Tool use was once thought to be one of the defining features of humans, but examples of it were eventually observed in primates and other mammals. But the biggest surprise came when birds were observed using tools in the wild. After all, birds are the only surviving dinosaurs, and mammals and dinosaurs hadn't shared a common ancestor for hundreds of millions of years. In the wild, tool use has been limited to the corvids (crows and jays), which show a variety of other complex behaviors—they'll remember your face and recognize the passing of their dead.
Parrots, in contrast, have mostly been noted for their linguistic skills, and there has only been very limited evidence that they use anything resembling a tool in the wild (primarily, they seem to use external objects to position nuts while feeding). But a captive cockatoo has now been observed using multiple steps to process a tool, behavior that appears to be completely spontaneous. And it has never been seen in this species in the wild.
The bird in question is Figaro, a male Goffin’s cockatoo. The species is native to a group of islands in Indonesia, but Figaro has been living outside of Vienna, where he's watched over by members of the local university's Department of Cognitive Biology. Contrary to what you might expect, Figaro wasn't undergoing any sort of elaborate testing routine when his toolmaking abilities emerged. Instead, he was playing with a stone. And, apparently, Figaro was a bit clumsy with his toy, as he dropped it behind a metal divider.
After failing to retrieve it with his claw, however, the researchers were surprised to see Figaro fly off, retrieve a piece of bamboo, and use that to try to push the stone back where he could access it. The attempt failed, but the researchers were intrigued enough that they gave the cockatoo a bit of added incentive by placing a nut on the other side of the metal screen.
Figaro initially picked up a stick from the enclosure's floor, but this proved to be too short to reach the food. So, he actually splintered off a piece of the enclosure's wooden base, and successfully used that to pull the nut towards the wire until he could use his beak to grab it.
Are we cooperative or are we selfish?This question goes back as far as the philosophers Rousseau and Hobbes – Rousseau advocated for a “noble savage” model of humanity whereas Hobbes advocated for a…...
Nowak addresses the interesting question of how cooperation might have evolved and persisted in an evolutionary process apparently dominated by competition -- Howard
"Cooperation is needed for evolution to construct new levels of organization. The emergence of genomes, cells, multi-cellular organisms, social insects and human society are all based on cooperation. Cooperation means that selfish replicators forgo some of their reproductive potential to help one another. But natural selection implies competition and therefore opposes cooperation unless a specific mechanism is at work. Here I discuss five mechanisms for the evolution of cooperation: kin selection, direct reciprocity, indirect reciprocity, network reciprocity and group selection. For each mechanism, a simple rule is derived which specifies whether natural selection can lead to cooperation."
Recent studies find our first impulses are selfless...
A new set of studies provides compelling data allowing us to analyze human nature not through a philosopher’s kaleidoscope or a TV producer’s camera, but through the clear lens of science. These studies were carried out by a diverse group of researchers from Harvard and Yale—a developmental psychologist with a background in evolutionary game theory, a moral philosopher-turned-psychologist, and a biologist-cum-mathematician—interested in the same essential question: whether our automatic impulse—our first instinct—is to act selfishly or cooperatively.
Obama is a Muslim, vaccinations cause autism, asylum seekers are breaking the law, GM foods cause cancer.These are all pieces of unsubstantiated misinformation that are commonly encountered on TV, talk…...
Keeping language 'close to the bone' or felt experience, also, it seems, keeps it close to the somatosensory cortex. "This study investigated whether participants showed individual differences in the words they used to describe complex social emotions. We expected that cognitive word use would reflect a more abstract, deliberative emotional style and that affect words would reflect more embodied, physical engagement with emotion, and that these styles would correlate with patterns of neural activity during narratives designed to elicit feelings of admiration and compassion, but not control narratives." Consistent with these hypotheses, affective style was associated with greater recruitment of brain areas subserving physical body awareness. The authors cite evidence that indvidual differences in linguistic style (e.g. cognitive vs. affective) appear relatively stable across time and topic. I wonder if meditation practice, with its emphasis on body awareness and the critical role of sensations in giving rise to emotions and thoughts, might correlate with a shift in style from cognitive to affective to sensation-based language.
By BECKY THOMSON Just like IQs, we each have a unique EQ, or emotional intelligence quotient. However, in the same way that IQs can be developed over time, EQs can be built through explicit learning and practice, as well. Especially...
Rethinking Prisoner's Dilemma strategies is a big deal because of the huge body of work, but you can't get more prestigious than Freeman Dyson. --Howard
"The world of game theory is currently on fire. In May, Freeman Dyson at Princeton University and William Press at the University of Texas announced that they had discovered a previously unknown strategy for the game of prisoner's dilemma which guarantees one player a better outcome than the other.
That's a monumental surprise. Theorists have studied Prisoner's Dilemma for decades, using it as a model for the emergence of co-operation in nature. This work has had a profound impact on disciplines such as economics, evolutionary biology and, of course, game theory itself. The new result will have impact in all these areas and more.?
Long held to be the window to the soul, research published today in PLoS shows that the eyes are not the tell-tale Achilles heel of liars, despite what as NLP practitioners, Hollywood and innumerable armchair mentalists would have you believe.
In 2011, a conference convened to discuss what they labeled as the “New Thinking” (NT) about human cognitive evolution. The NT challenges many tenets of how evolutionary psychology has been pursued over the last ...
Enactive approaches foreground the role of interpersonal interaction in explanations of social understanding. This motivates, in combination with a recent interest in neuroscientific studies involving actual interactions, the question of how interactive processes relate to neural mechanisms involved in social understanding. We introduce the Interactive Brain Hypothesis (IBH) in order to help map the spectrum of possible relations between social interaction and neural processes.