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Target Articles

Political attitudes vary with physiological traits

(2008: Oxley, D. R., Smith, K. B., Alford, J. R., Hibbing, M. V., Miller, J. L., Scalora, M., Hatemi, P. K., Hibbing, J. R.) Although political views have been thought to arise largely from individuals’ experiences, recent research suggests that they may have a biological basis. We present evidence that variations in political attitudes correlate with physiological traits. In a group of 46 adult participants with strong political beliefs, individuals with measurably lower physical sensitivities to sudden noises and threatening visual images were more likely to support foreign aid, liberal immigration policies, pacifism, and gun control, whereas individuals displaying measurably higher physiological reactions to those same stimuli were more likely to favor defense spending, capital punishment, patriotism, and the Iraq War. Thus, the degree to which individuals are physiologically responsive to threat appears to indicate the degree to which they advocate policies that protect the existing social structure from both external (outgroup) and internal (norm-violator) threats. more...

Emerging and young adulthood: Multiple perspectives and diverse narratives

(2007: Konstam, V.) no abstract more...

Metacognition in the Rat

(2007: Foote, A. L., Crystal, J. D.) The ability to reflect on one's own mental processes, termed metacognition, is a defining feature of human existence. Consequently, a fundamental question in comparative cognition is whether nonhuman animals have knowledge of their own cognitive states. Recent evidence suggests that people and nonhuman primates but not less "cognitively sophisticated" species and are capable of metacognition. Here, we demonstrate for the first time that rats are capable of metacognition – i.e., they know when they do not know the answer in a duration-discrimination test. Before taking the duration test, rats were given the opportunity to decline the test. On other trials, they were not given the option to decline the test. Accurate performance on the duration test yielded a large reward, whereas inaccurate performance resulted in no reward. Declining a test yielded a small but guaranteed reward. If rats possess knowledge regarding whether they know the answer to the test, they would be expected to decline most frequently on difficult tests and show lowest accuracy on difficult tests that cannot be declined. Our data provide evidence for both predictions and suggest that a nonprimate has knowledge of its own cognitive state. more...

Stochastic matching and the voluntary nature of choice

(2007: Neuringer, A., Jensen, G., Piff, P.) Attempts to characterize voluntary behavior have been ongoing for thousands of years. We provide experimental evidence that judgments of volition are based upon distributions of responses in relation to obtained rewards. Participants watched as responses, said to be made by "actors," appeared on a computer screen. The participant's task was to estimate how well each actor represented the voluntary choices emitted by a real person. In actuality, all actors' responses were generated by algorithms based on Baum’s (1979) generalized matching function. We systematically varied the exponent values (sensitivity parameter) of these algorithms: some actors matched response proportions to received reinforcer proportions, others overmatched (predominantly chose the highest-valued alternative), and yet others undermatched (chose relatively equally among the alternatives). In each of five experiments, we found that the matching actor's responses were judged most closely to approximate voluntary choice. We found also that judgments of high volition depended upon stochastic (or probabilistic) generation. Thus, stochastic responses that match reinforcer proportions best represent voluntary human choice. more...

The Traveler's Dilemma

(2007: Basu, Kaushik) Lucy and Pete, returning from a remote Pacific island, find that the airline has damaged the identical antiques that each had purchased. An airline manager says that he is happy to compensate them but is handicapped by being clueless about the value of these strange objects. Simply asking the travelers for the price is hopeless, he figures, for they will inflate it.

Instead he devises a more complicated scheme... more...

Why Pigs Don't Have Wings

(2007: Fodor, J.) According to Jerry Fodor, many evolutionary biologists believe in adaptationism, the idea that (almost) everything can be explained via natural selection. He disagrees, contending that natural selection is "incoherent" and may not be the chief engine of evolution as Darwin believed: "it could turn out that there are indeed baboons in our family tree, but that natural selection isn't how they got there." He hints at a Fodor-led revolution in biology. In the November 1, 15 and 29 LRB issues a number of vexed philosophers and biologists responded and Fodor responded to them. Here is some more on the nouvelle vague in evolutionary biology... more...

Anti-Americanisms

(2006: Katzenstein, Peter J., Keohane, Robert O.) Arab reactions to American support for Israel in its recent conflict with Hezbollah have put anti-Americanism in the headlines once again. Around the world, not just in the Middle East, when bad things happen there is a widespread tendency to blame America for its sins, either of commission or omission. When its Belgrade embassy is bombed, Chinese people believe it was a deliberate act of the United States government; terror plots by native British subjects are viewed as reflecting British support for American policy; when aids devastates much of Africa, the United States is faulted for not doing enough to stop it... more...

Two heads: A marriage devoted to the mind-body problem

(2006: Paul Churchland, Pat Churchland) The article is an account of an extended interview with neuroscientists/philosophers Paul and Pat Churchland. more...

Are Emotions Natural Kinds?

(2006: Barrett, L.F.) Laypeople and scientists alike believe that they know anger, or sadness, or fear, when they see it. These emotions and a few others are presumed to have specific causal mechanisms in the brain and properties that are observable (on the face, in the voice, in the body, or in experience) – that is, they are assumed to be natural kinds. If a given emotion is a natural kind and can be identified objectively, then it is possible to make discoveries about emotion. Indeed, the scientific study of emotion is founded on this assumption. In this article, I review the accumulating empirical evidence that is inconsistent with the view that there are kinds of emotion with boundaries that are carved in nature. I then consider what moving beyond a natural-kind view might mean for the scientific understanding of emotion. more...

Notes on discounting

(2006: Rachlin, H.) In general, if a variable can be expressed as a function of its own maximum value, that function may be called a discount function. Delay discounting and probability discounting are commonly studied in psychology, but memory, matching, and economic utility also may be viewed as discounting processes. When they are so viewed, the discount function obtained is hyperbolic in form. In some cases the effective discounting variable is proportional to the physical variable on which it is based. For example, in delay discounting, the physical variable, delay (D), may enter into the hyperbolic equation as kD. In many cases, however, the discounting data are not well described with a single-parameter discount function. A much better fit is obtained when the effective variable is a power function of the physical variable (kDs in the case of delay discounting). This power-function form fits the data of delay, probability, and memory discounting as well as other two-parameter discount functions and is consistent with both the generalized matching law and maximization of a constant-elasticity-of-substitution utility function. more...

Addiction and cue-triggered decision processes

(2004: Bernheim, D. R., Rangel, A.) We propose a model of addiction based on three premises: (i) use among addicts is frequently a mistake; (ii) experience sensitizes an individual to environmental cues that trigger mistaken usage; (iii) addicts understand and manage their susceptibilities. We argue that these premises find support in evidence from psychology, neuroscience, and clinical practice. The model is tractable and generates a plausible mapping between behavior and the characteristics of the user, substance, and environment. It accounts for a number of important patterns associated with addiction, gives rise to a clear welfare standard, and has novel implications for policy. more...

Attention to Intention

(2004: Lau, H.C., Rogers, R.D., Haggard, P., Passingham, R.E.) Intention is central to the concept of voluntary action. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging, we compared conditions in which participants made self-paced actions and attended either to their intention to move or to the actual movement. When they attended to their intention rather than their movement, there was an enhancement of activity in the pre-supplementary motor area (pre-SMA). We also found activations in the right dorsal prefrontal cortex and left intraparietal cortex. Prefrontal activity, but not parietal activity, was more strongly coupled with activity in the pre-SMA. We conclude that activity in the pre-SMA reflects the representation of intention. more...

The Bell Curve: Intelligence and class structure in American Life

(1994: Herrnstein, R. J., Murray, C.) Herrnstein & Murray (1994) claim that intelligence is largely inherited and can hardly be altered. They are wrong. Everyone’s intelligence is greatly affected by nutrition, health, experiences, and other environmental factors. People who have limited environmental advantages tend to score low on intelligence tests, and tend to participate disproportionately in many of society’s problems. Enhancing environmental factors raises intelligence scores, increases access to the fruits of society, and thus reduces social problems. Such changes modify the shape of the bell curve of measured intelligence by shifting the lower tail toward the right, and reducing the proportion of people categorized by Herrnstein & Murray as a permanent underclass. more...

Extra Sensory Perception

(1964: Rhine, J. B.) no abstract more...

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