Category Archives: UNL / Genetic Development

Cognitive Development, Part V: Reasoning and Problem Solving


When the book does error, it errors toward optimism. The authors site Flavell (1999)’s statement that average performance on formal operations tests have improved over the past 25 years. It is likely that these results run with broader measures of intelligence, which have stagnated since the mid seventies and begun reversing in recent years (Sundey, Barlaug, & Torjussen, 2004). This has social implications. The advantages of intelligence compound over time (Bullock & Ziegler, 1999; see also Bloom, 2000), which conversely means that the stagnation and retreat of intelligence will compound, too.

What hope there is comes from the ability of children to operate under the correct environment. While unable to devise correct scientific experiments, for instance, they are able to select a correct one from a list of a few options (Bullock & Ziegler, 1999). And while humans are terrible logical reasoners (Nisbett & Ross, 1980), an environment where they believe they are operating competitively as opposed to logically provides much better results (Ceci, 1996). Changing the child’s environment allows one to subvert how the child thinks, going around whatever is limiting the child’s thinking in order to maximize results.

This relates to expertise. With expertise, people are able to transcend the need to deliberatively solve problem through superior memorization (Anderson, 1980). Flavell, Miller, & Miller summarize this as “the ability to solve many problems in [their area of expertise] without having to think at all” (161). Children can reason analogically by age two (Freeman, McKie, & Bauer, 1994), and analogical reasoning is the basis of expertise (Weisberg, 1993). As mentioned above, schools should focus on building expertise through practice and memorization instead of the declarative understanding and comprehension too much of the school curriculum is based on.

The above paragraphs are critical, and rightly so. Their largest context is the focus on verbal reasoning, over domain expertise, which is the hallmark of America’s disastrous primary and secondary educational system. Verbal reasoning is useful for some fields, such as doctorates of philosophy and law and masters of business administration. However, the vast majority of Americans will not be in a field where verbal debate and verbalized good reasons count for much. They will be in jobs will they will need to analogically reason to perform some action or behavior (be it technical, mathematical, or otherwise).
Whether their purpose is to churn out students with a rational moral identity (Moshman, 2005), rational moral personhood, or just plain competence, it’s clear out public schools are not doing their job.


Cognitive Development, a tdaxp series
1. Introduction
2. Infant Perception
3. Infant Cognition
4. Representation and Concepts
5. Reasoning and Problem Solving
6. Social Cognition
7. Memory
8. Language
9. Questions and Problems
10. Bibliography

Cognitive Development, Part IV: Representation and Concepts


I have been skeptical of the idea that adults are fully rational, so some passages in the text especially struck me. I prefer Siegler’s (1991b) “skills-first” view of counting development over Gelman’s (1990) “principle-first” orientation, because it fits with my own bias for procedural over declarative knowledge and rationality over rational agency. This is only a bias, however. Additionally, I also enjoyed the authors tying together of infant and adult cognition on pages 115-116 (“At any age period, including, adulthood, the cognitive system has both strengths and weaknesses.”). We do not expects infants to be rational, because infant members of no other species require rationality. Therefore, why should we expect adults to be rational, when adult members of no other species exhibit rationality?

Given my prior interests, I’m disappointed at the lack of examination of group-level genetic diversity. The authors cite two papers by Saxe (1981; 1981) to demonstrate that slow numerical development among New Guineans was because of culture. Certainly cultural variation is one possibility, but the other significant factor that varies between New Guineans and everyone else, race (or at least differences brought on by ancestry), is not addressed. The average IQ of Papua New Guinean s 84, compared with 98 for the United States (Lynn & Vanhanen, 2002). Similarly, the superiority of Americans to Chinese in various aspects of counting (Miller & Stigler, 1987) might be at least partially explained by the fact, also from Lynn & Vanhanen, that no country with a Chinese racial majority scores below 104 on IQ tests. Even if IQ is not highly heritable, which is unlikely (Devlin, Daniels, & Roeder, 1997), more than just “culture” varies between the cradle environment of an American and a Papua New Guinean.

The authors ignorance of race is all the more puzzling, because elsewhere they are not afraid to delve into social issues. Referencing an article which address sexual abuse on page 104, the authors note that children are unable to perform simple tasks with anatomically correct dolls because children become confused over what kind of action they are performing (DeLoache & Smith, 1999). Why are the authors unafraid of political controversial interpretations when it comes to sexual abuse, but not to race? The explanation for the silence, though is clear. The text is slavish is following current lines of research, and race differences is a weak line at best. This is not because of a lack of data, but because of academic censorship. The University of Nebraska’s IRB training procedure, for instance, expressly forbids such research, and I assume that many other universities are quieter in this suppression of knowledge.

To conclude this chapter, the discussion of limited capacity and consequences of child sexual abuse cases was excellence, the wall of silence when it comes to non-cultural group variation was not. This is perhaps the best that could be expected.


Cognitive Development, a tdaxp series
1. Introduction
2. Infant Perception
3. Infant Cognition
4. Representation and Concepts
5. Reasoning and Problem Solving
6. Social Cognition
7. Memory
8. Language
9. Questions and Problems
10. Bibliography

Cognitive Development, Part III: Infant Cognition


Yet while researchers are repeatedly surprised about how much they seem to know, it is stunning how poorly babies can put this information together useful. With respect to conditional knowledge, they are incompetent. The text notes that “To ask… why the child bangs when provided a banging scheme and a compliant object to bang with is much like asking why she breathes when provided with lungs and air” (Flavell, Miller, & Miller, 2002, 66). Babies appear to be odd creatures, knowledgeable about the world but lacking agency.

For example, the famous A-not-B error is where a child searches for an object in a behaviorally learned location, even if the object is clearly somewhere else (Butterworth, 1977). The child has declarative knowledge of where the object is, and procedural knowledge of how to retrieve it, but does not have the conditional knowledge to tie these schemata together into a plan of action. This can be rephrased as lacking the ability to correctly inhibit behaviorally learned procedural responses even when declarative knowledge of the situation is clear(Diamond, 1991a; 1991b). A further example of this is that the A-not-B error is only made if the child has to wait an age-dependent time interval (Diamond, 1985). If the infant acts immediately, the declarative schema foremost in his mind (that the object is over there) is activated. If the infant acts after a delay, the procedural schema best learned is activated. What is missing is neither behavioral nor procedural knowledge, but the ability to conditionally tie these together.

Eventually, conditional knowledge comes about. Just as adult problem solvers use analogies (similarities between schemata) to get what they want (Henrich et al., 2001; Gardner, 2003), infants begin to show this behavior by 10 months (Chen, Sanchez, & Campbell, 1997). Logically manipulating category membership to reach logical conclusions occurs by 14 months (Mandler & McDonough, 1996).

In my introduction, I mentioned that it was good that conditional knowledge comes last. This is good because infants simply do not know too much. Operating on faulty schemes can be worse than not-operating at all. The developmental program of babies’ allow them to grow their procedural and declarative knowledge first, before allowing them to integrate these schemata into conscious actions. The “terrible twos” are terrible enough without them happening at two months, instead of two years.


Cognitive Development, a tdaxp series
1. Introduction
2. Infant Perception
3. Infant Cognition
4. Representation and Concepts
5. Reasoning and Problem Solving
6. Social Cognition
7. Memory
8. Language
9. Questions and Problems
10. Bibliography

Cognitive Development, Part II: Infant Perception


However, infants are not born fully functional. As Flavell, Miller, & Miller (2002,30) write, they “have very poor motor skills. They cannot control and coordinate well the movements of their heads, trunks, and especially limbs. On the motor side, they fairly radiate behavioral incompetence.” Newborns’ eyesight is at best 20/200 and at worse 20/660 (Courage & Adams, 1990; Dobson & Teller, 1978) and only improves over time. It may be fair to compare newborns with slightly comatose patients, with healthy reflexes, limited cognitive capacity, little behavioral control, and only an impressionist memory of a life before.

While it is true that facts do not determine morality, facts should inform moral decision making. It seems wrong and arbitrary to deprive an infant in his mother’s womb of any rights than an infant outside the womb receives, and it seems equally arbitrary and capricious to deprive a a recovering coma-victim of any rights that a newborn enjoys. All three persons – infant in the womb, infant out of the womb, and coma-survivor, probably experience similar forms of awareness. They are clearly more than appendages of their caregivers. What science cannot tell us, however, is if these individuals are as human as you and me. I will leave whether they possess “personhood” (Moshman, 2005) for a later discussion.

Another take-away from the chapter is nature via nurture, the idea that genetically-driven behavior influences development. For instance, “infants, from birth, seem to have a positive hunger for visual stimulation” (35, emphasis original). Thus, children are driven to have experiences that all but guarantee the development of visual processing abilities except in cases where such abilities would not be useful (if the child is blind or if the child’s family is cave-dwelling, for example). Likewise, practice helps with infants’ skills as it does for adults’: one influential theory correctly predicted that“babies who have been crawling the longest should be most likely to show a fear response if they should happen to find themselves on the deep side of the cliff” (46). Without our genes, we do not have our nature; without our nature, we cannot experience our nurture; without our nurture, we could not live our lives.

Another topic I found interesting was the discussion of infants’ ability to discriminate phenomes of human languages. The last of the sound-discriminating skills to be lost is discerning different types of clicks (52). This reminds me of the discussion on click languages presented in Wade (2006). Click languages, and the genetics of click speakers are extremely diverse, implying that they separated very long ago (Chen, et al, 2000; Knight, et al, 2003) The widespread ability to tell clicks apart combined with the ancient heritage of click languages may together imply that humans spoke in clicks before we talked in vowels and consonants.

I began this reaction paper with a litany: that the chapter shows how infants develop through birth, how genes affect environment, and how our ancestors talk. The theme for all these things is what we – as individuals and as a species – used to be. As science moves forward we will be able to factually describe our body’s and our species’ development. How much respect we must pay to what we were, however, is beyond the answers that science can give.


Cognitive Development, a tdaxp series
1. Introduction
2. Infant Perception
3. Infant Cognition
4. Representation and Concepts
5. Reasoning and Problem Solving
6. Social Cognition
7. Memory
8. Language
9. Questions and Problems
10. Bibliography

Cognitive Development, Part X: Bibliography


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Cognitive Development, a tdaxp series
1. Introduction
2. Infant Perception
3. Infant Cognition
4. Representation and Concepts
5. Reasoning and Problem Solving
6. Social Cognition
7. Memory
8. Language
9. Questions and Problems
10. Bibliography

Cognitive Development, Part I: Introduction

This is my first reaction paper for Cognitive development: Fourth edition by Flavell, Miller, & Miller (2002). In their first chapter, “Introduction,” they discuss the theories of Jean Piaget and the major research programs which owe a lot to him: the neo-piagetian, information processing, biological perspectives, theory theory, dynamic systems, and sociocultural approaches. Rather than summarizing the material in the chapter, which would be about as interesting as the preceding two sentences, I will confess my bias and outline my perspective, tying these as needed to the book’s contents.

I do not believe that people have good reasons for their actions. I do not believe that people are rational agents, that they create and test scientific theories, or that their self-conceptions matter most of the time. I think this is all for the best, as the limited cognitive resources of homo sapiens make them terrible decision makers. Humans make their best actions when they do not have to labor over decision making and instead trust their orientation state – their gut. Verbal discourse exists primarily to get people to do things against their own interests. It is a relic of the group-selection events that formed our species. Intuition, by contrast, is how we and every animal actually live.


My preferred model of cognition is the Observe-Orient-Decide-Act (OODA) loop originally devised by John Boyd (Fadok, Boyd, & Warden, 1995) for the United States Air Force and now in use by the Marine Corps and Navy. The OODA loop is a variation of information-processing theory influenced by biological approaches (Richards, 2002). Applicants of OODA loop theory are urged to avoid the decision-making state when possible by allowing orientation to guide action.

Flavell, Miller, & Miller’s introductory chapter provide support the OODA perspective. The Neo-Pagetian Robbie Case rejects Piaget’s stages of operational development in favor of four phases, culminating in “integrated dimensional” thinking (11; Case & Okamoto, 1996). These are stages of narrative complexity and storytelling. That one thinks in an “integrated dimensional” manner does not make one a rational agent, but rather capable of following more complex myths and ideologies. Likewise, information processing theories work best by describing how resource constraints hamper cognition. Not surprisingly, the limited capacity of human thinkers is an old but still productive field of study (Miller, 1956; Paas & Kester, 2006). For their part, biological researches have shown that traits from preferred mate smell (Jacob, McClintock, Zelano, & Ober, 2002) to political orientation are genetically heritable (Alford, Funk, & Hibbing, 2005). If indeed these are rationally constructed, then the rational self must hold prejudices that strongly influence the outcome. Similarly, the main-take away of the sociocultural theorists is that social interaction rather than personal reflect leads to better results. Sociocultural theory, originating in the needs of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union at the time of Stalin, emphasizes the pre-modern concept of apprenticeship. As Rogoff (1990,40; Flavell, Miller, & Miller, 2002, 24) writes, “Apprenticeships provide the beginner with access to both the overt aspects of the skill and the more hidden inner processes of thought.” In other words, apprenticeships offload thinking, so that rational reflection is not needed in the period between when the skill is presented and when it is automatized.

To be fair. some of the frameworks presented by the chapter do not fit into such a view. Theory theory, for instance, posits that while developing, “children continually test [their] intuitive theories, like a scientist, in light of their experiences [and] that children’s theories are abstract, coherent, and internally consistent” (20-21). A different post-piagetian perspective, dynamic systems, holds that “one can understand where a new behavior comes from… only by looking at the overall pattern, at both previous and current events, and at many levels of causation” (22). For different reasons I reject both of these contributions. Theory theory is simply too generous. Children are desperately short of the prior knowledge, working memory capacity, and attention that are required for the thinking of a scientist. Scientific thinking is an advanced form of cognition (see Moshman, 2005), not an early one. As to dynamic systems, I have been previously exposed to this perspective (Bloom, 2000) and I recognize that it has a lot to offer. However, the multiplication of variables is a scientific stand of last resort, and not appropriate for a still-blossoming field such as developmental psychology.

I am looking forward to the next eight chapters of Cognitive Development. My primary interest is in advanced psychological development, but I expect the material in this book to provide the perspective that will allow me to cement my views within a broader context of development.


Cognitive Development, a tdaxp series
1. Introduction
2. Infant Perception
3. Infant Cognition
4. Representation and Concepts
5. Reasoning and Problem Solving
6. Social Cognition
7. Memory
8. Language
9. Questions and Problems
10. Bibliography

Cognitive Development, Introduction: The Context of Thought

John Flavell’s, Patricia Miller’s, and Scott Miller’s book, Cognitive Development: Fourth Edition joins The Origins of Human Nature, The Emperor’s New Clothes, and The Scientist in the Crib for one particular professor. Before I took any of his classes, a fellow graduate student tried to warn me off of this academic. I am glad I did not listen. Studying under a professor who fully disagrees with you, fully demands good reasons for that disagreement, and fully acknowledges them once given, is bracing good fun.

Like Scientist in the Crib before it, Cognitive Development focuses mostly on young children and serves to put later readings in context. The book is largely uncontroversial, though like Razib when critiquing the SSSM, the focus on cultural as opposed to genetic diversity is frustrating after a while. Part 9, over the section “Questions and Problems,” was by far the most fun to write.

Enjoy!

Cognitive Development, a tdaxp series
1. Introduction
2. Infant Perception
3. Infant Cognition
4. Representation and Concepts
5. Reasoning and Problem Solving
6. Social Cognition
7. Memory
8. Language
9. Questions and Problems
10. Bibliography

Evolutionary Cognitivism, Part VII: Bibliography

This series, which Mark of ZenPundit kindly described as a book review, is really nothing so organized. It is a collection of six reaction papers over one book for a seminar I am taking. The topics jump from the unconscious mind, to children as a hive-like worker caste, and height based segregation to other fascinating topics. Thus I listed my works cited at the bottom of every page, so that if someone was searching for information on that particular topic, the info would be immediately available and they wouldn’t have to go somewhere else.

However, a recent comment on polisci blog made me realize how important it is to have a central bibliographical resource on the blog for those who want to go deeper. A “bibliography” page is easier to navigate for these researchers than page after page after page. Therefore, below the fold, is the bibliography for Evolutionary Cognitivism, citing every journal article, newspaper story, and book referenced in this series.


“African adaptation to digesting milk is ‘strongest signal of selection ever.’” (2006). Scientific American. December 11, 2006. Available online: http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?chanID=sa003&articleID=727EA883-E7F2-99DF-36D89AB12E930315.
“Enter the Dragon.” (2003). The Observer. July 20, 2003. Available online: http://observer.guardian.co.uk/worldview/story/0,11581,1001961,00.html.
“National News Briefs; Satanist Pleads Guilty to 26 Church Fires.” (2000). New York Times: 12 July 2000. Available online: http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9E02E1D91138F931A25754C0A9669C8B63.
Alford, J. & Hibbing, J. (2004) .The Origin of Politics: An Evolutionary Theory of Political Behavior. Perspectives on Politics, 2(4), 707-723.
Alford, J. , & Hibbing, J. (2006). The Neural Basis of Representative Democracy. Paper presented at the Hendricks Conference on Biology, Evolution, and Political Behavior.
Alford, J., & Hibbing, J. (2006). Could Political Attitudes Be Shaped by Evolution Working Through Genes? Tidsskriftet Politik: August 2006 edition.
Alford, J., Funk, C., & Hibbing, J. (2005) Are Political Orientations Genetically Transmitted? American Political Science Review, 99(2), 154-168.
Arensburg, B., Tillier, A. M. , Vandermeersch, B. , Duday, H., Schepartz, L. A. & Rak, Y. (1989). A Middle Palaeolithic human hyoid bone. Nature (338): 758-760.
Bamshad, M.J., Wooding, S., Walkins, W.S., Ostler, C.T., Batzer, M.A., Jorde, L.B. (2003). Human population genetic structures and inference of group membership. American Journal of Human Genetics 72: 578-589.
Behar, D.M., Thomas, M.G., Skorecki, K., Hammer, M.F., Bulygina, E., Rosengarten. D., Jones, A.L., Held K., Moses, V., Goldstein, D., Bradman, N., & Weale, M.E. (2003). American Journal of Human Genetics 73: 768-779.
Benbow, C.P. (1988). Sex differences in mathematical reasoning ability in intellectually talented preadolescents: Their nature, effects, and possible causes. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 11: 169-232.
Benbow, C.P. & Stanley, J.C. (1996). Inequity in equity: How “equity” can lead to inequity for high-potential students. Psychology, Public Policy, and Law 2(2): 249-292.
Benbow, C.P., Lubinski, D., Shea, D.L., Eftekhari-Sanjani, H. (2000). Sex differences in mathematical reasoning ability at age 13: Their status 20 years later. Psychological Sciences 11(6): 474-80.
Bersaglieri, T., et al. (2004). Genetic signatures of strong recent positive selection at the lactase gene. American Journal of Human Genetics 74: 1111-1120.
Bjorklund, D. F., & Pellegrini, A. D. (2002). The origins of human nature: Evolutionary developmental psychology. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
Bloom, Howard. (2000). Global Brain. Wiley & Sons: New York, NY.
Bower, B. (2006). The Bias Finders: A Test of Unconscious Attitudes Polarizes Psychologists. Science News, 169(16), 250.
Buller, D.J. (2005). Adapting Minds. MIT Press: Cambridge, MA.
Capsi, A., et al. (2003). Influence of Life Stress on Depression: Moderation by a Polymorphism in the 5-HTT Gene. Science. Vol. 301 No. 5631 pp. 386-289.
Carmen, I. (2006). Genetic Configurations of Political Phenomena: New Theories, New Methods. Paper presented at the Hendricks Conference on Biology, Evolution, and Political Behavior.
Clements, W.A., & Perner, J. (1004). Implicit understanding of belief. Cognitive Development 9: 377-395.
Cochran, G., Hardy, J., & Harpending, H. (2006). Natural history of Azhkenazi intelligence. Journal of Biosocal Science 38: 659-693.
Ding, Y., et al. (2002). Evidence of positive selection acting at the human dopamine receptor D4 gene locus. PNAS, 99(1) 309-314.
Donald, M. (1991). Origins of the modern mind: Three stages in the evolution of culture and cognition. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Edwards, A.W.F. (2003). Human genetic diversity: Lewtonin’s fallacy. BioEssays 25(8): 798-801.
Eisenberg-Berg, N. & Hand, M. (1979). The relationship of preschoolers’ reasoning about prosocial moral conflicts to prosocial behavior. Child Development 50(2): 356-363.
Gardner, H. (1983). Multiple Intelligences. Basic Books: New York, NY.
Gardner, H. (1998). Extraordinary Minds. Basic Books: New York, NY.
Gardner, H. (2003). Multiple Intelligences After Twenty Years. Paper presented at the American Educational Research Association.
Giotakos, O., Markianos, M., & Vaidakis, N. (2005). Aggression, impulsivity, and plasma sex hormone levels in a group of rapists, in relation to their history of childhood attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder symptoms. Journal fo Forensic Psychiatry and Psychology 16(2): 423-433.
Goldstein, S., & Barkley, R. (1998). ADHD, hunting, and evolution: “just so” stories. The ADHD Report 6(5): 1-4.
Gonzalez, E., et al. (2001). Global survey of genetic variation in CCR5, RANTES, and MIP-1alpha : Impact on the epidemiology of the HIV-1 pandemic. PNAS 98(9): 5199-5204.
Gopnik, A., Meltzoff, A. N., & Kuhl, P. K. (1999). The scientist in the crib: What early learning tells us about the mind. New York: HarperCollins.
Graves, J. L., Jr. (2001). The emperor’s new clothes: Biological theories of race at the millennium. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.
Hammond, R., & Axelrod, R. (2006) The Evolution of Ethnocentricism. Journal of Conflict Resolution, 50(6).
Howard, R.W. (2005). Are gender differences in high achievement disappearing? A test in one intellectual domain. Journal of Biological Sciences 37: 371-380.
Hrdlicka, A. (1927). The Neanderthal phase of man. The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland 57: 249-274.
Johnson, B.D. (1965). Durkheim’s one cause of suicide. American Sociological Review 30(6): 875-886.
Jorde, L.B., Watkins, W.S., Bamshad, M.J. Dixon, M.E., Ricker, C.E., Seielstad, M.T., & Batzer, M.A. (2000). The Distribution of Human Genetic Diversity: A Comparison of Mitochondrial, Autosomal, and Y-Chromosome Data. American Journal of Human Genetics
Jung-Beeman M, Bowden EM, Haberman J, Frymiare JL, Arambel-Liu S, et al. (2004) Neural Activity When People Solve Verbal Problems with Insight. PLoS Biol 2(4): e97 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.0020097
Klein, R.G. (2003). Whither the Neanderthals? Science 299(5612): 1525-1527.
Kolata, G. (1986). Manic-depression: Is it inherited? Science 232(4750): 575-576.
Kolata, G. (1987). Manic-depression gene tied to chromosome 11. Science 235(4793): 1139-1140.
Kurzban, R, & Houser, D. (2005). Experiments Investigation Cooperative Types in Humans: A Complement to Evolutionary Theory and Simulations. PNAS 102(5): 1803-1807.
Kurzban, R., & DeScioli, P. (2005) “Characterizing reciprocity in groups: Information-seeking in a public goods game,” (Submitted), alternate draft at http://www.psych.upenn.edu/~descioli/kurzban%20descioli%20p
Kurzban, R., Tooby, J., & Cosmides, L. (2001). Can race be erased? Coalitional computation and social categorization. PNAS 98(26):15387-15392.
Latter, B.D.H. (1980). Genetic differences within and between populations of the major human subgroups. The American Naturalist 116(2): 220-237.
Laucht, M., Becker, K., & Schmidt, M.H. (2006). Visual exploratory behaviour in infancy and novelty seeking in adolescence: two developmentally specific phenotypes of DRD4?. Journal of Child Psychology and Pschiatry 47(11): 1143-1151.
Leroia, A.M. (2006). The future of neo-eugenics. EMBO Reports 7(12): 1184-1187.
Lev-Maor, G., Sorek, R., Shomron, N., & Ast, G. (2003). The birth of an alternatively spliced exon: 3` splice-site selection in Alu exons. Science 300(5623): 1288-1291.
Lewontin RC. The Genetic Basis of Evolutionary Change. New York: Columbia University Press. 1974.
Lieberman, M., Schreiber, D., & Ochsner, K. (2003). Is Political Cognition Like Riding a Bicycle: How Cognitive Neuroscience Can Inform Research on Political Thinking. Political Psychology, 2003, 24(4), 681-704.
Lindh, M., Andersson, A.S., & Gusdal, A. (1997). Genotypes, nt 1858 variants, and geographic origin of hepatitis B virus–large-scale analysis using a new genotyping method. Journal of Infectious Diseases 175(6): 1285-1293.
Lubar, J.F. (1985). EEG Biofeedback and Learning Disabilities. Theory into Practice 24(2): 106-111.
Lynn, R. (2006). Race differences in intelligence: An evolutionary analysis. Washington Summit Publishers: New York:
Magnusson, P.K.E., Rasmussen, F., & Gyllensten, U.B. (2006). Height at age 18 years is a strong predictor of attained education later in life: cohort study of over 950 000 Swedish men. International Journal of Epidemiology 35(3): 658-663.
Martinson, J.J., Chapman, N.H., Rees, D.C., Lui, Y.T., & Clegg, J.B. (1997). Global distribution of the CCR5 gene 32-basepair deletion. Nature Genetics 16(1): 100-103.
Mason, W.W. (1968). Early social deprivation in the nonhuman primates: Implications for human behavior. In D.C. Glass (Ed.), Environmental influence (pp. 90-101). New York: Rockefeller University Press.
Morris, J., Squires, N., Taber, C., & Lodge, M. (2003). “The Automatic Activation of Political Attitudes: A Psychophysiological Examination of the Hot Cognition Hypothesis,” Political Psychology, 24, 727.
Moshman, D. (2005). Adolescent Psychological Development (2nd ed.). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Mulligan, C.J., Hunley, K., Cole, S., & Long, J.C. (2004). Population genetics, history, and health patterns in Native Americans. Annual Review of Genomics and Human Genetics 5: 295-315.
Paabo, S. (2003). The mosaic that is our genome. Nature 421: 409-412.
Parra, F.C., Amado, R.C., Lambertucci, J.R., Rocha, J., Antunes, C.M., & Pena, S.D.J. (2003). Color and genomic ancestry in Brazilians. PNAS 100(1): 177-182..
Pimenta, J.R., Zuccherato, L.W., Debes, A.A., Maselli, L., Soares, R.P., Moura-Neto, R.S., Rocha, J., Bydlowski, S.P.k, & Pena, S.D. (2006). Color and Genomic Ancestry in Brazillians: A Study with Forensic Microsatellites. Human Heredity 62(4): 190-195.
Pinker, S. (2002). The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature. Viking Adult: New York, NY.
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Relethford, J.H. (2002). Apportionment of global human genetic diversity based on craniometrics and skin color. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 118(4): 393-398.
Ridley, M. (2003). Nature via Nurture. Harper Collins: New York, NY.
Rightmire, G.P. (2001). Brain size and encephalization in early to Mid-Pleistocene Homo. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 124(2): 109-123.
Rosenberg NA, Mahajan S, Gonzalez-Quevedo C, Blum MGB, Nino-Rosales L, et al. (2006) Low Levels of Genetic Divergence across Geographically and Linguistically Diverse Populations from India. PLoS Genet 2(12): e215 doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.0020215
Rosenberg NA, Mahajan S, Ramachandran S, Zhao C, Pritchard JK, et al. (2005) Clines, Clusters, and the Effect of Study Design on the Inference of Human Population Structure. PLoS Genet 1(6): e70 doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.0010070
Ross, M.W., Essien, E.J., & Torres, I. (2006). Conspiracy beliefs about the origins of HIV/AIDS in four racial/ethnic groups. Journal of Aquired Immune Deficiency Synddrome 41(3): 342-344.
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Sanghavi, D.M. (2006). Wanting babies like themselves, some parents choose genetic defects. New York Times. December 5, 2006. Available online: http://www.nytimes.com/2006/12/05/health/05essa.html?ex=1322974800&en=9fbb1b0e738b55d1&ei=5088&partner=rssnyt&emc=rss.
Sapolsky, R.M. & Share, L.J. (2004). A pacific culture among wild baboons: Its emergence and transmission. PloS Biology 2(4): e106.
Ser, Myo-ja & Team. At the DMZ, average height changes 4 inches. JonhAng Daily. November 21, 2006. Available online: http://joongangdaily.joins.com/200611/20/200611202311326539900090409041.html.
Serre, D. & Paabo, S. Evidence for gradients of human genetic diversity within and among continents. Genome Research 14:1679-1685.
Silk, J.B. (2006). Who are more helpful, humans or chimpanzees? Science 311(5765): 1248-1249.
Silvertoinen, K., Posthuma, D., van Beijsterveldt, T., Bartels, M., & Boosma, D.I. (2006). Genetic contributions to the association between height and intelligence: evidence from Dutch twin data from childhood to middle age. Genes, Brain, and Behavior 5(8): 585-595.
Smith, K. (2006) Representational Altruism: The Wary Cooperator as Authoritative Decision Maker. American Journal of Political Science, Vol. 50 No. 4, pp 1013-1022.
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Evolutionary Cognitivism, a tdaxp series
1. Selection and Cognition
2. Epigentics and Diversity
3. Children and Civilization
4. The Implicit and the Explicit
5. Man Among Men
6. More Than Genes
7. Bibliography

Evolutionary Cognitivism, Part VI: More Than Genes

The central realization of Bjorklund & Pellegrini’s text is on page 335: “Evolutionary developmental psychology assumes that not only are the behaviors and cognitions that characterize adults the product of natural selection, but so are characteristics of children’s behaviors and minds.” For too long educators have assumed that children are incompetent adults when in fact they are competent, and adapted, as children. When we ignore this, or fight this, we place outside normative concerns about the vital task of educating children.

To their credit, the authors tackle this subject. They write that “formal school may represent the best example of the ‘evolved-mechanisms-are-not-always-currently adaptive principle” (340). Bjorklund & Pellegrini are surely write on the same page that “just because some tendencies… are ‘naturally” based on evolutionary examination does not mean that they are morally ‘good’ or inevitable,” surely it is morally wrong to ignore these differences out of a concern for political correctness. If our job as educators is to get the best from every student, then we must leverage the nature of those students.


For instance, the authors also report that “Beginning during the preschool years, boys in all cultures (and males in many nonhuman mammalian species) display higher rates of rough-and-tumble play (R&T) than girls” (338). The implication of this is that boys and girls run different sets of genetic programs, or at least genetic programs tuned in different ways, and are optimized for different environments. It may well be, for instance, that boys would do better with schooling where R&T play was used as a reward for academic achievement while girls would do best in an environment where R&T is absent. Unfortunately, our school system does not recognize this, and we pretend that both boys and girls can be optimally educated in a classroom designed for a generic, sex-neutral “child.”

Other changes may be more controversial, but should be addressed. If we expect the best out of each student, is it wise to expect all students to exceed in all areas? For instance, if there is a biological component to mathematical reasoning ability in which boys score higher (Benbow, 1988; Benbow, Lubinski, Shea, & Eftekhari-Sanjani, 2000), or a biological component to language ability in which girls score higher (Stanley, 1993) . Similarly, if males show more variation in many attributes, from chess ability to physical height (Howard, 2004). For that matter, if height predicts IQ when correcting for environmental variation (Magnusson, Rasmussen, & Gyllensten, 2006; Silvertoeinen, Posthuma, van Beijsterveldt, Bartels, & Boosma, 2006) would it make sense to divide a similarly age cohorot into classes by height than the current, semi-random system? Alternatively, if we prefer a policy of “dumbing-down” anti-elitism (Benbow & Stanley, 1996) then should this not be decided rationally and openly, instead of being the default result of the status quo?

On another note, I found the Bjorklund & Pellegrini’s concept of culture fascinating. For culture I what I think they mean when they write “[Infants are born with] epigenetic programs that have evolved over eons and are responsive to the general types of environments that our ancient ancestors experienced.” Bjorklund & Pellegrini share with Tooby & Cosmides (1992) an idea that genes and environment interact to produce behavior, this text’s author stress that “biological and environmental factors at multiple levesl of organization transact to produce a particular pattern of ontogeny” (335). This “developmental systems approach” teaches us to view culture not merely as a set of arbitrary dictates, but as a darwinian algorithm that has evolved just as our genes have evolved. We are rightfully fearful of large-scale genetic engineering because we do not understand how such complex machinery works. We should equally be fearful of large-scale social engineering because society, no less so than genetics, as both are equally part of our epigenetic inheritance. Both are programs designed to keep us alive in a species-typical environment.

Bibliography
Benbow, C.P. (1988). Sex differences in mathematical reasoning ability in intellectually talented preadolescents: Their nature, effects, and possible causes. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 11: 169-232.
Benbow, C.P. & Stanley, J.C. (1996). Inequity in equity: How “equity” can lead to inequity for high-potential students. Psychology, Public Policy, and Law 2(2): 249-292.
Benbow, C.P., Lubinski, D., Shea, D.L., Eftekhari-Sanjani, H. (2000). Sex differences in mathematical reasoning ability at age 13: Their status 20 years later. Psychological Sciences 11(6): 474-80.
Bjorklund, D. F., & Pellegrini, A. D. (2002). The origins of human nature: Evolutionary developmental psychology. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
Howard, R.W. (2005). Are gender differences in high achievement disappearing? A test in one intellectual domain. Journal of Biological Sciences 37: 371-380.
Magnusson, P.K.E., Rasmussen, F., & Gyllensten, U.B. (2006). Height at age 18 years is a strong predictor of attained education later in life: cohort study of over 950 000 Swedish men. International Journal of Epidemiology 35(3): 658-663.
Silvertoinen, K., Posthuma, D., van Beijsterveldt, T., Bartels, M., & Boosma, D.I. (2006). Genetic contributions to the association between height and intelligence: evidence from Dutch twin data from childhood to middle age. Genes, Brain, and Behavior 5(8): 585-595.
Stanley, J.C. Boys and girls who reason well mathematically. Ciba Foundation Symposium178: 119-134.
Tooby, J., & Cosmides, L. (1992) The Psychological Foundations of Culture. In The Adapted Mind, Jerome Barkow, Leda Cosmides and John Tooby, eds. New York: Oxford University Pres.


Evolutionary Cognitivism, a tdaxp series
1. Selection and Cognition
2. Epigentics and Diversity
3. Children and Civilization
4. The Implicit and the Explicit
5. Man Among Men
6. More Than Genes
7. Bibliography

Evolutionary Cognitivism, Part V: Man Among Men

I believe, as Bjoyklund & Pellegrini (2002, 193) do, “that the evolution of the human species’ unique intelligence was motivated by the need to deal with other members of our social group.” I think a large humanity’s genetic inheritance – that which is universal to all people as well as that which is particular to one breeding population (that is, race) or another – is the result of the coevolution of genes and society.

Human-general adaptations are well described by the text. This species general social cognition (which the text describes as “cognition about social relationships and social phenomena” on page 193) include things such as social learning, a theory of mind, and cheater detection. Social learning, which ranges from local enhancement and mimicry to emulation and imitation (194-196) involves learning because of the actions of others. Some creatures are born with everything they need to survive, but humans need to be able to learn a culture to survive. The theory of mind assists in social learning by informing individuals that “other people have knowledge and desire that may be different from one’s one” (203), and the mental processes this fact entails. Relatedly, cheater detection, or the ability to use “deontic reasoning, which is reasoning about what one may, should or out to do” (216) allows us to effortlessly discover those who have violated social rules.


The book leaves out adaptations that are related to different human populations. This is not surprising, as most Evolutionary Psychologists are skeptical of race-specific adaptations (Kurzban, Tooby, & Cosmides, 2001), preferring instead to believe that most adaptations occurred in the late stone age and thus are shared by all human beings are genetically very similar (Tooby & Cosmides, 1992, 2005). Nonetheless, some issues should be address. Phenotypic differences directly impacting athletic ability vary between Africans, Europeans, and Orientals (Rushton, 2000). One possibility is that this is an adaptation to different physical environments, these could equally be social adaptations. If different cultural styles existed in these physical locales for a sufficiently long duration (perhaps no more than four hundred years, see see Pinker, 2002, 111, or a few thousand, see Buller, 2005, 56) then evolution would lead to adaptations for that cultural style.

Perhaps a less speculative case of society-specific genetic adaption comes via research into HIV and AIDS. A genetic factor that increases the risk of aquiring AIDS is higher in Africans than non-Africans (Gonzalez, et al., 2001) and a mutation that slows-down AIDS was found in Europeans but not non-Europeans (Martinson, Chapman, Rees, Lui, & Clegg, 1997). While some may view such findings as evidence that HIV is a tool of genocidal warfare devised by a racist elite (Ross, Essien, & Torres, 2006), perhaps a more likely explanation is that a disease similar to AIDS has previously ravaged the European race before dieing out. Thus, cultural phenomenona related to the spread of an HIV-like sexually transmitted disease effected the evolution of one human breeding population but not others.

There are other examples of selection by society as well. European adult lactose tolerance, for example, appears to be a relatively recently adaptation that increased dairy farming, which in turn spread the lactose tolerant genes (Bersaglieri, et al., 2004). A more brutal example may be possible strong positive selection for intelligence in Jews as a result of centuries of hateful persecution and bigotry (Cochran, Hardy, & Harpending, 2005) Others have gone into this area in some detail (Wrangham, 2005). My purpose here is merely to applaud Bjorklund & Pellegrini for emphasizing the power of society in shaping our psyches, and outline other ways society achieved the same ends in diverse groups of people.

The authors close their chapters discussing ways development may influence species evolution. They write that not only social complexity, similar to the dairy example mentioned above, but also “extension of the juvenile period may have prompted modifications of reasing conditions, which in turn led to the ability to understand the intention of others and eventually the creation of culture” (218). I wonder if this impacts human group diversity as well, in a racial, clinal, or some other sense. Could some breeding populations of man have a more extended juvenile period than other. If juvenile period extension is indeed linked with eusociality, are some populations more eusocial than others. Or, in the juvenile period is linked with more rambunctousness, may children from some parts of the world do best in more chaotic conditions than others? I do not know, and nothing I have read answers this question for me. Hopefully in the future, great evolution cognitive psychologists like Bjorklund & Pellegrini will find this out. Science will progress.

Bibliography
Bersaglieri, T., et al. (2004). Genetic signatures of strong recent positive selection at the lactase gene. American Journal of Human Genetics 74: 1111-1120.
Bjorklund, D. F., & Pellegrini, A. D. (2002). The origins of human nature: Evolutionary developmental psychology. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
Buller, D.J. (2005). Adapting Minds. MIT Press: Cambridge, MA.
Cochran, G., Hardy, J., & Harpending, H. (2006). Natural history of Azhkenazi intelligence. Journal of Biosocal Science 38: 659-693.
Kurzban, R., Tooby, J., & Cosmides, L. (2001). Can race be erased? Coalitional computation and social categorization. PNAS 98(26):15387-15392.
Gonzalez, E., et al. (2001). Global survey of genetic variation in CCR5, RANTES, and MIP-1alpha : Impact on the epidemiology of the HIV-1 pandemic. PNAS 98(9): 5199-5204.
Pinker, S. (2002). The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature. Viking Adult: New York, NY.
Ross, M.W., Essien, E.J., & Torres, I. (2006). Conspiracy beliefs about the origins of HIV/AIDS in four racial/ethnic groups. Journal of Aquired Immune Deficiency Synddrome 41(3): 342-344.
Rushton, J.P. (2000). Race, evolution, and behavior: A life history perspective (3rd edition). Port Huron, MI: Charles Darwin Research Institute.
Martinson, J.J., Chapman, N.H., Rees, D.C., Lui, Y.T., & Clegg, J.B. (1997). Global distribution of the CCR5 gene 32-basepair deletion. Nature Genetics 16(1): 100-103.
Tooby, J., & Cosmides, L. (1992) The Psychological Foundations of Culture. In The Adapted Mind, Jerome Barkow, Leda Cosmides and John Tooby, eds. New York: Oxford University Pres.
Tooby, J. & Cosmides, L. (2005). Evolutionary psychology: Conceptual foundations, in David M. Buss (Ed.), Handbook of Evolutionary Psychology. New York: Wiley.
Wrangham, W.H. (2005). Interaction of genetic and cultural evolution: Models and examples. Human Ecology 10(3): 399-334.



Evolutionary Cognitivism, a tdaxp series
1. Selection and Cognition
2. Epigentics and Diversity
3. Children and Civilization
4. The Implicit and the Explicit
5. Man Among Men
6. More Than Genes
7. Bibliography