Saturday, September 22, 2012

Crows Join Humans in the Ability to Infer Hidden Causal Agents

For those of us who love crows and ravens (and all the other amazing corvids), this is not really new information. There have been loads of other studies documenting the advanced cognitive skills of ravens and crows, especially the New Caledonian crows.

However, the fact that mainstream science is catching on the how smart crows are bodes well for their future in intelligence research. Now if we could just ban hunting and killing them.

This article is from Misc.ience - there is a second one from Wired (below):

Crows join humans in the ability to infer hidden causal agents

New Caledonian crows – smarter every time we look at them.

A fascinating new piece of research was published a couple of days ago in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (or PNAS for short).

New Caledonian crow. Credit: University of Auckland

It shows that New Caledonian crows are capable of a cognitive feat previously only thought to be doable by human beings – the ability to reason about a hidden causal agent (in this case someone behind a sheet). Inference, in other words.
As the (open access/free) paper explains in its opening sentences:
The ability to make inferences about hidden causal mechanisms underpins scientific and religious thought. It also facilitates the understanding of social interactions and the production of sophisticated tool-using behaviors. However, although animals can reason about the outcomes of accidental interventions, only humans have been shown to make inferences about hidden causal mechanisms."
Alex Taylor of the University of Auckland’s School of Psychology (hooray NZ!) and colleagues have shown, however, that we’re NOT the only creatures capable of doing it.

They took eight Caledonian crows – very clever birds, admittedly, who’ve previously been shown to be capable of making and using tools – and showed two series of events. Before the events, the crows had been given some experience with extracting food from a box using a tool.

Both events involved a sheet, and a stick which moved.

The first set of events: the Hidden Causal Agent (HCA)

In the first set of events, the crows were able to watch as a person (of the human sort) walked behind a blue sheet that was hanging up near to a box containing food. The box had been set up so that the crows had to turn their heads away from watching the sheet in order to get their food out.

Once the human had walked behind the sheet, the crows saw the stick poking out from behind it move, making motions towards the food box, and then they saw the human leave again.  ’Meh’, one could imagine the crows thinking, ‘makes total sense. Fudz om nom nom.’

And that’s what they did – they came down to the food box, picked up a tool and extracted their food, giving nary a glance towards the sheet.

Ah, yes. There was also a second person who came into the room with the first, stood in the corner 1.5m from the sheet with closed eyes and hands held crossed in front of their body. This second person did nothing, and then left with the first person.

The second event: the Unknown Causal Agent (UCA)

In the second set of events, they saw the stick move in the same way without someone walking behind, or walking away from, the sheet. A ghost stick!*

As in the first event, there was also a second person who did nothing at all and then left.

Inspection rate across conditions. Final habituation trial before testing is indicated by 20cm hab. (Upper Left ) Diagram of the HCA condition. (Upper Right) Diagram of the UCA condition. In the HCA condition, one human walked into the hide and one stood in the corner of the room. A wooden stick was then probed from the hide. The agent then exited the hide. Both humans then left the room. In the UCA condition, one human entered the cage and stood in the corner. The tool was then probed through the hole. The human then left. (Taylor, A.H. et al, 2012)

And so?
The experiment had been designed so that this stick stimulus would be a new experience for the crows, and so probably something they’d intrinsically distrust (or not like, at the very least)**.

Read the whole article. And here is another one from Wired.

Whodunit? Crows Ask That Question, Too

A New Caledonian crow uses a twig tool. Image: Mick Sibley

By Virginia Morell, ScienceNOW

Imagine hearing a distant roll of thunder and wondering what caused it. Even asking that question is a sign that you, like all humans, can perform a type of sophisticated thinking known as “causal reasoning”—inferring that mechanisms you can’t see may be responsible for something. But humans aren’t alone in this ability: New Caledonian crows can also reason about hidden mechanisms, or “causal agents,” a team of scientists report Sept. 17 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. It’s the first time that this cognitive ability has been experimentally demonstrated in a species other than humans, and the method may help scientists understand how this type of reasoning evolved, the researchers say.

Causal reasoning is “one of the most powerful human abilities,” says Alison Gopnik, a psychologist at the University of California, Berkeley, who was not involved in the study. “It’s at the root of our understanding of the world and one another.” Indeed, it is the key mental ability for many things humans do, including inventing, making, and using tools. We develop this ability early in life: A 2007 study in Developmental Psychology reported that human infants as young as 7 months old understand that when a beanbag is tossed from behind a screen, something or someone must have thrown it. The infants infer that a “causal agent” must be involved in the motion of the flying beanbag.

But why should this ability be limited to humans? “It seems like it would make good sense for crows and many other animals to be able to distinguish between the wind rustling tree limbs and an unseen animal crashing through the canopy,” says Alex Taylor, an evolutionary psychologist at the University of Auckland in New Zealand and the lead author of the new study. Because New Caledonian crows are also inventive and skillful tool-users, Taylor and his colleagues thought the birds might have causal reasoning skills similar to those of humans.

Working on Mare Island in New Caledonia, the scientists captured eight wild crows (five adults and three juveniles) and housed them inside a large outdoor aviary. Over the next few days, the birds used a slender stick to extract food from a small box placed on a table in the aviary. Then the plot thickened: The scientists placed the food box close to a blue tarp large enough for a person to hide behind. The researchers also set up a large stick that could be poked through the tarp and waved around by a human outside the aviary pulling on a string; the moving stick posed a danger to the birds if they tried to extract the food.

The crows in the aviary then observed two different situations. In one, the “hidden causal agent” scenario, the crows saw a human enter the blind. Then, a few moments later, the stick poked through the tarp and moved back and forth 15 times. The human then exited the blind. In the “unknown causal agent” scenario, the crows saw only the stick as it emerged from the tarp and moved back and forth 15 times.

In both situations, a human also stood next to the table in the aviary, so the crows never tried to get the food. And in both cases, when the visible human left, the crows began to remove their food from the box. Yet the crows’ behavior differed depending on whether they had seen a human come and go from the blind. If the birds had seen a human stepping out of the blind, they seldom gave the stick so much as a glance as they dug out their food. But the crows that saw the stick move but no one emerge from the blind were nervous: They often stopped probing for food and studied the blue tarp and stick—apparently suspecting that someone or something unknown had caused the stick to move and that it might move again. Some even flew away from the setup.

Together, the tests show that the crows are “capable of causal reasoning,” Taylor says. “We expected the crows to initially be scared of the moving stick. Instead, they only became scared when they could not attribute the movement to a hidden human—which suggests the crows were reasoning that the stick’s movement was caused by that human.” The crows, he says, apparently don’t expect an inanimate object to move on its own, just as infants don’t expect beanbags to be tossed through the air by a toy block.

“It’s an extremely clever study,” says John Marzluff, a wildlife biologist at the University of Washington, Seattle. “Using a controlled experiment, they’ve validated what many crow hunters know—that crows keep track of hunters in blinds. Even if the crows [in this study] never see a person push the stick, they connect the dots between the location of a person and the actions they associate with people.”

The study “makes important new advances in our understanding of the extent to which nonhuman animals may be capable of causal reasoning and offers the potential to open this whole area up to scientific inquiry in animals,” adds Nicola Clayton, an experimental psychologist at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom. Because it suggests that causal reasoning evolved in parallel in humans and crows, the work may even “help solve the fascinating question of just how and why our human intelligence evolved,” Gopnik says.

This story provided by ScienceNOW, the daily online news service of the journal Science.

Daniel Stern and the Creation of Self Through Relational Experience

In integral theory, much like the history of Western psychology upon which it is based, human development - especially that of the infant - generally has been regarded as an innate process that, barring organic defect or environmental crisis, will unfold pretty much like clockwork until we are fully-grown adults. In essence, development was understood as almost completely intrapsychic.

Although some theorists intuited a deficiency in that model, it was not until the emergence of attachment theory (Bowlby and Ainsworth) that we began to understand how the infant develops within the interpersonal and intersubjective context of the child-caregiver dyad. While psychology has accepted these findings in relation to affect regulation, cultural transmission, language acquisition, and several other realms, it has not yet fully grasped that this is true, as well, for the development of the infant's sense of self.

Three people have really laid the groundwork for our understanding of the intersubjective development of the infant - Andrew Meltzoff, Colwyn Trevarthen, and Daniel Stern. I hope to do a post on Trevarthen at some point, but today my focus is Daniel Stern.

Stern's The Interpersonal World of the Infant: A View from Psychoanalysis and Developmental Psychology (be sure to get the 2000 paperback edition - it has a lengthy introduction that adds insights and new information not in the original text) is one of the landmark publications in reshaping how we conceive of the inner life of infants - it's assertions are based on 20-30 years of observational research.

What I most want to focus on here is the idea of the self that Stern proposes and how it develops. The following paragraphs lay out the basic model (somewhat confusingly, he begins with the second month, with the core self, then comes back at the end to the birth-2 months stage of emergent self).
There is, for one, the physical self that is experienced as a coherent, willful, physical entity with a unique affective life and history that belong to it. This self generally operates outside of awareness. It is taken for granted, and even verbalizing about it is difficult. It is an experiential sense of self that I call the sense of a core self (11). The sense of a core self is a perspective that rests upon the working of many interpersonal capacities. And when this perspective forms, the subjective social world is altered and interpersonal experience operates in a different domain, a domain of core-relatedness. This developmental transformation or creation occurs somewhere between the second and sixth months of life, when infants sense that they and mother are quite separate physically, are different agents, have distinct affective experiences, and have separate histories.

That is only one possible organizing subjective perspective about the self-and-other. Sometime between the seventh and ninth months of life, infants start to develop a second organizing subjective perspective. This happens when they “discover” that there are other minds out there as well as their own. Self and other are no longer only core entities of physical presence, action, affect, and continuity. They now include subjective mental states— feelings, motives, intentions— that lie behind the physical happenings in the domain of core-relatedness. The new organizing subjective perspective defines a qualitatively different self and other who can “hold in mind” unseen but inferable mental states, such as intentions or affects, that guide overt behavior. These mental states now become the subject matter of relating. This new sense of a subjective self opens up the possibility for intersubjectivity between infant and parent and operates in a new domain of relatcdness— the domain of intersubjective relatedness— which is a quantum leap beyond the domain of core-relatedness. Mental states between people can now be “read,” matched, aligned with, or attuned to (or misread, mismatched, misaligned, or misattuned). The nature of relatedness has been dramatically expanded. It is important to note that the domain of intersubjective relatedness, like that of core-relatedness, goes on outside of awareness and without being rendered verbally. In fact, the experience of intersubjective relatedness, like that of core-relatedness, can only be alluded to; it cannot really be described (although poets can evoke it).

The sense of a subjective self and other rests upon different capacities from those necessary for a sense of a core self. These include the capacities for sharing a focus of attention, for attributing intentions and motives to others and apprehending them correctly, and for attributing the existence of states of feeling in others and sensing whether or not they are congruent with one’s own state of feeling.

At around fifteen to eighteen months, the infant develops yet a third organizing subjective perspective about self and other, namely the sense that self (and other) has a storehouse of personal world knowledge and experience (“ I know there is juice in the refrigerator, and I know that I am thirsty”). Furthermore, this knowledge can be objectified and rendered as symbols that convey meanings to be communicated, shared, and even created by the mutual negotiations permitted by language.

Once the infant is able to create shareable meanings about the self and the world, a sense of a verbal self that operates in the domain of verbal relatedness has been formed. This is a qualitatively new domain with expanding, almost limitless possibilities for interpersonal happenings. Again, this new sense of self rests on a new set of capacities: to objectify the self, to be self-reflective, to comprehend and produce language.

So far we have discussed three different senses of the self and other, and three different domains of relatedness that develop between the age of two months and the second year of the infant’s life. Nothing has yet been said about the period from birth to two months. It can now be filled in.

During this earliest period, a sense of the world, including a sense of self, is emergent. Infants busily embark on the task of relating diverse experiences. Their social capacities are operating with vigorous goal-directedness to assure social interactions. These interactions produce affects, perceptions, sensorimotor events, memories, and other cognitions. Some integration between diverse happenings is made innately. For instance, if infants can feel a shape by touching an object, they will know what the object should look like without ever having seen it before. Other integrations are not so automatic but are quickly learned. Connectedness forms rapidly, and infants experience the emergence of organization. A sense of an emergent self is in the process of coming into being. The experience is that of the emergence of networks becoming integrated, and we can refer to its domain as the domain of emergent relatedness. Still, the integrative networks that are forming are not yet embraced by a single organizing subjective perspective. That will be the task of the developmental leap into the domain of core-relatedness.  
(Stern, Daniel N., 1998. The Interpersonal World of the Infant: A View from Psychoanalysis and Developmental Psychology. London: Karnac Books. Kindle Edition.[Kindle Locations 491-529])

Since the publication of the original book, Stern has added two more stages to this model - the core self-with-another following the core self and leading into the subjective self; and the narrative self, or selves, developing out of the verbal self (and it's cool that he acknowledges the multiplicity aspect of this self).

* * * * *

Each of these stages represents a change in the relationship between the infant and the caregiver. In the first two months, there is a very basic, body-based sense of self at this point, an emergent self represented as an organization of experience, all of which is contrary to the prevailing belief that children are born without a self.
I conclude that during the first two months the infant is actively forming a sense of an emergent self. It is a sense of organization in the process of formation, and it is a sense of self that will remain active for the rest of life. An overarching sense of self is not yet achieved in this period, but it is coming into being.

(Stern, Kindle Locations 686-688)
At two months, the infant begins to make consistent eye contact, and the relationship has shifted from organization and emergence to one of affect and mentalization.The next move is to meaning, and then to the autobiographical sense of self, which is more individual (my memories), but all of that autobiography is relational.

Here is more from Stern:
The four senses of the self conform in their time of emergence to the major developmental shifts that have been noted. The change in the social feel of an infant with the emergence of each sense of self is also in accord with the nature of these shifts. So is the predominant “action” between parent and child, which shifts from the physical and actional to the mental events that underlie the overt behavior and then to the meanings of events. Before examining these senses and domains further, however, we must address the issue of sensitive periods and make clear that we are dealing not only with successive phases but also with simultaneous domains of self-experience.

As the four domains of relatedness develop successively, one after the other, what happens to each domain when the next comes along? Does each sense of self remain intact in the presence of the new ones, so that they coexist? Or does the emergence of each new sense of self eclipse the existing ones, so that sequential phases wax and wane?
The traditional picture of both the clinical infant and the observed infant leans toward a view of sequential phases. In both developmental systems, the infant’s world view shifts dramatically as each new stage is ushered in, and the world is seen dominantly, if not exclusively, in terms of the organization of the new stage. What happens, then, to the previous phases, to the earlier world views? Either they are eclipsed and drop out or, as Werner (1948) suggests, they remain dormant but become integrated into the emergent organization and thereby lose much of their previous character. As Cassirer (1955) puts it, the advent of a higher stage “does not destroy the earlier phase, rather it embraces it in its own perspective” (p. 477). This also happens in Piaget’s system.
 (Stern, Kindle Locations 529-543)
This version of stage development is different than the transcend and include model of integral theory - which was borrowed/adapted from other sources. In Stern's model, each new stage adds a new experience to the previous one, and the stages co-exist at all times, although one may be more often used or active than others.

In Ken Wilber's AQAL model, early developmental stages are seen to be discrete, so that while one is dominant (the proximate self), we can only see and manipulate the world through that perspective or skill (this comes largely from Piaget's work, and it has been called into question in recent years). In Stern's model, however, we always have access to the all of the versions of self that have so far emerged.

Stern expands on these ideas in these two paragraphs:
We see that the subjective experience of social interactions seems to occur in all domains of relatedness simultaneously. One can certainly attend to one domain for a while to the partial exclusion of the others, but the others go on as distinct experiences, out of but available to awareness. In fact, much of what is meant by “socializing” is directed at focusing awareness on a single domain, usually the verbal, and declaring it to be the official version of what is being experienced, while denying the experience in the other domains (“ unofficial” versions of what is happening). Nonetheless, attention can and does shift with some fluidity from experience in one domain to that in another. For instance, language in interpersonal service is largely the explication (in the verbal domain) of concomitant experiences in other domains, plus something else. If you ask someone to do something, and that person answers “I’d rather not. I’m surprised you asked!” he may at the same time raise his head and throw it back slightly, raise his eyebrows, and look down his nose a bit. The meaning of this nonverbal behavior (which is in the domain of core-relatedness and intersubjective relatedness) has been well rendered in language. Still these physical acts retain distinctive experiential characteristics. Performing or being the target of them involves experiences that reside outside of language itself.

All domains of relatedness remain active during development. The infant does not grow out of any of them; none of them atrophy, none become developmentally obsolete or get left behind. And once all domains are available, there is no assurance that any one domain will necessarily claim preponderance during any particular age period. None has a privileged status all of the time. Since there is an orderly temporal succession of emergence of each domain during development— first emergent, then core, then subjective, then verbal— there will inevitably be periods when one or two domains hold predominance by default. In fact, each successive organizing subjective perspective requires the preceding one as a precursor. Once formed, the domains remain forever as distinct forms of experiencing social life and self. None are lost to adult experience. Each simply gets more elaborated. It is for this reason that the term domains of relatedness has been chosen, rather than phases or stages. (13)

(Stern, Kindle Locations 571-589)
Stern concludes his overview of the stage model with this summary of how the model operates within the subjective experience of the infant.
In summary, the subjective social life of the infant will be viewed as having the following characteristics. The infant is endowed with observable capacities that mature. When these become available, they are organized and transformed, in quantum mental leaps, into organizing subjective perspectives about the sense of self and other. Each new sense of self defines the formation of a new domain of relatedness. While these domains of relatedness result in qualitative shifts in social experience, they are not phases; rather, they are forms of social experience that remain intact throughout life. Nonetheless, their initial phase of formation constitutes a sensitive period of development. Subjective social experience results from the sum and integration of experience in all domains. The basic clinical issues are seen as issues for the life span and not as issues of developmental phases. A different contribution is made to the ontogeny of the developmental lines of all clinical issues as each domain of self-experience emerges.

(Stern, Kindle Locations 605-612)
I like Stern's model, but I find myself qualifying the whole thing as I read - for me, based on the available evidence of both neuroscience and contemplative practices, self is a process not a static entity. Self exists in context but not in any absolute sense.

The 2012 IgNoble Prizes

Via Scientific American, here are this year's winners of the IgNoble Prizes for research that makes you laugh . . . and then think.


September 20, 2012

Take it away, press release:

Anita Eerland and Rolf Zwaan [THE NETHERLANDS] and Tulio Guadalupe [PERU, RUSSIA, and THE NETHERLANDS] for their study “Leaning to the Left Makes the Eiffel Tower Seem Smaller”

REFERENCE: “Leaning to the Left Makes the Eiffel Tower Seem Smaller: Posture-Modulated Estimation,” Anita Eerland, Tulio M.

Guadalupe and Rolf A. Zwaan, Psychological Science , vol. 22 no. 12, December 2011, pp. 1511-14.
“Leaning to the left makes it look smaller!” “That’s what she said”

The SKN Company [RUSSIA], for converting old Russian ammunition into new diamonds.

Ammo is a girl’s best friend.

Kazutaka Kurihara and Koji Tsukada [JAPAN] for creating the SpeechJammer — a machine that disrupts a person’s speech, by making them hear their own spoken words at a very slight delay.

REFERENCE: “SpeechJammer: A System Utilizing Artificial Speech Disturbance with Delayed Auditory Feedback”, Kazutaka Kurihara, Koji Tsukada, February 28, 2012.
We’ve been…JAMMED.


Craig Bennett, Abigail Baird, Michael Miller, and George Wolford [USA], for demonstrating that brain researchers, by using complicated instruments and simple statistics, can see meaningful brain activity anywhere — even in a dead salmon.

REFERENCE: “Neural correlates of interspecies perspective taking in the post-mortem Atlantic Salmon: An argument for multiple comparisons correction,” Craig M. Bennett, Abigail A. Baird, Michael B. Miller, and George L. Wolford, 2009.
REFERENCE: “Neural Correlates of Interspecies Perspective Taking in the Post-Mortem Atlantic Salmon: An Argument For Multiple Comparisons Correction,” Craig M. Bennett, Abigail A. Baird, Michael B. Miller, and George L. Wolford, Journal of Serendipitous and Unexpected Results, vol. 1, no. 1, 2010, pp. 1-5.
This study has all the personality of a dead fish. In a good way.

Johan Pettersson [SWEDEN and RWANDA]. for solving the puzzle of why, in certain houses in the town of Anderslöv, Sweden,

people’s hair turned green.
He DYED HIS BEARD GREEN for the ceremony! This man is DEDICATED.

The US Government General Accountability Office, for issuing a report about reports about reports that recommends the preparation of

a report about the report about reports about reports.

REFERENCE: “Actions Needed to Evaluate the Impact of Efforts to Estimate Costs of Reports and Studies,” US Government General

Accountability Office report GAO-12-480R, May 10, 2012.
(What? Sorry. I feel asleep after the first report on the report. Was there another report?)

Joseph Keller [USA], and Raymond Goldstein [USA and UK], Patrick Warren, and Robin Ball [UK], for calculating the balance of forces that shape and move the hair in a human ponytail.

REFERENCE: “Shape of a Ponytail and the Statistical Physics of Hair Fiber Bundles.” Raymond E. Goldstein, Patrick B. Warren, and Robin C. Ball, Physical Review Letters, vol. 198, no. 7, 2012.

REFERENCE: “Ponytail Motion,” Joseph B. Keller, SIAM [Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics] Journal of Applied Mathematics, vol. 70, no. 7, 2010, pp. 2667–72.
Let it also be noted that Joeseph Keller received TWO prizes today, the second is his long-awaited recognition on the physics of teapots that drip. As an ardent tea drinker, I thank this awesome guy.

Rouslan Krechetnikov [USA, RUSSIA, CANADA] and Hans Mayer [USA] for studying the dynamics of liquid-sloshing, to learn what happens when a person walks while carrying a cup of coffee.

REFERENCE: “Walking With Coffee: Why Does It Spill?” Hans C. Mayer and Rouslan Krechetnikov, Physical Review E, vol. 85, 2012.
Answering the question of scientists the world over, as to why you cannot freakin’ walk with your dang coffee.

Frans de Waal [The Netherlands and USA] and Jennifer Pokorny [USA] for discovering that chimpanzees can identify other chimpanzees individually from seeing photographs of their rear ends.

REFERENCE: “Faces and Behinds: Chimpanzee Sex Perception” Frans B.M. de Waal and Jennifer J. Pokorny, Advanced Science Letters, vol. 1, 99–103, 2008.
(I would know that butt anywhere)

Emmanuel Ben-Soussan and Michel Antonietti [FRANCE] for advising doctors who perform colonoscopies how to minimize the chance that their patients will explode.

REFERENCE: “Colonic Gas Explosion During Therapeutic Colonoscopy with Electrocautery,” Spiros D Ladas, George Karamanolis, Emmanuel Ben-Soussan, World Journal of Gastroenterology, vol. 13, no. 40, October 2007, pp. 5295–8.

REFERENCE: “Argon Plasma Coagulation in the Treatment of Hemorrhagic Radiation Proctitis is Efficient But Requires a Perfect Colonic Cleansing to Be Safe,” E. Ben-Soussan, M. Antonietti, G. Savoye, S. Herve, P. Ducrotté, and E. Lerebours, European Journal of

Gastroenterology & Hepatology, vol. 16, no. 12, December 2004, pp 1315-8.
And over the next few days, Sci will be BLOGGING every single one of these fantastically special finds. So keep your eyes peeled for a full WEEK of weird science!! Stay Tuned!

About the Author: Scicurious is a PhD in Physiology, and is currently a postdoc in biomedical research. She loves the brain. And so should you. Follow on Twitter @Scicurious.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Shrink Rap Radio #320 – Frontiers in Somatic Therapy with Eleanor Criswell EdD

It's good to hear more people talking about somatic approaches to psychotherapy - this is an often neglected area in mental health treatment. In this episode, Dr. David Van Nuys interviews Dr. Eleanor Criswell, is currently a Distinguished Consulting Faculty member for Saybrook University, editor of Somatics Magazine (the magazine-journal of the mind-body arts and sciences), and director of the Novato Institute for Somatic Research and Training. Her books include Biofeedback and Somatics: Toward Personal Evolution and How Yoga Works: An Introduction to Somatic Yoga.

Shrink Rap Radio #320 – Frontiers in Somatic Therapy with Eleanor Criswell EdD

Posted on September 17, 2012

Eleanor Criswell, emeritus professor of psychology and former chair of the psychology department, Sonoma State University. Founding director of the Humanistic Psychology Institute (now Saybrook University, San Francisco), she is currently a Distinguished Consulting Faculty member for Saybrook University. Editor of Somatics Magazine, the magazine-journal of the mind-body arts and sciences, and director of the Novato Institute for Somatic Research and Training, her books include Biofeedback and Somatics: Toward Personal Evolution, How Yoga Works: An Introduction to Somatic Yoga, and she is editor of Cram’s Introduction to Surface Electromyography. She is president of the International Association of Yoga Therapists, the Somatics Society, and past president of Division 32—Humanistic Psychology of the American Psychological Association, the Association for Humanistic Psychology, and the Biofeedback Society of California. She is on the board of the Association for Hanna Somatic Education. She is the originator of Somatic Yoga and Equine Hanna Somatics.

A psychology podcast by David Van Nuys, Ph.D.
copyright 2012: David Van Nuys, Ph.D.

Check out the following Psychology CE Courses based on listening to Shrink Rap Radio interviews
Get our iPhone/Android app!

Steven Johnson’s New Book - Future Perfect: The Case For Progress In A Networked Age

The TED Blog has posted a review of Steven Johnson's new book, Future Perfect: The Case For Progress In A Networked Age. They have also included three of his TED Talks. Johnson appears to be arguing for the emergence of a new political worldview - "influenced by the success and interconnectedness of the Internet, but not dependent on high-tech solutions" - that will usher in an end to the tired old thinking of the liberal and conservative categories.

Here is the publisher's promotional text for the book:

Combining the deft social analysis of Where Good Ideas Come From with the optimistic arguments of Everything Bad Is Good For You, New York Times bestselling author Steven Johnson’s Future Perfect makes the case that a new model of political change is on the rise, transforming everything from local governments to classrooms, from protest movements to health care. Johnson paints a compelling portrait of this new political worldview -- influenced by the success and interconnectedness of the Internet, but not dependent on high-tech solutions -- that breaks with the conventional categories of liberal or conservative thinking.

With his acclaimed gift for multi-disciplinary storytelling and big ideas, Johnson explores this new vision of progress through a series of fascinating narratives: from the “miracle on the Hudson” to the planning of the French railway system; from the battle against malnutrition in Vietnam to a mysterious outbreak of strange smells in downtown Manhattan; from underground music video artists to the invention of the Internet itself.

At a time when the conventional wisdom holds that the political system is hopelessly gridlocked with old ideas, Future Perfect makes the timely and inspiring case that progress is still possible, and that new solutions are on the rise. This is a hopeful, affirmative outlook for the future, from one of the most brilliant and inspiring visionaries of contemporary culture.

Seems to be getting positive reviews so far.

On our reading list: Steven Johnson’s book Future Perfect

Steven Johnson’s new book, Future Perfect: The Case for Progress in a Networked Age, tackles subjects ranging from underground music video makers to New York’s 311 telephone service to the planning of the French railway system to Capt. “Sully” Sullenberger and the “miracle on the Hudson.” His point? That new solutions to old problems are not only possible, but are on the rise.

Initial reviews for this new tome appear very positive. Publishers Weekly writes, “In the future, progress will not arise primarily out of government directives or policies but out of peer networks. A peer network builds tools that lets a network of neighbors identify problems or unmet needs in a community, while other networks propose and fund solutions to those problems … Stimulating and challenging, Johnson’s thought-provoking ideas steer us steadily into the future.” calls the book “an absorbing, provocative, and unapologetically optimistic vision for the society we have the capacity to build if we use the remarkable tools of our age intelligently and wisely.” And Kirkus Reviews describes the book as a “thought-provoking, hope-inspiring manifesto.”

After the jump, watch three TEDTalks from Johnson.

Steven Johnson: Where good ideas come from
While great thinkers often say that they had a light bulb-over-the-head moment, Johnson debunks that mythology, showing that innovations happen within a network of knowledge and that there are patterns underlying idea creation.

* * * * * * *

Steven Johnson on the Web as a City
The internet is not a completely new structure. It is built by many, controlled by no one, and deeply interconnected while also functioning as independent parts — in other words, the internet has a lot in common with the structure of a city. In this talk, Johnson ruminates on both the power and fear that happen with density, both online and in our cities.

* * * * * * *

Steven Johnson tours the Ghost Map
What is the Ghost Map, you ask? It’s the charting of how sickness traveled during the cholera outbreak of London in 1854. In this talk, Johnson gives an overview of how the outbreak taught the importance of public health and influenced what our cities look like today.

Jeremy Van Cleve - Prosocial Preferences and the Evolution of Behavior Within and Between Groups

Here is an interesting talk by Jeremy Van Cleve, Omidyar Fellow, Santa Fe Institute, given on April 15, 2011 at the Science Board Symposium. Van Cleve is generally interested in "evolutionary and ecological theory and has worked on the evolution of genomic imprinting, social interactions including other-regarding preferences, and evolution in variable environments." 

There is no description with the video, so here is a brief summary of his research in the realm of prosocial behavior and within/between-group behavior.
Although the evolutionary forces that can support the spread of cooperative or mutually beneficial social interactions are fairly well understood, a systematic framework for how to explore proximate mechanisms for such cooperation that is amenable to evolutionary analysis is lacking.  In collaboration with Erol Akçay, I have developed a system of studying behavioral objectives that can clarify the ecological requirements for cooperative interactions.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Dynamic Mind/Body Awareness Changes Before and After Mindfulness Meditation

Another interesting study looking at how mindfulness meditation creates dynamic changes in brain/body awareness. This comes courtesy of Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, part of the Frontiers family of open access science publishing.

Dynamic change of awareness during meditation techniques: neural and physiological correlates

  • 1Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Augusta Women’s Center, Augusta, GA, USA
  • 2Georgia Prevention Center, Institute of Public and Preventive Health, Georgia Health Sciences University, Augusta, GA, USA
  • 3University of South Carolina, Aiken, SC, USA
  • 4College of Medicine, American University of Antigua, New York, NY, USA


Recent findings illustrate how changes in consciousness accommodated by neural correlates and plasticity of the brain advance a model of perceptual change as a function of meditative practice. During the mind-body response neural correlates of changing awareness illustrate how the autonomic nervous system shifts from a sympathetic dominant to a parasympathetic dominant state. Expansion of awareness during the practice of meditation techniques can be linked to the Default Mode Network (DMN), a network of brain regions that is active when the one is not focused on the outside world and the brain is restful yet awake (Chen et al., 2008). A model is presented illustrating the dynamic mind-body response before and after mindfulness meditation, and connections are made with prefrontal cortex activity, the cardiac and respiratory center, the thalamus and amygdala, the DMN and cortical function connectivity. The default status of the DMN changes corresponding to autonomic modulation resulting from meditation practice.

Modeling Spatial Awareness during the Mind-Body Response

The dynamic mind-body response supports the interrelationship between one’s physical health and the state of one’s mind. The mind-body response may be illustrated by a hypothetical psychophysiological condition before meditation, with decreased prefrontal cortex activity, with increased mind wandering (Hasenkamp et al., 2012) leading to an unsynchronized cardiac and respiratory center (elevated sympathetic nervous system activity) and increased activity of the thalamus and amygdala (see Figure 1). Increased thalamo-cortical activity is associated with baseline or increased DMN activity and decreased cortical function connectivity. During and after meditation, DMN activity is decreased and there is increased prefrontal cortex activity, leading to a more synchronized cardiac and respiratory center (elevated parasympathetic nervous system activity) and decreased activity of the thalamus and amygdala. This decreased thalamo-cortical activity is associated with decreased DMN activity and increased cortical function connectivity. This model is supported by a number of recent fMRI and other imaging studies.
Figure 1. The dynamic mind-body response is illustrated by a hypothetical psychophysiological condition before mindfulness meditation, with mind wandering and decreased prefrontal cortex activity, leading to unsynchronized cardiac and respiratory centers (elevated sympathetic nervous system activity) and increased activity of the thalamus and amygdala associated with baseline or increased activity of the Default Mode Network (DMN) and decreased cortical function connectivity
In the final stage and after meditation, there is decreased mind wandering and increased prefrontal cortex activity, leading to synchronized cardiac and respiratory centers (elevated parasympathetic nervous system activity) and decreased activity of the thalamus and amygdala associated with decreased DMN activity and increased cortical function connectivity.
Read the whole paper - it's also free for download. - Tim O'Reilly: Birth of the Global Mind

Interesting talk - O'Reilly believes that the evolution of technology has disrupted our social structures - resulting in the birth of the "global mind." A few years back, Howard Bloom wrote a book on this idea (Global Brain: The Evolution of Mass Mind from the Big Bang to the 21st Century), from a deep evolutionary perspective.  A compare and contrast would be interesting.

Tim O'Reilly: Birth of the Global Mind from The Long Now Foundation on

Tim O'Reilly: Birth of the Global Mind

Tim O'Reilly discusses how evolving technology has disrupted society, and has given birth to the global mind. "The history of civilization is a story of evolution in our ability to build complex 'multicellular minds,'" says Tim O'Reilly, founder and CEO of O'Reilly Media (books, conferences, foo camps, Maker Faires, Make magazine.)

Speech allowed us to communicate and coordinate. Writing allowed that coordination to span time and space. Twentieth century mass communications allowed shared information and culture to blanket the world. In the 21st century, memes spread mind to mind in nearly real time.

But that's not all. In one breakthrough computer application after another, we see a new kind of man-machine symbiosis. The Google autonomous vehicle turns out not to be just a triumph of artificial intelligence algorithms. The car is guided by the cloud memory of roads driven before by human Google Streetview drivers augmented by powerful and precise new sensors. In the same way, crowd-sourced data from sensor-enabled humans is leading to smarter cities, breakthroughs in healthcare, and new economies.

The future belongs not to artificial intelligence, but to collective intelligence.

~ Tim O’Reilly is founder and CEO of O’Reilly Media, thought by many to be the best computer book publisher in the world. O’Reilly also hosts conferences, including the O’Reilly Open Source Convention, Strata Online Conference, and Tools of Change for Publishing Conference. O’Reilly’s MAKE magazine and Maker Faire have been compared to the West Coast Computer Faire, which launched the personal computer revolution. O’Reilly is also a partner at O’Reilly AlphaTech Ventures, an early stage venture capital firm, and is on the board of Safari Books Online. He watches the alpha geeks to determine emerging technology trends and uses his platform for advocacy about issues of importance to the technical community.

Brain Science Podcast 88 - "The Self Illusion" with Bruce Hood

The most recent episode of the Brain Science Podcast, with Dr. Ginger Campbell, featured an interview with Bruce Hood, author of the very excellent The Self Illusion: How the Social Brain Creates Identity.

If you have not done so, you can get a Kindle copy of Dr. Campbell's new book - Are You Sure? The Unconscious Origins of Certainty (Brain Talk: Conversations with Neuroscientists) - for only $2.99.

In future episodes, Dr. Campbell will be discussing Self Comes to Mind by Antonio Damasio and new interviews with Evan Thompson (Mind in Life) and Jaak Panksepp (The Archeology of Mind).

"The Self Illusion" with Bruce Hood (BSP 88)

Bruce Hood, PhD The Self Illusion: How the Social Brain Creates Identity by Bruce Hood is a fascinating look at how our brains create both our experience of the world and our sense of being a single, coherent self. As the word "illusion" in the title indicates, neither is exactly what it seems. When I interviewed Dr. Hood (for BSP 88) he explained that The Self Illusion is a broad introduction to this somewhat surprising idea. The  Self Illusion was written with a general audience in mind. For those already familiar with the topic he also puts a new emphasis on the role of development. All readers should come away with a new appreciation for the critical role social interactions play through out human life.

Free Episode Transcript (Download PDF)

Subscribe to the Brain Science Podcast: itunes-badge-30 zunelogo-70 feed-icon32x32 mail-sticker-tiny

Related Podcasts:


Additional References:



  • Because the Brain Science Podcast is free to everyone, it relies on listener donations. Click here to learn how you can help.
  • Continuing educations credit is now available for selected episodes of the Brain Science Podcast. Please send me an email if you would like to learn more.
  • I will be in Philadelphia, PA October 16-21 to attend the AAFP annual meeting. Listeners who live in the area and physcians who are attended this meeting are invited to drop me an email if interested in getting together in person.
  • The latest episode of Books and Ideas is an interview with Jonathan Gottschall, author of The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human. This episode continues some of the same themes explored in BSP 88.
  • Upcoming episodes: Discussion of Self Comes to Mind by Antonio Damasio and interviews with Evan Thompson (Mind in Life) and Jaak Panksepp (The Archeology of Mind).
  • Sign up for the Brain Science Podcast Newsletter: You will get the show notes automatically and never miss a new episode.
  • Don't forget to post your review of my eBook Are Your Sure? The Unconscious Originis of Certainty on, or your favorite website. (Send me your Amazon receipt to get a free PDF.)
  • Connect with other BSP fans: BSP Facebook Fan Page, Google +, Discussion Forum on
  • Follow me on Twitter: @docartemis.
  • Send me feedback (or respond to any of these announcements) at gincampbell at mac dot com.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Three Lectures by Simon DeDeo from the Santa Fe Institute 2012 Complex Systems Summer School

There are three lectures embedded in the video below given by Simon DeDeo during the Santa Fe Institute 2012 Complex Systems Summer School, an interdisciplinary course for graduate and postdoctoral students in the mathematical, biological, cognitive and social sciences.
Full bibliography.
Below the video is much more detailed information on the lectures.

CSSS 2012 — Emergence

Update: all three Emergence lectures are now online, on both youtube and iTunes U. Lecture One ; Lecture Two ; Lecture Three.

We gave two accounts of emergence: one dealing largely with the properties of a system under coarse graining, the other dealing with the phenomenon of symmetry breaking.

Effective Theories for Circuits and Automata (free copy) is the guide for the first one, and makes a case for the use of coarse-graining and renormalization (Lecture One) in computational/functional systems that are not governed by a spatial organization (Lecture Two).

The second is much more widely discussed, and has made its way into the literature beyond the physical and mathematical sciences.

Lecture 1 (Monday morning)

The Central Limit Theorem as an example of Universality (skip Sec. 3.4 on Lattice Green Functions, unless you live in a crystal.) Aggregation (i.e., considering a system with more and more agents) One Particle and Many (skip Sec. 2.3 unless you are near zero Kelvin.) Both from Leo Kadanoff's readable (if you have some background in physics, chemistry or biochemistry) book Statistical Physics: Statics, Dynamics and Renormalization.

The third “universality class” — i.e., limiting distribution — that we discussed in our cartoon introduction (in addition to the log-normal, for languages, and the Fisher log-series, for ecosystems) is introduced in a Nature paper by Bohorquez, Gourley, Dixon, Spagat and Johnson in 2009.

The failure of Black-Scholes is discussed from the Mandelbrot point of view in many places, including The Misbehavior of Markets. The somewhat less media/physicist friendly account by Warren Buffet on how the non-stationary variance of the market functions is also worth reading, from his 2008 letter to shareholders (page 19.)

Robert Batterman's book, Asymptotic Reasoning in Explanation, Reduction, and Emergence has a readable and inspiring account of "explanation" and the role of effective theories. (Note that your lecturer does not follow his later account of emergence, which we discussed in a very different fashion.)

Our account of coarse-graining and renormalization group flow draws (hopefully clearly) from the very technical literature. One nice place to look if you have a physics mind-set is Michael Fisher's article, Ch. IV.8, in Conceptual Foundations of Quantum Field Theory (which includes a number of amazing articles, if you are game, on renormalization, effective theories, and emergence.)

Lecture 2 (Monday afternoon)

Techniques for finding the Bayesian best-match probabilistic finite state machine (a.k.a., Hidden Markov Model) for a particular string of observed behavior are described in Numerical Recipes, 3rd. Ed. (Press et al.) Chapter 16.3. Tapas Kanungo has a nice implementation of the E-M algorithm that is (somewhat) industry standard for the simple case.

We played Contrapunctus XIV in an arrangement for strings by the Emerson String Quartet. Then we played it again in MIDI form in Mathematica, then we truncated to the top two voices, and shifted both into a single octave to arrive at the process with only 104 output symbols (some of the 12x12 possible chords Bach did not use.) Then we tried to fit this process by a 12-state Hidden Markov Model. It did not sound very good, and this allowed us to discuss the limitations of finite state machines for processes with multiple timescales, hierarchies of interacting processes, and systems of greater computation complexity (e.g., the parenthesis-matching game.)

You may want to know how far Machine Learning can be pushed to produce "Bach-like" music, and whether (approximations to) higher-complexity processes might improve it. This is discussed in charming detail in Baroque Forecasting, by Matthew Durst and Andres S. Weigend, in Time Series Prediction, a volume from early meeting at SFI.

Group Theory, and the extension of the Jordan-Holder decomposition of groups to semigroups (i.e., the more general class of finite state machines with irreversible operations, such as the ABBA machine), forms a central theme of our discussion. Some very charming introductions to group theory exist (if one is not able to attend Douglas Hofstadter's classes at I.U.!) -- one perhaps suitable for visual thinkers is Visual Group Theory.

The Krohn-Rhodes theorem, which proves the consistency of a hierarchy of coarse-grainings for finite state machines, gets complicated. References to excellent papers by Christopher Nehaniv, Attila Egri-Nagy, and others can be found in the Effective Theories paper referenced above. The "Wild Book", photocopied and passed around in the 1970s, that made the case for the importance of the theorem, is now re-issued in a revised and edited version as Applications of Automata Theory and Algebra: Via the Mathematical Theory of Complexity to Biology, Physics, Psychology, Philosophy, and Games (just in case you thought there was something it might not apply to.)

Lecture 3 (Tuesday morning)

Our account of symmetry breaking as a canonical form of emergence is inspired by the foundational article More is Different (free copy), by SFI co-founder Phil Anderson.

The discussion of symmetry breaking in turbulence as one alters the control parameter is described elegantly in the beginning of Uriel Frisch's Turbulence.

Order Parameters, Broken Symmetry, and Topological Defects, by James P. Sethna is a readable and clear account of how this plays out in physics (that gets very advanced by the end!)

Our major example of a phase transition in a social/decision-making system was that found for the Minority Game when agents build strategies out of a finite-history list, from a paper by Damien Challet and Matteo Marsili (free copy). An excellent summary of what we know about the humble El Farol bar is at Minority Games: Interacting Agents in Financial Markets.