Psychology

Prejudice is just bigotry that arises from flawed ideology, right?  Not so, say the authors of a new paper.

They contend prejudice stems from a deeper psychological need and it is associated with a particular way of thinking. People who aren't comfortable with ambiguity and want to make quick and firm decisions are also prone to making generalizations about others. People who are prejudiced feel a much stronger need to make quick and firm judgments and decisions in order to reduce ambiguity.

And, they argue, it's virtually impossible to change this basic way that people think.

If a crime occurs, asking the criminal what happened is unlikely to give you the most accurate picture of events.  This is why police interview the victim first.    So an evolutionary psychologist outlining how great evolutionary psychology is has to be taken with a grain of salt; no one becomes a professor in a field and then decides it is a lot of woo.
A recent article suggests that our fear of snakes is largely genetic because of its apparently uniform nature across all strata of people and that it was likely caused due to predation of our ancestors.

As evidence of this, the author interviewed 120 of the Agta Negrito people, a hunter-gatherer group in the Phillipines, and noted that 16 of the individuals had been attacked by giant pythons, while two had been attacked twice.  In addition, individuals reported six cases of fatal snake attacks over a 39 year period (1934 - 1973).  While it's not clear from the article, the snakes may not necessarily have fared much better, since they were also predated upon by humans. 
Xmas time is here again. Unlike many people I have no particular aversion to the holiday season. I don’t have too many emotional scars from Christmases past. Getting presents was always fun, I liked the lights on our tree, even stringing popcorn, and these days I try to keep awkward gatherings to a minimum. For me it breaks up the endless round of quotidian drudgery in a relatively pleasant way. But this year I can’t help viewing the whole spectacle through the eyes of human evolution and psychology. No matter how you might feel about the holiday season personally, it’s interesting to think about what may be behind all the crazy traditions: a little bit of the science behind the season. 
A recent article titled "Our Brains Can't Evolve Any Further" drew my attention which ultimately lead me to the paper "Why Aren’t We Smarter Already: Evolutionary Trade-Offs and Cognitive Enhancements" (Thomas Hills and Ralph Hertwig; University of Basel).

Fortunately, this offered some interesting insights into the assumptions and conditions surrounding human intellect and its evolutionary implications.  
What does chessboxing have to do with science? Let me tell you a little story...
It all started last November with this tweet:




There was a Twitter conversation about politics, and I suggested the candidates decide a winner over a chessboxing match. I had heard about chessboxing a few years prior, but didn't give it much thought, other than marvel at how difficult and unlikely a combo sport it was. 
It's certainly not new to propose recursion as a key element of the human mind--for instance Douglas Hofstadter has been writing about that since the 1970s.



Michael C. Corballis, a former professor of psychology, came out with a new book this year called The Recursive Mind. It explains his specific theory that I will attempt to outline here.



As I understand it, his theory is composed of these parts:
A new article from the Association for Psychological Science (APS) begins with the premise that our ancestors avoided outsiders because they might carry disease.  Therefore, it apparently seems reasonable to conclude that by washing our hands and getting vaccinated, we reduce such primal pressures and join the Age of Aquarius (or some such conclusion).
"Our distant ancestors had to avoid outsiders who might have carried disease."
Once when I was a little kid, a peaceful fall evening at our house was shattered by loud and insistent banging, as if someone was trying to break down our side door. My dad, who was the head coach of the high school football team, opened it to greet a man who was screaming with fury. Despite the fact that he was a friend of my father's, this man was now beside himself with rage, drunk, practically incomprehensible, spitting foam and bellowing invective. My dad’s friendship-destroying crime? He had switched the man’s son from first string to second string on the team. 
A study in the Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology by some folks at University of Notre Dame conducted three experiments and concluded that if you walk into a room and forget what you came to do, the doorway is responsible.

The environment can likely affect memory, we get that - I have often forgotten to take out the garbage even though my wife insists she told me to do so, because I was playing my PS3 - but doorways as 'event boundaries' means we can get away with almost anything.  The doorway to a strip club can be attributed to forgetting you are not allowed to go to those, for example;  "But honey, it was in a journal".