Behavioral and Brain Sciences
Latest Publications





Published By Cambridge University Press

1469-1825, 0140-525x

2022 ◽  
pp. 1-46
Christophe Heintz ◽  
Thom Scott-Phillips

Abstract Human expression is open-ended, versatile and diverse, ranging from ordinary language use to painting, from exaggerated displays of affection to micro-movements that aid coordination. Here we present and defend the claim that this expressive diversity is united by an interrelated suite of cognitive capacities, the evolved functions of which are the expression and recognition of informative intentions. We describe how evolutionary dynamics normally leash communication to narrow domains of statistical mutual benefit, and how they are unleashed in humans. The relevant cognitive capacities are cognitive adaptations to living in a partner choice social ecology; and they are, correspondingly, part of the ordinarily developing human cognitive phenotype, emerging early and reliably in ontogeny. In other words, we identify distinctive features of our species’ social ecology to explain how and why humans, and only humans, evolved the cognitive capacities that, in turn, lead to massive diversity and open-endedness in means and modes of expression. Language use is but one of these modes of expression, albeit one of manifestly high importance. We make cross-species comparisons, describe how the relevant cognitive capacities can evolve in a gradual manner, and survey how unleashed expression facilitates not only language use but novel behaviour in many other domains too, focusing on the examples of joint action, teaching, punishment and art, all of which are ubiquitous in human societies but relatively rare in other species. Much of this diversity derives from graded aspects of human expression, which can be used to satisfy informative intentions in creative and new ways. We aim to help reorient cognitive pragmatics, as a phenomenon that is not a supplement to linguistic communication and on the periphery of language science, but rather the foundation of the many of the most distinctive features of human behaviour, society and culture.

2021 ◽  
pp. 1-86
Joyce F. Benenson ◽  
Christine E. Webb ◽  
Richard W. Wrangham

Abstract Many male traits are well explained by sexual selection theory as adaptations to mating competition and mate choice, whereas no unifying theory explains traits expressed more in females. Anne Campbell's “staying alive” theory proposed that human females produce stronger self-protective reactions than males to aggressive threats because self-protection tends to have higher fitness value for females than males. We examined whether Campbell's theory has more general applicability by considering whether human females respond with greater self-protectiveness than males to other threats beyond aggression. We searched the literature for physiological, behavioral, and emotional responses to major physical and social threats, and found consistent support for females’ responding with greater self-protectiveness than males. Females mount stronger immune responses to many pathogens; experience a lower threshold to detect, and lesser tolerance of, pain; awaken more frequently at night; express greater concern about physically dangerous stimuli; exert more effort to avoid social conflicts; exhibit a personality style more focused on life's dangers; react to threats with greater fear, disgust and sadness; and develop more threat-based clinical conditions than males. Our findings suggest that in relation to threat human females have relatively heightened protective reactions compared to males. The pervasiveness of this result across multiple domains suggests that general mechanisms might exist underlying females’ unique adaptations. An understanding of such processes would enhance knowledge of female health and well-being.

2021 ◽  
pp. 1-63
Jelle Bruineberg ◽  
Krzysztof Dolega ◽  
Joe Dewhurst ◽  
Manuel Baltieri

Abstract The free energy principle, an influential framework in computational neuroscience and theoretical neurobiology, starts from the assumption that living systems ensure adaptive exchanges with their environment by minimizing the objective function of variational free energy. Following this premise, it claims to deliver a promising integration of the life sciences. In recent work, Markov Blankets, one of the central constructs of the free energy principle, have been applied to resolve debates central to philosophy (such as demarcating the boundaries of the mind). The aim of this paper is twofold. First, we trace the development of Markov blankets starting from their standard application in Bayesian networks, via variational inference, to their use in the literature on active inference. We then identify a persistent confusion in the literature between the formal use of Markov blankets as an epistemic tool for Bayesian inference, and their novel metaphysical use in the free energy framework to demarcate the physical boundary between an agent and its environment. Consequently, we propose to distinguish between ‘Pearl blankets’ to refer to the original epistemic use of Markov blankets and ‘Friston blankets’ to refer to the new metaphysical construct. Second, we use this distinction to critically assess claims resting on the application of Markov blankets to philosophical problems. We suggest that this literature would do well in differentiating between two different research programs: ‘inference with a model’ and ‘inference within a model’. Only the latter is capable of doing metaphysical work with Markov blankets, but requires additional philosophical premises and cannot be justified by an appeal to the success of the mathematical framework alone.

2021 ◽  
pp. 1-52
Edgar Dubourg ◽  
Nicolas Baumard

Abstract Imaginary worlds are extremely successful. The most popular fictions produced in the last decades contain such a fictional world. They can be found in all fictional media, from novels (e.g., Lord of The Ring, Harry Potter) to films (e.g., Star Wars, Avatar), video games (e.g., The Legend of Zelda, Final Fantasy), graphic novels (e.g., One piece, Naruto) and TV series (e.g., Star Trek, Game of Thrones), and they date as far back as ancient literature (e.g., the Cyclops Islands in The Odyssey, 850 BCE). Why such a success? Why so much attention devoted to nonexistent worlds? In this article, we propose that imaginary worlds co-opt our preferences for exploration, which have evolved in humans and non-human animals alike, to propel individuals toward new environments and new sources of reward. Humans would find imaginary worlds very attractive for the very same reasons, and under the same circumstances, as they are lured by unfamiliar environments in real life. After reviewing research on exploratory preferences in behavioral ecology, environmental aesthetics, neuroscience, and evolutionary and developmental psychology, we focus on the sources of their variability across time and space, which we argue can account for the variability of the cultural preference for imaginary worlds. This hypothesis can therefore explain the way imaginary worlds evolved culturally, their shape and content, their recent striking success, and their distribution across time and populations.

2021 ◽  
pp. 1-147
Ryutaro Uchiyama ◽  
Rachel Spicer ◽  
Michael Muthukrishna

Abstract Behavioral genetics and cultural evolution have both revolutionized our understanding of human behavior—largely independent of each other. Here we reconcile these two fields under a dual inheritance framework, offering a more nuanced understanding of the interaction between genes and culture. Going beyond typical analyses of gene–environment interactions, we describe the cultural dynamics that shape these interactions by shaping the environment and population structure. A cultural evolutionary approach can explain, for example, how factors such as rates of innovation and diffusion, density of cultural sub-groups, and tolerance for behavioral diversity impact heritability estimates, thus yielding predictions for different social contexts. Moreover, when cumulative culture functionally overlaps with genes, genetic effects become masked, unmasked, or even reversed, and the causal effects of an identified gene become confounded with features of the cultural environment. The manner of confounding is specific to a particular society at a particular time, but a WEIRD (Western, educated, industrialized, rich, democratic) sampling problem obscures this boundedness. Cultural evolutionary dynamics are typically missing from models of gene-to-phenotype causality, hindering generalizability of genetic effects across societies and across time. We lay out a reconciled framework and use it to predict the ways in which heritability should differ between societies, between socioeconomic levels and other groupings within some societies but not others, and over the life course. An integrated cultural evolutionary behavioral genetic approach cuts through the nature–nurture debate and helps resolve controversies in topics such as IQ.

2021 ◽  
pp. 1-72
Bjorn Merker ◽  
Kenneth Williford ◽  
David Rudrauf

Abstract Giulio Tononi's Integrated Information Theory (IIT) proposes explaining consciousness by directly identifying it with integrated information. We examine the construct validity of IIT's measure of consciousness, phi (Φ), by analyzing its formal properties, its relation to key aspects of consciousness, and its co-variation with relevant empirical circumstances. Our analysis shows that IIT's identification of consciousness with the causal efficacy with which differentiated networks accomplish global information transfer (which is what Φ in fact measures) is mistaken. This misidentification has the consequence of requiring the attribution of consciousness to a range of natural systems and artifacts that include, but are not limited to, large-scale electrical power grids, gene-regulation networks, some electronic circuit boards, and social networks. Instead of treating this consequence of the theory as a disconfirmation, IIT embraces it. By regarding these systems as bearers of consciousness ex hypothesi, IIT is led towards the orbit of panpsychist ideation. This departure from science as we know it can be avoided by recognizing the functional misattribution at the heart of IIT's identity claim. We show, for example, what function is actually performed, at least in the human case, by the cortical combination of differentiation with integration that IIT identifies with consciousness. Finally, we examine what lessons may be drawn from IIT's failure to provide a credible account of consciousness for progress in the very active field of research concerned with exploring the phenomenon from formal and neural points of view.

2021 ◽  
pp. 1-62
David Pietraszewski

Abstract We don't yet have adequate theories of what the human mind is representing when it represents a social group. Worse still, many people think we do. This mistaken belief is a consequence of the state of play: Until now, researchers have relied on their own intuitions to link up the concept social group on the one hand, and the results of particular studies or models on the other. While necessary, this reliance on intuition has been purchased at considerable cost. When looked at soberly, existing theories of social groups are either (i) literal, but not remotely adequate (such as models built atop economic games), or (ii) simply metaphorical (typically a subsumption or containment metaphor). Intuition is filling in the gaps of an explicit theory. This paper presents a computational theory of what, literally, a group representation is in the context of conflict: it is the assignment of agents to specific roles within a small number of triadic interaction types. This “mental definition” of a group paves the way for a computational theory of social groups—in that it provides a theory of what exactly the information-processing problem of representing and reasoning about a group is. For psychologists, this paper offers a different way to conceptualize and study groups, and suggests that a non-tautological definition of a social group is possible. For cognitive scientists, this paper provides a computational benchmark against which natural and artificial intelligences can be held.

2021 ◽  
pp. 1-57
Sam Clarke ◽  
Jacob Beck

Abstract On a now orthodox view, humans and many other animals possess a “number sense,” or approximate number system (ANS), that represents number. Recently, this orthodox view has been subject to numerous critiques that question whether the ANS genuinely represents number. We distinguish three lines of critique—the arguments from congruency, confounds, and imprecision—and show that none succeed. We then provide positive reasons to think that the ANS genuinely represents numbers, and not just non-numerical confounds or exotic substitutes for number, such as “numerosities” or “quanticals,” as critics propose. In so doing, we raise a neglected question: numbers of what kind? Proponents of the orthodox view have been remarkably coy on this issue. But this is unsatisfactory since the predictions of the orthodox view, including the situations in which the ANS is expected to succeed or fail, turn on the kind(s) of number being represented. In response, we propose that the ANS represents not only natural numbers (e.g. 7), but also non-natural rational numbers (e.g. 3.5). It does not represent irrational numbers (e.g. √2), however, and thereby fails to represent the real numbers more generally. This distances our proposal from existing conjectures, refines our understanding of the ANS, and paves the way for future research.

2021 ◽  
pp. 1-82
Joseph Cesario

Abstract This article questions the widespread use of experimental social psychology to understand real-world group disparities. Standard experimental practice is to design studies in which participants make judgments of targets who vary only on the social categories to which they belong. This is typically done under simplified decision landscapes and with untrained decision makers. For example, to understand racial disparities in police shootings, researchers show pictures of armed and unarmed Black and White men to undergraduates and have them press "shoot" and "don't shoot" buttons. Having demonstrated categorical bias under these conditions, researchers then use such findings to claim that real-world disparities are also due to decision-maker bias. I describe three flaws inherent in this approach, flaws which undermine any direct contribution of experimental studies to explaining group disparities. First, the decision landscapes used in experimental studies lack crucial components present in actual decisions (Missing Information Flaw). Second, categorical effects in experimental studies are not interpreted in light of other effects on outcomes, including behavioral differences across groups (Missing Forces Flaw). Third, there is no systematic testing of whether the contingencies required to produce experimental effects are present in real-world decisions (Missing Contingencies Flaw). I apply this analysis to three research topics to illustrate the scope of the problem. I discuss how this research tradition has skewed our understanding of the human mind within and beyond the discipline and how results from experimental studies of bias are generally misunderstood. I conclude by arguing that the current research tradition should be abandoned.

2021 ◽  
Vol 44 ◽  
Robert M. Gordon

Abstract The target article presents strong empirical evidence that knowledge is basic. However, it offers an unsatisfactory account of what makes knowledge basic. Some current ideas in cognitive neuroscience – predictive coding and analysis by synthesis – point to a more plausible account that better explains the evidence.

Sign in / Sign up

Export Citation Format

Share Document