nyt

The Thoughtful Animal

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Human infants have one important job during the first years of life, and that is to learn about the world and their culture from their parents and other caregivers. But what is learning? I’ve previously written that Hungarian developmental psychologists Gergely and Csibra have defined learning as the acquisition of new, generalizable knowledge that can…

What is learning? Most psychologists (indeed, most people in general) would agree that learning is the acquisition of new knowledge, or new behaviors, or new skills. Hungarian psychologists Gergely and Csibra offer a deceptively simple description: “Learning involves acquiring new information and using it later when necessary.” What this means is that learning requires the…

Baby Animals at the LA Zoo

I’ve been a bit remiss in posting much this week, mostly because I had to prep a guest lecture (from which I just returned, and it was awesome thankyouverymuch) on the Domestication of Social Cognition. In the meantime, now that spring is here, baby animals are starting to pop up all over the LA Zoo.…

You know that old phrase, “monkey see, monkey do”? Well, there might be something to it, except that chimpanzees aren’t monkeys. (Sadly, “ape see, ape do” just doesn’t have the same ring to it.) A new paper published today in PLoS ONE has found evidence that chimpanzees have contagious yawning – that is, they can…

Welcome to the third installment of Animal Territoriality Week. See part 1 here, and part 2 here. In 1994, a disease called sarcoptic mange swept through Bristol’s fox population, severely crippling the population and killing most of the individuals. Professor Stephen Harris of the University of Bristol, who had been studying the movements and territories…

Welcome to Territoriality Week! Every day this week, I’ll have a post about some aspect of animal or human territoriality. How do animals mark and control their territories? What determines the size or shape of an animal’s territory? What can an animal’s territory tell us about neuroanatomy? Today, I begin by asking two questions: first,…

There is a small bit of land, only about a square kilometer, that has added a new wrinkle to the story of animal domestication. This bit of land located in Northern Jordan, just southeast of the Sea of Galilee near the banks of the Jordan River, is home to an archaeological site known as ‘Uyun…

“At home, a young man should be dutiful towards his parents; going outside, he should be respectful towards his elders.” -Confucius (Chinese philosopher, 551-479 BCE) “Your real boss is the one who walks under your hat.” -Napoleon Hill (American author, 1883-1970) Those two quotations reflect a cultural difference in how people construct their own conceptions…

Most dog owners think that their dogs can tell what they’re thinking. Or at least, in some sense, they will insist that their pet pooches can sense their emotions, and respond accordingly. Indeed, a man by the name of Karl Krall (say that three times fast) thought that there exist some sort of psychic connections…

It’s here! After more than a month of reviewing, I am pleased to announce the list of posts that will be included in this year’s edition – the fifth – of The Open Laboratory! In no particular order: Givin’ props to hybrids by DeLene Beeland The decade the clones came: Beware the mighty Marmokrebs! by…