “ethics” and “morality” as separate or separable lies a misunderstanding about what ethnographers and linguists refer to as the etic and emic dimensions of systems of meaning and meaningful conduct

On Social Justice and Political Struggle By Omar Swartz

This essay argues the necessity for political struggle by questioning and confronting the way in which legal and moral authority are conceptualized currently in the United States. Through such questioning, Americans are encouraged to take a critical view of their own feelings for the society in which they live and to reject the limitations of much mainstream political thought, which are hegemonic, anachronistic, and subversive to the noble American ideals of freedom, justice, and equality for all. Stated bluntly, my goal is to encourage Americans to demand fundamental changes in the interests of a just political and economic system.

Which Infidelity Type Makes You More Jealous? Decision Strategies in a Forced-choice Between Sexual and Emotional Infidelity

This study tested the prediction derived from the evolutionary psychological analysis of jealousy that men and women selecting the adaptively primary infidelity type (i.e., female sexual and male emotional infidelity, respectively) in a forced-choice response format need to engage in less elaborate decision strategies than men and women selecting the adaptively secondary infidelity type (i.e., male sexual and female emotional infidelity, respectively). Unknown to the participants, decision times were registered as an index of the elaborateness of their decision strategies. The results clearly support the prediction. Implications and limitations of the present findings are discussed.

Approval for Eli Lilly drug

Eli Lilly, the drugs firm that brought Prozac to the world, yesterday prepared to launch its new antidepressant, Cymbalta, after saying the United States food and drug administration had approved it for sale in the country. The controversial drug is still being considered for European approval.

Evolution, Mutation May Occur Faster than Thought

Cancer and evolution both occur when genetic material changes randomly in ways that may be good or bad. A study in Nature magazine this week shows that these changes build up at a much quicker rate than anyone thought. The observation was made in tiny worms, but could revolutionize thinking about all living organisms.

Deception Detection: Psychologists try to learn how to spot a liar

“Is he lying?” Odds are, you’ll never know. Although people have been communicating with one another for tens of thousands of years, more than 3 decades of psychological research have found that most individuals are abysmally poor lie detectors. In the only worldwide study of its kind, scientists asked more than 2,000 people from nearly 60 countries, “How can you tell when people are lying?” From Botswana to Belgium, the number-one answer was the same: Liars avert their gaze.

Danger to Human Dignity: the Revival of Disgust and Shame in the Law

The law, most of us would agree, should be society’s protection against prejudice. That does not imply that emotions play no legitimate role in legal affairs, for often emotions help people to see a situation clearly, doing justice to the concerns that ought to be addressed. The compassion of judge and jurors during the penalty phase of a criminal trial, for example, has been held to be an essential part of criminal justice, a way of connecting to the life story of a defendant whose experience seems remote to those who sit in judgment. Emotions are not intrinsically opposed to reason, for they involve pictures of the world and evaluations. But there are some emotions whose role in the law has always been more controversial. Disgust and shame are two of those.

Why We Lie: The Evolutionary Roots of Deception and the Unconscious Mind

David Livingston Smith’s Why We Lie: The Evolutionary Roots of Deception and the Unconscious Mind follows in the tradition of Steven Pinker’s How the Mind Works, Matt Ridley’s The Origins of Virtue and Robert Wright’s The Moral Animal. Like those books, Why We Lie is well-written and likely to be embraced by fans of evolutionary psychology (as the blurbs on the back of the hardcover suggest). Readers of these works will find much of his material familiar. Unfortunately, for those who have a sympathetic, but more skeptical view towards evolutionary psychology, it will seem a wildly speculative and generally unsatisfactory mishandling of a potentially fascinating topic.

Mind Reading
The new science of decision making. It’s not as rational as you think

For all its intellectual power and its empirical success as a creator of wealth, free-market economics rests on a fallacy, which economists have politely agreed among themselves to overlook. This is the belief that people apply rational calculations to economic decisions, ruling their lives by economic models. Of course, economists know that the world doesn’t actually work this way; if it did, you wouldn’t need a financial adviser to remind you to save for retirement. But until recently the anomalies were chalked up to the pernicious influence of emotions, emanations from the primitive regions of the brain, a kind of mental noise interfering with the pure, rational expression of economic self-interest.


New research in hamsters now suggests that without companionship, wounds on the animals don’t heal as fast.

Researchers looked at the effect social contact had on wound healing in stressed hamsters. Results showed that skin wounds healed nearly twice as fast in the hamsters paired with a sibling. These animals also produced less of the stress hormone cortisol than unpaired hamsters.

Study shows how consensus is attained in a noisy world

A month before the fall of the Berlin Wall, 70,000 people gathered in the streets of Leipzig, East Germany, on Oct. 9, 1989, to demonstrate against the communist regime and demand democratic reforms. Clearly, no central authority planned this event; so how did all of these people decide to come together on that particular day?

Men beat women at identifying noises

Derided for their pathological inability to listen, particularly to words such as “commitment” and “washing-up”, men are actually better at hearing and identifying everyday noises than women, according to new research.

Brain’s Reward Circuitry Revealed in Procrastinating Primates

Using a new molecular genetic technique, scientists have turned procrastinating primates into workaholics by temporarily suppressing a gene in a brain circuit involved in reward learning. Without the gene, the monkeys lost their sense of balance between reward and the work required to get it, say researchers at the NIH’s National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).

Cheaters Are Looked At Longer and Remembered Better Than Cooperators in Social Exchange Situations

Abstract: What information is most salient during social exchange? Our studies assess the relative importance of cheaters and cooperators and whether their importance is affected by amount of resources involved in the exchange. In Experiment 1, participants categorized individuals as cheaters, cooperators, or neither, and rated how important they are to remember using a 7-point scale. In Experiment 2, participants categorized individuals, and then looked at their photos. This was followed by tests of face recognition, and memory for social contract status. Experiment 1 found cheaters were rated more important to remember than cooperators and more so when a greater amount of resources was involved. Experiment 2 found cheaters were looked at longer and people had better memory for their faces and were more likely to remember their social contract status. This suggests the mind evolved to remember information most pertinent in social contract situations.

Dad’s Not Lost

EVERYONE KNOWS THE STEREOTYPE: Even when lost, men grimly drive on without asking for directions. Evolutionary psychologists would like to explain this behavior by appealing to the romantic lives of ancient hunter-gatherers and, even further back, to the hippocampus of small rodents. The analogy between lost men and lost voles may be silly, but there seem to be intriguing links between human and animal behavior. In Why Men Won’t Ask for Directions, Richard C. Francis suggests that physiological explanations of behavior—about how brains work—are often more informative than accounts of why the behavior evolved.