Thursday, June 17, 2021

Cultural Change Reduces Gender Differences in Mobility and Spatial Ability among Seminomadic Pastoralist-Forager Children in Northern Namibia

Cultural Change Reduces Gender Differences in Mobility and Spatial Ability among Seminomadic Pastoralist-Forager Children in Northern Namibia. Helen E. Davis, Jonathan Stack & Elizabeth Cashdan. Human Nature volume 32, pages178–206. Apr 22 2021.

Abstract: A fundamental cognitive function found across a wide range of species and necessary for survival is the ability to navigate complex environments. It has been suggested that mobility may play an important role in the development of spatial skills. Despite evolutionary arguments offering logical explanations for why sex/gender differences in spatial abilities and mobility might exist, thus far there has been limited sampling from nonindustrialized and subsistence-based societies. This lack of sampling diversity has left many unanswered questions regarding the effects that environmental variation and cultural norms may have in shaping mobility patterns during childhood and the development of spatial competencies that may be associated with it. Here we examine variation in mobility (through GPS tracking and interviews), performance on large-scale spatial skills (i.e., navigational ability), and performance on small-scale spatial skills (e.g., mental rotation task, Corsi blocks task, and water-level task) among Twa forager/pastoralist children whose daily lives have been dramatically altered since settlement and the introduction of government-funded boarding schools. Unlike in previous findings among Twa adults, boys and girls (N = 88; aged 6–18) show similar patterns of travel on all measures of mobility. We also find no significant differences in spatial task performance by gender for large- or small-scale spatial skills. Further, children performed as well as adults did on mental rotation, and they outperformed adults on the water-level task. We discuss how children’s early learning environments may influence the development of both large- and small-scale spatial skills.

Puritanical moralizations condemn & praise behaviors which are perceived as affecting people’s propensity to cooperate, by modifying their ability to resist short-term impulses conflicting with cooperative motivations

Fitouchi, Léo, Jean-Baptiste André, and Nicolas Baumard. 2021. “Moral Disciplining: The Cognitive and Evolutionary Foundations of Puritanical Morality.” PsyArXiv. June 16. doi:10.31234/

Abstract: Why do many human societies condemn apparently harmless and pleasurable behaviors, such as lust, gluttony, drinking, drugs, gambling, or even music and dance? Why do they erect temperance, hedonic restraint, sobriety, decency and piety as cardinal moral virtues? While existing accounts consider this puritanical morality as an exception to the cooperative function of moral intuitions, we propose that it stems, like other moral concerns, from moral intuitions targeting cooperative challenges. Specifically, we argue that it emerges in response to a key feature of cooperation, namely that the latter is (ultimately) a long-term strategy, requiring (proximately) the self-control of appetites for immediate gratification. Puritanical moralizations condemn and praise behaviors which, although not intrinsically cooperative or uncooperative, are perceived as affecting people’s propensity to cooperate, by modifying their ability to resist short-term impulses conflicting with cooperative motivations. Drinking, drugs, unruly feasts, dances, and immodest clothing are condemned as stimulating people’s short-term impulses, thus facilitating uncooperative behaviors (e.g. adultery, violence, economic free-riding). Immoderate indulgence in harmless bodily pleasures (e.g. lust, masturbation, gluttony) is perceived as addictively reinforcing short-term impulses, thus making harder the self-control of future temptations to cheat. Moralizations of ascetic temperance, daily self-discipline, and pious ritual observance are perceived as nurturing the self-restraint consubstantial to a cooperative character, able to resist selfish temptations when the latter arise. We review psychological, historical, and ethnographic evidence supporting this account, and discuss its implications regarding the cross-cultural variations and cultural evolution of puritanical norms.

Animal identity: The most common situations participants recalled feeling like an animal were survival, sexual, physiological, and being outdoors

I am Homo Sapien: Perceptions of Evolutionary Theory, Animal Identity, and Human–Animal Relationships among US Law and Policy Students. Leah J. Widdicombe & Seana Dowling-Guyer. Anthrozoös, Jun 16 2021.

Abstract: People’s perception of the human–animal relationship is complex, as is our regard for animal welfare within law and policy decisions. Little attention has been paid to how political stakeholders utilize culture to identify themselves within the kingdom Animalia or how their identity relates to their political concern for animals. This research provides an overview of the beliefs, identities, and political agendas of law and policy students in the United States through an exploratory, mixed-methods study composed of two concurrent parts: (1) a cross-sectional online survey (n = 231) and (2) in-person, in-depth interviews (n = 21). Part 1 examined (a) cultural beliefs about human origins and political concern for nonhuman animals; (b) when and to what extent participants identify as an animal; and (c) how animal identity relates to their beliefs and political concern for nonhuman animals. Part 2 elaborated on underlying themes, identifying nuances in the perspectives identified in Part 1. Most participants classified humans as animals and their understanding of human origins was predominantly science-based but occasionally referenced religion. Those who stated a belief in human evolution scored significantly higher on the animal identity scale compared with those with purely Creationist beliefs. In turn, identifying more strongly as an animal was significantly associated with placing greater importance on animal issues in law and policy. A structural equation model was fitted and revealed that animal identity mediated the relationship between beliefs about human origins and the ranked importance of animal issues. The most common situations participants recalled feeling like an animal were survival, sexual, physiological, and being outdoors. As the first study to provide a mixed-methods descriptive experience of animal identity, with a focus on cultural understanding of evolutionary theory, these findings describe how the formation of an animal identity might relate to public policy decisions and are particularly relevant to animal activists and identity researchers.

KEYWORDS: Animal identityanimal law and policyhuman–animal interactionhuman origin beliefsmixed methods researchsocial identity theory

Forms and functions of the social emotions: Shame functions to minimize the spread of discrediting information about yourself and the threat of being devalued by others

Forms and Functions of the Social Emotions. Daniel Sznycer, Aaron Sell, Debra Lieberman. Current Directions in Psychological Science, June 15, 2021.

Abstract: In engineering, form follows function. It is therefore difficult to understand an engineered object if one does not examine it in light of its function. Just as understanding the structure of a lock requires understanding the desire to secure valuables, understanding structures engineered by natural selection, including emotion systems, requires hypotheses about adaptive function. Social emotions reliably solved adaptive problems of human sociality. A central function of these emotions appears to be the recalibration of social evaluations in the minds of self and others. For example, the anger system functions to incentivize another individual to value your welfare more highly when you deem the current valuation insufficient; gratitude functions to consolidate a cooperative relationship with another individual when there are indications that the other values your welfare; shame functions to minimize the spread of discrediting information about yourself and the threat of being devalued by others; and pride functions to capitalize on opportunities to become more highly valued by others. Using the lens of social valuation, researchers are now mapping these and other social emotions at a rapid pace, finding striking regularities across industrial and small-scale societies and throughout history.

Keywords: emotion, anger, gratitude, shame, pride, social valuation

Check also Forms and Functions of the Self-Conscious Emotions. Daniel Sznycer. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, Volume 23, Issue 2, February 2019, Pages 143-157.


.  Self-conscious emotions such as pride, shame, and guilt are often studied through the lens of attributional theories. Under attributional theories, the activation and operation of self-conscious emotions depend on how the individual construes and evaluates her own successes and failures.

.  Although attributional theories highlight the intrapersonal nature of self-conscious emotions, recent theories and data suggest that the self-conscious emotions serve interpersonal adaptive functions.

.  From an adaptationist perspective, the characteristic self-reflexive and self-evaluative processes of self-conscious emotions are proximate means to solve adaptive problems related to social valuation.

.  Many known facts about the self-conscious emotions can be interpreted as outputs delivered by well-engineered emotion adaptations.

.  Attributional theories view shame as an immoral, pathological version of guilt. However, shame and guilt simply appear to be distinct adaptations serving different adaptive functions.

.  This interpersonal adaptationist framework can generate novel, testable hypotheses.

Abstract: Pride, shame, and guilt color our highest and lowest personal moments. Recent evidence suggests that these self-conscious emotions are neurocognitive adaptations crafted by natural selection. Specifically, self-conscious emotions solve adaptive problems of social valuation by promoting the achievement of valued actions and characteristics to increase others’ valuations of the individual (pride); limiting information-triggered devaluation (shame); and remedying events where one put insufficient weight on the welfare of a valuable other (guilt). This adaptationist perspective predicts a form–function fit: a correspondence between the adaptive function of a self-conscious emotion and its information-processing structure. This framework can parsimoniously explain known facts about self-conscious emotions, make sense of puzzling findings, generate novel hypotheses, and explain why self-conscious emotions have their characteristic self-reflexive phenomenology.

Keywords: shameprideguiltcooperationreputationstatus