Saturday, November 10, 2018

Inside China’s training camps for "soft" boys: “we were too attentive to him and deprived him of the opportunity to be independent. He was not confident and wept at setbacks. He was like a sensitive girl.”

Inside China’s training camps, where boys are learning how to be men. Zhuang Pinghui. South China Morning Post, Nov 04 2018.


Wearing headbands reading “Tough Guy” and chanting slogans such as “Who is the best? I am the best”, “Who are we? We are the man”, they were there to learn all about focus, cooperation and competition through lectures, games and American football.

It was the fifth day of an 18-day course held on weekends for boys aged seven to 11 that aims to rescue them from their day-to-day, all-female environment and prevent them from being “oversensitive, vulnerable, whiny, petty or irresponsible”.

Members of the Boys’ Club recite declarations of manhood at the beginning of lectures, which include subjects such as safeguarding their country, honour and dreams.

They make vows to be ambitious and competent as an eagle, smart and kind as a dolphin and persistent and down-to-earth as a horse.

The boys address each other as “comrade” or tongzhi, which literally means to share the same ambition.

Boys’ Club founder Tang Haiyan was a physical education teacher in Beijing before starting his specialised training centre in 2012. Since then, more than 20,000 children have taken part in his courses, including some who travel from far outside Beijing to follow his unique programme.

“There is a crisis in boys’ education and I threw myself into practical actions to save them and help them find their lost masculinity,” Tang said.

This was long before state media became concerned about the softer, more androgynous physical appearance of modern male celebrities and their potential impact on society and young children.

When a nationally televised show for school pupils caused a public outcry in September this year, many parents of boys realised their sons were just not man enough and since then have been spending big bucks on a mission to reverse the trend.

For about 10,000 yuan (US$1,400) parents can sign up their sons for 18 sessions of weekend training. There are other, shorter themed activities such as running topless in winter, climbing a mountain in temperatures of minus 30 degrees Celsius in Heilongjiang, China’s northernmost province, or trekking for a week across a desert.

Last weekend some of the children dressed up as soldiers and played a real-life version of the popular video game Counter-Strike on the set of patriotic military film Wolf Warrior.

Zhang Haiwei, mother of 12-year-old Tong Tong in Qingdao, in the eastern province of Shandong, was determined to send her son for 14 days of military-style training in Beijing after hearing a lecture by Tang five years ago.

“Tong Tong’s father was busy and not around much. I looked after my son and he had been surrounded by women all the time. He was weak and wept whenever there was some difficulty,” Zhang said.

“It might be that we were too attentive to him and deprived him of the opportunity to be independent. He was not confident and wept at setbacks. He was like a sensitive girl.”


Tang said most boys were raised by their mother and grandmothers, and surrounded by female teachers in school who, in turn, set the same standard for boys as girls – such as to be quiet, behave and not to be naughty all the time.

This, Tang said, was unfair and put boys in a disadvantaged position.

“Boys behave differently from girls and they develop at a different pace, but I have been to many schools, top or average, and it has become a crisis in society that boys are overshadowed by girls,” he said.

“Their confidence has been shattered. We must help boys regain the true colours of men, their masculinity.”


He felt the boy was being spoiled and would not be able to handle a life like his own in the army, with its long and hard physical exercises.

So two years ago, when he learned Tang was coming to his city, Zhang signed the boy up for two weeks of military style-training that included walking weights across sand, carrying cabers – the Scottish long pole – wrestling, and American football.

“My son Ming Ming came back a changed person,” he said.

“He knew what discipline was and followed rules strictly. He understood the meaning of persistence, team cooperation and competition.”

He signed up for more courses.

They argue that spatial-processing principles in the hippocampal-entorhinal region provide a geometric code to map information domains of cognitive spaces for high-level cognition

Navigating cognition: Spatial codes for human thinking. Jacob L. S. Bellmund, Peter Gärdenfors, Edvard I. Moser, Christian F. Doeller. Science, Vol. 362, Issue 6415, eaat6766, Nov 09 2018. DOI: 10.1126/science.aat6766

A framework for cognitive spaces: Ever since Tolman's proposal of cognitive maps in the 1940s, the question of how spatial representations support flexible behavior has been a contentious topic. Bellmund et al. review and combine concepts from cognitive science and philosophy with findings from neurophysiology of spatial navigation in rodents to propose a framework for cognitive neuroscience. They argue that spatial-processing principles in the hippocampal-entorhinal region provide a geometric code to map information domains of cognitive spaces for high-level cognition and discuss recent evidence for this proposal.

Abstract: The hippocampal formation has long been suggested to underlie both memory formation and spatial navigation. We discuss how neural mechanisms identified in spatial navigation research operate across information domains to support a wide spectrum of cognitive functions. In our framework, place and grid cell population codes provide a representational format to map variable dimensions of cognitive spaces. This highly dynamic mapping system enables rapid reorganization of codes through remapping between orthogonal representations across behavioral contexts, yielding a multitude of stable cognitive spaces at different resolutions and hierarchical levels. Action sequences result in trajectories through cognitive space, which can be simulated via sequential coding in the hippocampus. In this way, the spatial representational format of the hippocampal formation has the capacity to support flexible cognition and behavior.

Structured Abstract

BACKGROUND: Ever since Edward Tolman’s proposal that comprehensive cognitive maps underlie spatial navigation and, more generally, psychological functions, the question of how past experience guides behavior has been contentious. The discovery of place cells in rodents, signaling the animal’s position in space, suggested that such cognitive maps reside in the hippocampus, a core brain region for human memory. Building on the description of place cells, several other functionally defined cell types were discovered in the hippocampal-entorhinal region. Among them are grid cells in the entorhinal cortex, whose characteristic periodic, six-fold symmetric firing patterns are thought to provide a spatial metric. These findings were complemented by insights into key coding principles of the hippocampal-entorhinal region: Spatial representations vary in scale along the hippocampal long axis, place cells remap to map different environments, and sequential hippocampal activity represents nonlocal trajectories through space. In humans, the existence of spatially tuned cells has been demonstrated in presurgical patients, and functional magnetic resonance imaging provides proxy measures for the noninvasive investigation of these processing mechanisms in human cognition. Intriguingly, recent advances indicate that place and grid cells can encode positions along dimensions of experience beyond Euclidean space for navigation, suggesting a more general role of hippocampal-entorhinal processing mechanisms in cognition.

ADVANCES: We combine hippocampal-entorhinal processing mechanisms identified in spatial navigation research with ideas from cognitive science describing a spatial representational format for cognition. Cognitive spaces are spanned by dimensions satisfying geometric constraints such as betweenness and equidistance, enabling the representation of properties and concepts as convex regions of cognitive space. We propose that the continuous population code of place and grid cells in the hippocampal-entorhinal region maps the dimensions of cognitive spaces. In these, each stimulus is located according to its feature values along the relevant dimensions, resulting in nearby positions for similar stimuli and larger distances between dissimilar stimuli. The low-dimensional, rigid firing properties of the entorhinal grid system make it a candidate to provide a metric or distance code for cognitive spaces, whereas hippocampal place cells flexibly represent positions in a given space. This mapping of cognitive spaces is complemented by the additional coding principles outlined above: Along the hippocampal long axis, cognitive spaces are mapped with varying spatial scale, supporting memory and knowledge representations at different levels of granularity. Via hippocampal remapping, spaces spanned by different dimensions can be flexibly mapped and established maps can be reinstated via attractor dynamics. The geometric definition of cognitive spaces allows flexible generalization and inference, and sequential hippocampal activity can simulate trajectories through cognitive spaces for adaptive decision-making and behavior.

OUTLOOK: Cognitive spaces provide a domain-general format for processing in the hippocampal-entorhinal region, in line with its involvement beyond navigation and memory. Spatial navigation serves as a model system to identify key coding principles governing cognitive spaces. An important question concerns the extent to which firing properties of spatially tuned cells are preserved in cognitive spaces. Technological advances such as calcium imaging will clarify coding principles on the population level and facilitate the translation to human cognitive neuroscience. Spatial navigation is mostly investigated in two dimensions and naturally limited to three dimensions; however, the processing of complex, multidimensional concepts is vital to high-level human cognition, and the representation of such high-dimensional spaces is an intriguing question for future research. Further, the role of brain networks acting in concert with the hippocampus, in navigation specifically and cognitive function in general, will provide insight into whether and how cognitive spaces are supported beyond the hippocampal-entorhinal region. Finally, the precise way in which cognitive spaces and trajectories through them are read out for behavior remains to be elucidated.

Found some evidence that both self-reported formidability is associated with higher levels of conservatism in women & self-reported grip strength with conservatism in men

Is Formidability Associated with Political Conservatism? Nicholas Kerry, Damian R. Murray. Evolutionary Psychological Science,

Abstract: Physical formidability has played an important role in intra-sexual competition throughout human history, influencing social capital and, in turn, social cognition. However, the degree to which physical formidability is associated with social and political attitudes in contemporary environments remains poorly understood. The current studies tested the hypotheses that formidability is associated with more politically conservative attitudes and, more specifically, less support for financial egalitarianism and more approval of military intervention. Across three studies, comprised of both online and undergraduate samples (two pre-registered; total N > 900), we found some evidence that both self-reported formidability and grip strength were associated with higher levels of conservatism. However, this evidence was inconsistent across different measures and across samples, with relatively small effects for some conservatism measures and no effects for others. There also emerged sex differences, such that self-reported formidability was a better predictor of conservatism in women and objective grip strength was a better predictor of conservatism in men. Unlike previous research, we did not find consistent evidence of a relationship between formidability and either financial egalitarianism or military approval. Attempted experimental manipulations of formidability in studies 2 and 3 yielded inconsistent results.

Keywords: Political attitudes Human capital Strategic morality Formidability Conservatism Pre-registration

Does legal marijuana access blunt academic performance in college? It does.

Getting into the weeds: Does legal marijuana access blunt academic performance in college? Adam C. Wright, John M. Krieg. Economic Inquiry,

Abstract: This paper examines the effect of legal access to marijuana on student performance stemming from a voter‐approved initiative legalizing marijuana for those 21 and older in the State of Washington. Using panel data from a medium‐sized public university, we use a within‐student and within‐class estimator to show that legalization reduces students' grades, with an effect size about one‐half the impact of gaining legal access to alcohol. Consistent with how marijuana consumption affects cognitive functioning, we find that students' grades fall furthest in courses that require more quantitative skills. These effects are largely driven by men and low performers. (JEL I23, I18, K32)