Supporting Evidence

Research supporting my work on subjects that science has something to say about. A cuddly, fuzzy blanket of confirmation bias.

Knowing Things We Never Learned:

Nearly all of us must struggle diligently to acquire even modest talent in Mathematics, Music, and Art. We encounter genius as a rare group of people who display an amazing gift that seems to come to them easily compared to our sweaty, grinding, display. People with this kind of talent are sometimes called savants. Below them are random individuals of great talent and below them, the rest of us in a bell curve spread from mediocre to hopeless. Yet effortless, genius-level mastery of these areas appears to be latent in our brains, modularized in you and me, right now. How to back up such a claim? We learn much about ourselves through the exceptions of pathology and extreme variation. A break in the pattern reveals the pattern.

There are three kinds of savants that reveal these “genius modules”. Continue reading

FacebooktwittermailFacebooktwittermail

I began meditating a few months back and it feels very positive, even transformative. That feeling is backed up empirically.

There are a number of interesting published studies on the effects of meditation but these two are amazing! Both have high strength of evidence. The titles below link to the full articles. Here’s the nutshell summary:

  1. Long term meditation alters brain anatomy in positive ways, such as larger hippocampal and frontal volumes of gray matter
  2. Meditation and yoga can rewrite our DNA and alter the gene expression of enduring trauma and stress correlates

Continue reading

FacebooktwittermailFacebooktwittermail

A number of my posts declare that there’s a feedback loop constraining variation from cultural norms and local genetic norms. Here’s one example:

The Face on the Cutting Room Floor

Policing observance of cultural behavior norms makes certain culturally approved traits into positive sexual selection traits. This has the effect of maintaining the status quo of the population and the culture. This is a bit of supporting evidence.


Selection, adaptation, inheritance and design in human culture:
The view from the Price equation

“A number of statements are made recurrently in summarising cultural evolutionary theory. One is that culture is a system of inheritance. Thus, humans have not just the standard one system of inheritance (genetics), but (at least) a second one, culture [5]. We have, in other words, a dual inheritance [3], and two inheritance systems entails two distinct fitnesses, genetic fitness, and cultural fitness. Another statement is that cultural evolution produces design-like properties that would not emerge without it [6,7]. The key insight of Darwinian genetic evolutionary theory was that design-like properties could be produced, over time, by selection processes. Thus, it is quite natural, seeing design-like properties in culture, to assume they must be produced by selection processes too. Still another generalization is that cultural evolution can increase genetic fitness. For example, this claim is implicit in the idea that having a second inheritance system is adaptive for coping with environmental fluctuations faster than those that can be tracked by genetic selection, but slower than those generally tracked by individual learning (see e.g. [8]). ‘Adaptive’ in this context means genetically adaptive—more survival, more babies—and so for the claim to work, cultural evolution would have not only to increase cultural fitness, but genetic fitness too.”  -Daniel Nettle

Download the paper (pdf format)183-preprint

FacebooktwittermailFacebooktwittermail
Hal Whitehead, Kevin N. Laland, Luke Rendell, Rose Thorogood & Andrew Whiten 
Nature Communications volume 10, Article number: 2405 (2019)

Abstract

Culture (behaviour based on socially transmitted information) is present in diverse animal species, yet how it interacts with genetic evolution remains largely unexplored. Here, we review the evidence for gene-culture coevolution in animals, especially birds, cetaceans and primates. We describe how culture can relax or intensify selection under different circumstances, create new selection pressures by changing ecology or behaviour, and favour adaptations, including in other species. Finally, we illustrate how, through culturally mediated migration and assortative mating, culture can shape population genetic structure and diversity. This evidence suggests strongly that animal culture plays an important evolutionary role, and we encourage explicit analyses of gene-culture coevolution in nature.

Link to the full article

Continue reading

FacebooktwittermailFacebooktwittermail

Winners interpret good luck as merit-based, even when the rules overtly favor them and no skill is involved. 

When I notice evidence-based research relating to my articles I am adding them.

“At the end of their game, people were asked if it had been fair. Regardless of the conditions, winners were more likely to say yes than losers. Even when the winners benefited from receiving either one or two strong cards from their opponent, they were twice as likely to judge it a fair game as the losers. What’s more, in most versions of the game winners were more likely than losers to attribute success in the game to talent – even though the game required very little.”

Link to the popular article 

Abstract
Growing disparities of income and wealth have prompted extensive survey research to measure the effects on public beliefs about the causes and fairness of economic inequality. However, observational data confound responses to unequal outcomes with highly correlated inequality of opportunity. This study uses a novel experiment to disentangle the effects of unequal outcomes and unequal opportunities on cognitive, normative, and affective responses. Participants were randomly assigned to positions with unequal opportunities for success. Results showed that both winners and losers were less likely to view the outcomes as fair or attributable to skill as the level of redistribution increased, but this effect of redistribution was stronger for winners. Moreover, winners were generally more likely to believe that the game was fair, even when the playing field was most heavily tilted in their favor. In short, it’s not just how the game is played, it’s also whether you win or lose.

Link to research journal 

 

 

FacebooktwittermailFacebooktwittermail

Another example of life experience heredity via an unknown process.

Excerpts from Scientific American

A stressed-out and traumatized father can leave scars in his children. New research suggests this happens because sperm “learn” paternal experiences via a mysterious mode of intercellular communication…

The findings are “novel and of very high impact, especially when we consider the impact of military service or other work environments that can confer high stress,” says Robert Rissman, a neuroscientist at the University of California, San Diego, who was not involved with the research. “I think it would be important to better understand the specificity of the effect and how different types of stressors or strength of stressors can modulate this system.”

Article here

 

FacebooktwittermailFacebooktwittermail