Monday, September 23, 2019

We Are Upright-Walking Cats: Human Limbs as Sensory Antennae During Locomotion

We Are Upright-Walking Cats: Human Limbs as Sensory Antennae During Locomotion. Gregory E. P. Pearcey and E. Paul Zehr. Physiology, Aug 7 2019.

Abstract: Humans and cats share many characteristics pertaining to the neural control of locomotion, which has enabled the comprehensive study of cutaneous feedback during locomotion. Feedback from discrete skin regions on both surfaces of the human foot has revealed that neuromechanical responses are highly topographically organized and contribute to “sensory guidance” of our limbs during locomotion.

Chimpanzees, like human children, do not rely solely on their own actions to make use of novel causal relations, but they can learn causal sequences based on observation alone

Chimpanzees use observed temporal directionality to learn novel causal relations. Claudio Tennie. Primates, September 23 2019.

Abstract: We investigated whether chimpanzees use the temporal sequence of external events to determine causation. Seventeen chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) witnessed a human experimenter press a button in two different conditions. When she pressed the “causal button” the delivery of juice and a sound immediately followed (cause-then-effect). In contrast, she pressed the “non-causal button” only after the delivery of juice and sound (effect-then-cause). When given the opportunity to produce the desired juice delivery themselves, the chimpanzees preferentially pressed the causal button, i.e., the one that preceded the effect. Importantly, they did so in their first test trial and even though both buttons were equally associated with juice delivery. This outcome suggests that chimpanzees, like human children, do not rely solely on their own actions to make use of novel causal relations, but they can learn causal sequences based on observation alone. We discuss these findings in relation to the literature on causal inferences as well as associative learning.

Keywords: Causal cognition Social learning Chimpanzees Action representation Simultaneous conditioning Primate cognition

Consumers view time-donations as morally better than money-donations because they perceive time-donations as signaling greater emotional investment in the cause & therefore better moral character

Johnson, Samuel G. B., and Seo Y. Park. 2019. “Moral Signaling Through Donations of Money and Time.” PsyArXiv. September 23. doi:10.31234/

Abstract: Prosocial acts typically take the form of time- or money-donations. Do third-parties differ in how they evaluate these different kinds of donations? Here, we show that consumers view time-donations as more morally praiseworthy than money-donations, even when the resource investment is comparable. This moral preference occurs because consumers perceive time-donations as signaling greater emotional investment in the cause and therefore better moral character; this occurs despite consumers’ belief that time-donations are less effective than money-donations (Study 1). The more signaling power of time-donations has downstream implications for interpersonal attractiveness in a dating context (Study 2) and for donor decision-making (Study 3). Moreover, donors who are prompted with an affiliation rather (versus dominance) goal are likelier to favor time-donations (Study 3). However, reframing money-donations in terms of time (e.g., donating a week’s salary) reduced and even reversed these effects (Study 4). These results support theories of prosociality that place reputation-signaling as a key motivator of consumers’ moral behavior. We discuss implications for the charity market and for social movements, such as effective altruism, that seek to maximize the social benefit of consumers’ altruistic acts.

Humans may have evolved to experience far greater pain, malaise & suffering than the rest of the animal kingdom, due to their intense sociality giving them a reasonable chance of receiving help

The neuroscience of vision and pain: evolution of two disciplines. Barbara L. Finlay. Proceedings of the Royal Society B, Volume 374, Issue 1785, September 23 2019.

Abstract: Research in the neuroscience of pain perception and visual perception has taken contrasting paths. The contextual and the social aspects of pain judgements predisposed pain researchers to develop computational and functional accounts early, while vision researchers tended to simple localizationist or descriptive approaches first. Evolutionary thought was applied to distinct domains, such as game-theoretic approaches to cheater detection in pain research, versus vision scientists' studies of comparative visual ecologies. Both fields now contemplate current motor or decision-based accounts of perception, particularly predictive coding. Vision researchers do so without the benefit of earlier attention to social and motivational aspects of vision, while pain researchers lack a comparative behavioural ecology of pain, the normal incidence and utility of responses to tissue damage. Hybrid hypotheses arising from predictive coding as used in both domains are applied to some perplexing phenomena in pain perception to suggest future directions. The contingent and predictive interpretation of complex sensations, in such domains as ‘runner's high’, multiple cosmetic procedures, self-harm and circadian rhythms in pain sensitivity is one example. The second, in an evolutionary time frame, considers enhancement of primary perception and expression of pain in social species, when expressions of pain might reliably elicit useful help.

My comments: Could it be that those who experienced no pain died much more frequently (hemorrhages, internal damage, etc) than those who experienced pain and asked for support?

From 2015... The unique pain of being human. Barbara Finlay. New Scientist, Volume 226, Issue 3020, May 9 2015, Pages 28-29.

We seem to experience pain differently to other animals. Why, wonders neuroscientist Barbara Finlay

FOR years I worked in Brazil on the evolution of vision in primates and was often stationed near monkeys who had undergone caesarean sections. Their recovery was impressive – in stark contrast with my own after two
C-sections. Within hours, the monkeys would be sitting, climbing and annoying each other.

Looking at these unbothered monkeys, I began to think that some causes of the sensation of pain in humans might be fundamentally different to those in other animals.

The basic function of pain is the same for all vertebrates: it alerts an animal to potential damage and reduces activity after trauma. It is often argued that pain must be different in humans because of our ability to anticipate it or imagine its effects on us. But independent of whether cognition and culture can modify
pain, I am suggesting a more basic difference in humans compared with animals: that some varieties, such as labour pain, appear only in humans, and others such as posttrauma pain are magnified.

These forms of pain appear in tandem with the ability to recruit help, to elicit an altruistic response in others. By “help” I mean the simple protection and provisioning that parents supply to children, not medical intervention – although our medical interventions probably first grew from this basis. This view arises from work carried out nearly 50 years ago by pain researcher Patrick Wall. He was the first person to suggest a functional view of pain – that it should be understood as a mixture of sensation and the motivation to make it stop, not sensation alone. His starting point was the now wellresearched placebo effect. His account explained how rituals or procedures offered by a doctor or shaman, regardless of the efficacy or even existence of an actual treatment, could reduce pain.

But even with this early advocate for a functional view of it, studies of pain have mainly concentrated on receptors and specific clinical manifestations, while neglecting its purpose. Pain is a motivational signal to get an animal to do something – escape from a source of damage, protect a wound or devote energy to recovery. Wall argued that one of its roles in humans is as a motivation to seek help from some trusted source. When that goal is satisfied, pain is relieved.

I want to extend this view. I think that, over evolutionary time, several stimuli and situations that are not painful in other animals have come to be experienced as painful for humans. This is because our obvious distress elicits help from others and hence offers a survival advantage. This is distinct from the numerous demonstrations that context and culture can alter our sensation of pain. I argue that the primary circuitry of pain and malaise has been changed in human evolution in cases where getting help from others would be useful.

The pain of altruism

There is much indirect evidence in support of this “pain of altruism”. Take, for instance, the fact that certain types of pain are not associated with any physiological damage, and studies that show the presence of others can affect reported sensations of pain. Labour pain is another good example.

Across all human cultures, there are nearly always helpers, from relatives to medical professionals, who attend births. Giving birth is risky and help at any level improves survival. The cliché scenario of a mother from some exotic tribe going off to give birth alone is not unheard of, but is exceedingly rare. By contrast, among our primate relatives, solitary birth is the norm.

Human childbirth appears to be uniquely painful among members of the animal kingdom. Typically, scientists have accounted for this in terms of the size mismatch between the infant’s head and the mother’s pelvis, and not in terms of differences in social structure.

Human birth is dangerous, but we are not the only primates at risk – the smallest-bodied, large-brained monkeys, like marmosets, have similar head to pelvis disproportionality and birth-related mortality. Yet compared with humans, primates appear to give birth with little pain. Ungulates such as horses and cattle produce large, long-limbed offspring with a substantial chance of complications, but with little evidence of distress. Any such evidence, in fact, could prove fatal by alerting predators. So why is childbirth so painful for women? The source of labour pain is the contraction of the uterus and dilation of the cervix, but these are not damaging or pathological in themselves. Rather they predict a risky and potentially lethal event: the actual birth, to occur hours later. I suggest that protracted labour pains make us show distress and recruit help from others well in advance of the birth – a strategy that offers a survival advantage, as the offspring of those who seek help are more likely to survive.

But if the pain of labour is not linked to tissue damage and is primarily a call to enlist help, why does it have to be so excruciating? Helping someone in pain comes at a cost to the helper, and societies can’t afford to tolerate “cheating” in the form of excessive malingering or fake pain. I think that the pain of altruism may be connected to the concept of honest signalling in behavioural biology, whereby producing a signal has to be sufficiently costly to deter cheaters and freeloaders. Pain could be the obligatory cost of an honest signal, in the same way that a peacock’s tail or stag’s antlers are hard-to-fake signs of their owner’s underlying fitness.

However, since pain has no concrete physical manifestation that others can verify, cheating is difficult to eliminate – there is probably not one person reading this article who has never exaggerated pain or illness for their own benefit. If feeling pain to recruit the help of others is an evolutionarily assembled neural construct, this could be triggered in error. Perhaps this is what happens in the case of mysterious but distressing illnesses for which a direct physical cause cannot be found.

The pain of altruism also explains why malaise after trauma and infection are long and exaggerated for humans compared with laboratory mice. Mice, like most non-human animals, cannot provide the high level of social support needed to nurse an individual with an illness or a broken leg. Such injured animals must confine their energetically expensive immune response to the minimum time needed to survive without help.

It is also possible that this pain of altruism has been extended to domesticated livestock and pets, as they too can enlist human help. In contrast, most adult animals in the wild try to avoid showing disability or distress, which might attract rivals or predators.

Periods of extended illness might only be feasible in species where individuals protect and provide for others for such lengths of time. If help from others is the root cause of some types of pain, then this needs to be factored into our understanding of pain and disease. An evolutionary calculation that we cannot be aware of, rather than a specific physical cause, could be the source of much real agony.

Other Unexplained Agony
Pain exists to get an animal to change its behaviour. This functional account of pain may explain some ongoing mysteries, such as the cause of the muscle soreness that follows a day of intense exercise, which has eluded physiological explanation. The popular idea that it is due to the build-up of lactic acid has been discounted, as have other proposed theories. Bodybuilders have found that the optimal way to build muscle is to take a rest day after a strenuous workout. Perhaps nature has converged on the same idea, and muscle soreness is simply a signal to rest, to enable optimal muscle building.

Persistence of pain in humans and other mammals

Persistence of pain in humans and other mammals. Amanda C. de C. Williams. Proceedings of the Royal Society B, Volume 374, Issue 1785, September 23 2019.

Abstract: Evolutionary models of chronic pain are relatively undeveloped, but mainly concern dysregulation of an efficient acute defence, or false alarm. Here, a third possibility, mismatch with the modern environment, is examined. In ancestral human and free-living animal environments, survival needs urge a return to activity during recovery, despite pain, but modern environments allow humans and domesticated animals prolonged inactivity after injury. This review uses the research literature to compare humans and other mammals, who share pain neurophysiology, on risk factors for pain persistence, behaviours associated with pain, and responses of conspecifics to behaviours. The mammal populations studied are mainly laboratory rodents in pain research, and farm and companion animals in veterinary research, with observations of captive and free-living primates. Beyond farm animals and rodent models, there is virtually no evidence of chronic pain in other mammals. Since evidence is sparse, it is hard to conclude that it does not occur, but its apparent absence is compatible with the mismatch hypothesis.

Humans’ left cheek portrait bias extends to chimpanzees: Depictions of chimps on Instagram

Humans’ left cheek portrait bias extends to chimpanzees: Depictions of chimps on Instagram. Annukka K. Lindell. Laterality: Asymmetries of Body, Brain and Cognition, Sep 22 2019.

ABSTRACT: When posing for portraits, humans favour the left cheek. This preference is argued to stem from the left cheek’s greater expressivity: as the left hemiface is predominantly controlled by the emotion-dominant right hemisphere, it expresses emotion more intensely than the right hemiface. Whether this left cheek bias extends to our closest primate relatives, chimpanzees, has yet to be determined. Given that humans and chimpanzees share the same oro-facial musculature and contralateral cortical innervation of the face, it appears probable that humans would also choose to depict chimps showing the more emotional left cheek. This paper thus examined portrait biases in images of chimpanzees. Two thousand photographs were sourced from Instagram’s “Most Recent” feed using the #chimpanzee, and coded for pose orientation (left, right) and portrait type (head and torso, full body). As anticipated, there were significantly more left cheek (57.2%) than right cheek images (42.8%), with the bias observed across both head and torso and full body portraits. Thus humans choose to depict chimpanzees just as we depict ourselves: offering the left cheek. As such, these data confirm that the left cheek bias is observed in both human and non-human primates, consistent with an emotion-based account of the orientation preference.

KEYWORDS: Left, right, emotion, photo, primate

In face perception, reducing visual input greatly increases perceived attractiveness; left/right half faces look far more attractive than bilaterally symmetric whole faces

Face perception loves a challenge: Less information sparks more attraction. Javid Sadr, Lauren Krowicki. Vision Research, Volume 157, April 2019, Pages 61-83.

•    In face perception, reducing visual input greatly increases perceived attractiveness.
•    This “partial information effect” occurs with blur, contrast reduction, and occlusion.
•    Left/right half faces look far more attractive than bilaterally symmetric whole faces.
•    There are no male/female differences in this “less is more” enhancement effect.

Abstract: Examining hedonic questions of processing fluency, objective stimulus clarity, and goodness-of-fit in face perception, across three experiments (blur, contrast, occlusion) in which subjects performed the simple, natural task of rank-ordering faces by attractiveness, we find a very consistent and powerful effect of reduced visual input increasing perceived attractiveness. As images of faces are blurred (i.e., as higher spatial frequencies are lost, mimicking at-a-distance, eccentric, or otherwise unaccommodated viewing, tested down to roughly 6 cycles across the face), reduced in contrast (linearly, down to 33% of the original image’s), and even half-occluded, the viewer’s impression of the faces’ attractiveness, relative to non- or less-degraded faces, is greatly enhanced. In this regard, the blur manipulation exhibits a classic exponential profile, the contrast manipulation follows a simple linear trend. Given the far superior attractiveness of half-occluded faces, which have no symmetry whatsoever, we also see that it may be incorrect to claim that facial symmetry is attractive and perhaps more accurate that asymmetry may be unattractive. As tested with a total of 200 novel female faces over three experiments, we find absolutely no male/female differences in this “partial information effect” of enhanced subjective attraction, nor do we find differences across the repetition of the task through to a second block of trials in which the faces are re-encountered and no longer novel. Finally, whereas objective stimulus quality is reduced, we suggest a positive hedonic experience arises as a subjective phenomenological index of enhanced perceptual goodness-of-fit, counter-intuitively facilitated by what may be stimulus-distilling image-level manipulations.

Humans have likely spent the vast majority of our history as a species in relatively egalitarian, small-scale societies; this does not mean humans are by nature egalitarian, but that ecological & demographic conditions suppressed dominance

Making and unmaking egalitarianism in small-scale human societies. Chris von Rueden. Current Opinion in Psychology, Volume 33, June 2020, Pages 167-171.

•    Modal political organization of ancestral human societies is egalitarianism.
•    Role of prestige in human hierarchy is a contributing factor to egalitarianism.
•    Historical shifts to greater inequality include coercive and non-coercive forces.

Abstract: Humans have likely spent the vast majority of our history as a species in relatively egalitarian, small-scale societies. This does not mean humans are by nature egalitarian. Rather, the ecological and demographic conditions common to small-scale societies favored the suppression of steep, dominance-based hierarchy and incentivized relatively shallow, prestige-based hierarchy. Shifts in ecological and demographic conditions, particularly with the spread of agriculture, weakened constraints on coercion.

Check also: Romanticizing the Hunter-Gatherer, Despite the Girl Infanticide, the Homicide Rate, etc.
Romanticizing the Hunter-Gatherer. William Buckner. Quillette, December 16, 2017.

Zimmermann's World Resources And Industries, 1st edition, 1933

Zimmermann's World Resources And Industries, 1st edition, 1933

Erich Walter Zimmermann, resource economist, was born in Mainz, Germany, on July 31, 1888 and died in Austin, United States of America, on February 16, 1961. He was an economist at the University of North Carolina and later the University of Texas.
Zimmermann of the Institutional school of economics[1] called his real world theory the functional theory of mineral resources. His followers have coined the term resourceship to describe the theory.[2] Unlike traditional descriptive inventories, Zimmermann's method offered a synthetic assessment of the human, cultural, and natural factors that determine resource availability.
Zimmermann rejected the assumption of fixity. Resources are not known, fixed things; they are what humans employ to service wants at a given time. To Zimmermann (1933, 3; 1951, 14), only human "appraisal" turns the "neutral stuff" of the earth into resources.[3] What are resources today may not be tomorrow, and vice versa. According to Zimmermann, "resources are not, they become."[4] "According to the definition of ew Zimmerman, the word ,"resource " does not refer to a thing but to a function which a thing may perform to an operation in which it may take part,namely,the function or operation of attaining a given end such a satisfying a want.


  • “Resources of the South”, The South-Atlantic Quarterly (July 1933)
  • World Resources and Industries: A Functional Appraisal of the Availability of Agricultural and Industrial Resources (1933) New York: Harper & Brothers
  • World Resources and Industries, 2nd revised ed. (1951) New York: Harper & Brothers