The Thoughtful Animal

Welcome!

Welcome to the new home for The Thoughtful Animal!

Welcome especially to new readers! To the old readers, I hope you’ll enjoy the new place. Nothing big will change; but now I’ve got better technical support, a family of Sciblings (go check out their blogs!), a more powerful interface, and hopefully a more pleasant experience for you!

Take a few minutes to check out the site. You can read a little about me, and if you’d like you can peruse the old blog. I shall miss the old place, but am very excited to be joining the Borg Scienceblogs, and all my new Sciblings. Special thanks go to Dr. Isis, Bora, Scicurious, and Dave Munger for encouraging and supporting the move and ferrying me through the transition. And of course to Erin and the SB Overlordz!

Who is this guy?
I’m a grad student in Developmental Psychology at the University of Southern California.

What are we doing here?
The main focus of this blog is animal cognition. Animals do some pretty cool things, and there are some clever ways for figuring out how an animal thinks. What does it mean for a cognitive skill or capacity to be truly innate? How can the environment take the basic building blocks of cognition and push them around in different ways? How did those building blocks evolve? How do they develop throughout the lifetime? I think that investigating and understanding animal cognition is a really powerful method for understanding the evolution of the human mind.

I like to cover the animals you usually think of when it comes to animal cognition. Monkeys and dolphins and dogs and such. I also like to cover the critters that you usually wouldn’t think of. Like ants, turtles, or fish. Every Monday (including a special double-dose today) you can expect a post about the animals most familiar to us: the animals we invite into our homes as pets.

I also do brain imaging research on reading and dyslexia. Seems a world away from animal cognition, but there are some important parallels. Similar to any other cognitive skill or overt behavior, reading emerges from the complex relationship of biology and environment. Reading is a skill that evolution did not prepare us for. It is not intuitive, and takes years to master – yet most of us learn to read with relative ease. Why? And what goes wrong in developmental dyslexia?

I’m interested in the way that Science and Science Communication are changing in the Web 2.0 world. I’m interested in the way that the Web 2.0 world has affected child development.

Hmmm, what else? I like to cook. And eat. DVR changed my life. I just got Netflix.

That said: I like it when you read, and I like it even more when you comment. This is meant to be a conversation. Read, comment. Lather, rinse, repeat.

That’s all great, but will there be shoes?
If you’re lucky.

What about LOLcats?
Unlikely.

Technical Details
This is the new permanent home for The Thoughtful Animal. All comments at the old blog are now closed. As such, please update your bookmarks and blogrollz.

The proper URL is now: http://scienceblogs.com/thoughtfulanimal/

Those of you who subscribe via RSS, the new feed is: http://scienceblogs.com/thoughtfulanimal/index.xml

For those of you who had been receiving The Thoughtful Animal by email, this is a feature that is no longer supported. I encourage you to bookmark the website, as an alternative. You could even make it your homepage!

Now the party can begin.
i-47df81052967b450e59b1a6ce5cfc17c-clown.jpg

Figure 1: Physioprof promised to come to the party if there was a clown.

Comments

  1. #1 IanW
    April 12, 2010

    Welcome aboard! I’m looking forward to some great science.

  2. #2 Coturnix
    April 12, 2010

    Welcome to the Family!

  3. #3 Scicurious
    April 12, 2010

    Welcome, Jason!!

  4. #4 Badger3k
    April 12, 2010

    Nobody says hello? How rude! Just saw this and this is an area of interest, so I’ll be reading. Welcome to Scienceblogs!

  5. #5 Anni
    April 12, 2010

    Welcome! As an undergraduate student in Clinical Psych who is aiming for grad school within the next few years and would have about five science and Psychology intensive majors if the university would let me, I look forward to reading your posts.

  6. #6 Dave Munger
    April 12, 2010

    Welcome! Hope you like your new digs — you’re a fantastic addition to the site!

  7. #7 Isis the Scientist
    April 12, 2010

    Welcome, SciBling!

  8. #8 Comrade PhysioProf
    April 12, 2010

    w00t!!

  9. #9 Christie Wilcox
    April 12, 2010

    Welcome, and hello! :)

  10. #10 EMJ
    April 12, 2010

    Welcome indeed. I look forward to reading what you have in store.

  11. #11 Sharon Astyk
    April 12, 2010

    This is cool – welcome!!!! Although I fail to grasp why you seem to think cats being evil is a bad thing ;-).

    Sharon

  12. #12 DrugMonkey
    April 12, 2010

    Welcome dude. Looking forward to more Harpy Eagles. I mean seriously people, HARPY EAGLE!!! Dayum.

  13. #13 heather
    April 12, 2010

    Very cool – I’m looking forward to your posts!

  14. #14 PalMD
    April 12, 2010

    So when dolphins smile all the time it means they want to cuddle, amirite?

  15. #15 Jason G. Goldman
    April 12, 2010

    So when dolphins smile all the time it means they want to cuddle, amirite?

    Yes. Also unicorns and daffodils.

  16. #16 Brownian, OM
    April 12, 2010

    but now I’ve got better technical support

    Oh, they’re so cute when they’re this young and naive.

    Welcome nonetheless!

    I have, for a long time, been utterly convinced of fairly complex cognition among many non-human animals. However, I’m unsure of the existence of cognition among many of my coworkers. Do I just mail ‘em to you for testing or what?

  17. #17 Caine, Fleur du mal
    April 12, 2010

    Welcome to Sciblogs! Looking forward to reading. No more clowns though, please?

  18. #18 SkyEyes
    April 12, 2010

    Oh, YUMMY! This looks like a great blog about one of my favorite subjects. I can contribute cat behavior data points, if you need any. ;->

  19. #19 ThirtyFiveUp
    April 12, 2010

    PZ said you are a good guy, except your blog needs cephalopods.

  20. #20 canuck_grad
    April 12, 2010

    Congratulations! How exciting for you :)

    PS. Told you Donatello was the one to like – Scicurious likes him best too. ;)

  21. #21 Jason
    April 12, 2010

    Sci doesn’t like bacon with chocolate, so her reasoning is suspect.

  22. #22 Athena
    April 12, 2010

    Oh, yes, cephalopods, and will there be bacon? Goats on fire? I’m looking forward to your posts.

  23. #23 scazon
    April 12, 2010

    Congratulations on coming over to ScienceBlogs! I plan to read with at least 30% more interest now that you are here. d-;

  24. #24 Sven DiMilo
    April 12, 2010

    Turtles would be cool.
    Cephalopods would be cool.
    Crows would be cool, too.

    That’s a little haiku of Welcome there.
    But, yes, turtles.

  25. #25 John McKay
    April 12, 2010

    How will your work help us better understand mammoths?

  26. #26 llewelly
    April 13, 2010

    … but now I’ve got better technical support …

    uh, really? Where you running Xenix before?

  27. #27 llewelly
    April 13, 2010

    John McKay | April 12, 2010 11:20 PM:

    How will your work help us better understand mammoths?

    Mammoths are plotting to get resurrected, go on a rampage, and take over the world. The study of animal cognition will tell us much about how they arrived at the important decision to make and carry out their plan. Plus, it help us understand how to best serve our new masters.

  28. #28 Douglas Watts
    April 13, 2010

    Reading is a skill that evolution did not prepare us for. It is not intuitive, and takes years to master – yet most of us learn to read with relative ease. Why? And what goes wrong in developmental dyslexia?

    What on Earth are you talking about?

    Most kids exposed to written words learn how to read for themselves at age 6 or 7.

    It took me about one year to “master” reading. The rest was learning vocabulary.

  29. #29 Douglas Watts
    April 13, 2010

    Reading is a skill that evolution did not prepare us for.

    Evolution does not “prepare” us for anything. How could it? Evolution does not “look forward.”

    This single sentence suggests you miscomprehend the most fundamental aspect of biological evolution and natural selection.

    What on Earth are you talking about?

  30. #30 Jason G. Goldman
    April 13, 2010

    Most kids exposed to written words learn how to read for themselves at age 6 or 7. It took me about one year to “master” reading.

    Reading is a process of matching the sounds of language to an arbitrary set of symbols (and then matching that representation to a meaning), and while much of this process happens below conscious awareness, it is not, at all, simple.

    That said, if you have evidence that children’s reading skill begins to plateau by the first or second grade (in the US, where formal schooling begins at age 5), I look forward to seeing that research. You’d turn the field of reading research upside down.

    Evolution does not “prepare” us for anything. How could it? Evolution does not “look forward.”

    An organism’s preparedness to deal with certain environmental realities does not necessitate conscious or explicit design. For example, most of us come into the world prepared to sense, perceive, and then organize patterns of light that enter our brains through our eyes, because a set of biological structures evolved that allow this process to occur.

  31. #31 Paul Browne
    April 13, 2010

    Welcome to science blogs Jason.

    Your first challenge appears to be to write a post that combines Harpy Eagles with a cephalopod…it could get nasty!

  32. #32 phlgradstudent
    April 13, 2010

    Hi, and welcome

    I am a serial lurker and major fan of scienceblogs, occasionally I comment but generally only when I get bunched up over some bad bit of philosophy . . . the differences between science and philosophy being of great importance in the analysis of cognition: science is at its roots an attempt to check our mental maps of the world against the actual world (which is why it values falsification so very highly) while philosophy is at its roots an attempt to check our mental maps against themselves for consistency of signage, readability, etc.

    With this in mind, I want to ask you about one of the big problems with a strict reading of Neo-Darwinism, which is its absurd take on “innate” (an error you casually commit in your first post). Far too often, what is held as ‘innate’ gets treated as though it were some platonic essence, some ‘thing’ that just is – around which our actions coalesce, and from which our being is formed. But Darwin rejected any such notion. (granted his take on heredity is very primitive, and we have learned much since his days, but still . . .) I would argue, his take is more sophisticated than much of what passes for ‘darwinism’ today.

    Innate is only another accident of circumstances, it is a pattern of past interactions ‘breathed’ to life in current situations – which must be survived for the heritage to continue. In other words, there is no such thing as innate – not even in our dna. we are not ‘programmed’ to respond in any certain way. It is rather as PZed wrote in his excellent post so long ago: http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2008/02/the_genome_is_not_a_computer_p.php With this in mind, I respectfully comment that nothing is ‘truly innate’ – and it is absurd to look for such a bandersnatch. . . moreover, no, we have no ‘instinctive’ tendency to read -but ‘instincts’ are likewise not programmed, and not ‘essential’, and not actual (at least as presented in much of the literature. . .) but this gets us into another bit of ‘quibbling’ over definitions. . . and we wouldn’t want to bore you on your opening day.

    cheers

  33. #33 mikerattlesnake
    April 13, 2010

    Good to see a new blog on one of my favorite topics. The animal behavior class that I took in college was what really made me understand evolution and how beautiful a process it was.

    Glad to see you so quickly dismissing the armchair experts as well. It seems that scienceblogs is no place for the timid.

  34. #34 Dario Ringach
    April 13, 2010

    Welcome! I’d recommend starting at the bottom — altruism and cheating in the social amoeba.

  35. #35 Michael Lombardi
    April 13, 2010

    Sad to see you leave WordPress, as I can just follow you along in my dashboard, but glad you’ve moved on to bigger and better things. Congrats.

    I’m looking to expand my readership too but it seems I’ve picked a bad niche (high school biology). lol :)

  36. #36 Claire Binkley
    April 13, 2010

    I came from PZ’s linking to his loyal Phayngulites (the exact link from whence I lost since I have a couple tabs open) to extend a cheerful welcome. I laugh hard at the mention of the nonexistence of LOLcats here.

  37. #37 Sven DiMilo
    April 16, 2010

    Innate is only another accident of circumstances, it is a pattern of past interactions ‘breathed’ to life in current situations – which must be survived for the heritage to continue. In other words, there is no such thing as innate – not even in our dna. we are not ‘programmed’ to respond in any certain way.

    Sorry, I cannot figure out what this is suposed to mean.
    Many animals do in fact exhibit behavior that is unquestionably encoded in DNA (somehow). The species-specific web-spinning behavior of spiders, e.g. Species-specific stereotyped courting rituals for another.

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