Anthropology

A group of criminologists has an interesting reason why people who left crime-ridden cities should stick around - fear of crime is good for kids.

Most politicians and police officers seek to reduce crime, of course, and mitigate the causes where they can, so an argument that it's psychologically healthy is going against 50 years of sociological belief, which says that people who are afraid are likely to do less rational things to protect themselves, and have a lot of other chronic psychological issues.


Feedback from 130 16 to 18 year olds of diverse social and economic backgrounds living in different parts of the country - a northern industrial city in the UK, London, and a rural area in the southwest of the UK - reveals an oppressive culture around anal sex, with some young men apparently neglecting or not caring about young women's consent or pleasure - both when they have anal sex and when they talk about it with their friends.

The qualitative, longitudinal study interviews explored the range and meaning of different sexual practices, and included nine group and 71 individual in-depth discussions in 2010, and further interviews of 43 of the in-depth interviewees in 2011.


Whether or not humans are the only empathic beings is a debate for anthropologists, because there is no science answer; the ability to experience others' emotions is hard to quantify in a species so it is difficult to measure empathy in any objective way. 

The transmission of a feeling from one individual to another, called 'emotional contagion,' is the most basic form of empathy. Feelings are disclosed by facial expressions (such as sorrow, pain, happiness or tiredness), and these feelings can travel from an "emitting face" to a "receiving face." Upon receipt, the mirroring of facial expressions evokes in the receiver an emotion similar to the emotion experienced by the sender.


In 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court forced California to deal with the massive overcrowding in its prison system. The resulting reform shifted administrative and budgetary responsibility for low-level criminals from the state prison system to county jails. As a result, local California jails now face more overcrowding than ever, and local law enforcement is saddled with additional costs for imprisoning arrestees.

That is going to lead to higher crime rates, according to a new paper in the Journal of Public Economics which evaluated prison reform in Israel.  


There's a mythology about the native Americans, that they were all peaceful and in harmony with nature - it's easy to create narratives when there is no written record.

But archeology keeps its own history and a new paper finds that the 20th century, with its hundreds of millions dead in wars and, in the case of Germany, China, Russia and other dictatorships, genocide, was not the most violent - on a per-capita basis that honor may belong to the central Mesa Verde of southwest Colorado and the Pueblo Indians.

Writing in the journal American Antiquity, Washington State University archaeologist Tim Kohler and colleagues document how nearly 90 percent of human remains from that period had trauma from blows to either their heads or parts of their arms.


Modern humans began the first steps to what we might call culture some 50,000 years ago, 150,000 years after appearing in the fossil record. What changed?

A new paper in Current Anthropology argues that more feminine faces and gentler personalities were the result of less testosterone. People got nicer. The evidence is in the shape of more than 1,400 ancient and modern skulls and the conclusion is that human society advanced when people started being nicer to each other, which entails having a little less testosterone in action. 

Heavy brows were so 100,000 B.C., rounder heads were in, and those changes could be linked to testosterone levels acting on the skeleton, according to Duke University anthropologist Steven Churchill.


An anthropological wave has taken place, first in Asia that has now spread worldwide - humans, the most social species on the planet, have begun to gather in groups and ignore each other while communicating wirelessly with people doing the same ignoring of real people elsewhere.

The trend of sitting inches away on a train from other people and routinely ignoring each other while using social media is a social paradox. Why can such social agents be so antisocial?

Millennials are redefining adulthood by living at home and getting supported by their parents longer than ever - and in the future it may turn into outright exploitation.

It used to be that family watched out for shysters out to bilk their parents but now the nearly 5 percent elderly American adults being financially exploited are often exploited by family members - poor and black people the most. 

Dr. Janey Peterson of Weill Cornell Medical College led one of the largest American studies ever done on elder abuse and the results appeared in the Journal of General Internal Medicine


If most people run a race, they cheer after they cross the finish line. It is a culturally acceptable psychological reward for all of the training and preparation and execution of the plan.

But what happens when that script isn't followed? If you learn of a victory too soon, is it cheapened? Ayelet Fishbach, a professor of behavioral science and marketing at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, and Nadav Klein, a doctoral student, find that the positive reaction one would have when succeeding is lessened if it doesn't follow the expected course.


I’ve often wondered about the Scopes trial, and wanted to read a good account of it.  I was recommended the account by Edward J. Larson in When Science and Christianity Meet, edited by DC Lindberg and RL Numbers (ISBN 0226482162).  .  It’s a very informative book, and wide-ranging too: out of 12 chapters, only one on Galileo and one on Darwin.