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THE NAKED APE: Exploring the science and cultural evolution of human psychology, behavior, cognition, language, memory, intelligence, emotion, and consciousness. (Uh, did I miss anything?)

Location: #science
Members: 56
Latest Activity: on Sunday

Welcome to THE NAKED APE

Those who’ve know me for some time know that I have a moderately strong interest in human consciousness and psychology. Although mind and body cannot exist without one another – and indeed they shape one another – it does seem that the very core of the human experience of ‘self’ exists in the brain alone.

We all know that much of the functioning and maintenance of our body is controlled covertly by the brain or by biological systems that work beneath our threshold of awareness. We do not consciously decide to sweat, or digest our food, or replace our cells.

And yet, in spite of the fact that we know this, we still cling to the illusion that the functioning of our thoughts, our decisions, our perceptions, our preferences, our memories, and our reasoning are under our direct, conscious control.

But neuroscience and psychology are now showing us that this simply is not the case—that the processes of mind and awareness function just as covertly as our biological systems.

That fascinates me!

How is it that the mind – that place of concealment – is also the one place in which awareness itself is known to exist?

The truth is that we don’t know ourselves as well as we’d like to believe. We don’t control our decisions, our perceptions, our motivations, or our memories as well as we think we do.

THE NAKED APE was created to explore these important topics. I welcome any post on human psychology, behavior, cognition, perception, language, memory, intelligence, emotion, and consciousness.


Discussion Forum

How Not to Think About Scrotum's

Started by Doone. Last reply by Don Jan 5, 2014. 1 Reply

Our Orgastic Future

Started by Doone. Last reply by Neal Jun 18, 2013. 3 Replies

E.O. Wilson: Tribalism, Groupism, Globalism

Started by A Former Member. Last reply by A Former Member Jun 4, 2013. 7 Replies

Gestalt psychology

Started by A Former Member May 11, 2013. 0 Replies

On the usefulness of illusions

Started by Michel. Last reply by Chris May 6, 2013. 1 Reply

How Whites Think About Race

Started by Neal. Last reply by Adriana Mar 20, 2013. 13 Replies

How to scare someone who knows no fear

Started by Adriana. Last reply by Adriana Feb 6, 2013. 6 Replies

10 Amazing Things People's Brains Have Done

Started by Michel. Last reply by Marianne Jan 19, 2013. 2 Replies

Paul Bloom: The Psychology of Everything

Started by A Former Member. Last reply by Michel Jan 2, 2013. 6 Replies

Comment Wall


You need to be a member of THE NAKED APE to add comments!

Comment by Doone on May 11, 2011 at 10:32pm

Did New Florida Law Ban Sex?

law designed to outlaw beastiality in Florida was so poorly worded that it may have banned sex. (h/tPolitical Wire)

An act relating to sexual activities involving animals; creating s. 828.126, F.S.; providing definitions; prohibiting knowing sexual conduct or sexual contact with an animal; prohibiting specified related activities; providing penalties; providing that the act does not apply to certain husbandry, conformation judging, and veterinary practices; providing an effective date.

The chart here (which you can click to enlarge) was created by Southern Fried Scientist as a public service for the legislators in Florida who may not be familiar with the animal kingdom.

The law would take effect October 1 if it is signed by the governor.

However, Rick Hasen at Election Law Blog says the law does distinguish between “persons” and “animals.”
Comment by Doone on May 11, 2011 at 8:37am

Seeing Is Remembering


Alex Lundry homes in on the importance of data visualization:

Vision is our most dominant sense. It takes up 50% of our brain’s resources. And despite the visual nature of text, pictures are actually a superior and more efficient delivery mechanism for information. In neurology, this is called the ‘pictorial superiority effect’ [...] If I present information to you orally, you’ll probably only remember about 10% 72 hours after exposure, but if I add a picture, recall soars to 65%. So we are hard-wired to find visualization more compelling than a spreadsheet, a speech of a memo.

(Hat tip: Maria Popova; graph via Ben Greenman)

Comment by Doone on May 10, 2011 at 1:49pm

Humans are Lean, Mean, Seeing Machines

What’s the News: Humans are eerily good at sifting the visual wheat from the chaff—just think of our penchant for word searches, Easter egg hunts, and lushly animated first-person shooters.

But how good are we really? To test the limits of these abilities, in a recent study neuroscientists gave subjects Where’s Waldo-type search tasks so difficult that mistakes should have been inevitable. What they found was electrifying: The mistakes almost never came. Again and again, subjects nailed the tasks, leading the team to report that humans operate at a near-optimal level when it comes to visual searches—a skill that likely came in handy in our evolutionary history.

 How the Heck:

  • For a fraction of a second, a cluster of short lines randomly colored gray or black and set at various angles, called “distracters,” flashed before subjects’ eyes. Half of the time, a single line whose orientation didn’t change across images was hidden among them, and subjects indicated whether this target had appeared.
  • Even with the images whipping by at high speed and the complicating effect of color, humans still detected the target at a level that’s near the best possible success rate, a number that’s defined by probability and takes in account how much an observer should weigh each of the pieces of information provided to them. “An optimal observer weights more reliable pieces of sensory evidence more heavily when making a perceptual judgment,” the researchers write in the paper. “For example, when two noisy sensory cues about a single underlying stimulus have to be combined, an optimal observer assigns higher weight to the cue that, on that trial, is most reliable.” In this study, the angle of the lines was a reliable characteristic—noticing it helped subjects determine if the target line was there—while color was not.
  • “We found that even in this complex task, people came close to being optimal in detecting the target,” the lead researcher said in a press release. “That means that humans can in a split second integrate information across space while taking into account the reliability of that information. That is important in our daily lives.”
  • The team thinks people use groups of networked neurons to perform this breathtakingly quick analysis, and they built a model neural network to show how it could happen.

What’s the Context: The team is interested in whether humans, on the neural level, use a strategy called  Bayesian inference to figure out whether a target object is present. They incorporated information that wasn’t a reliable indicator of the target’s presence—color—into the tests to see how people dealt with it, a key factor in Bayesian inference.

The Future Holds: The next step is to up the difficulty of the test and see at what level this preternatural ability to see the target fails. This will give scientists more clues about how visual perception operates on the neural level.

Reference: Wei Ji Ma, Vidhya Navalpakkam, Jeffrey M Beck, Ronald van den Berg, Alexandre Pouget. Behavior and neural basis of near-optimal visual searchNature Neuroscience, 2011; DOI: 10.1038/nn.2814 

Image credit: darkpatator/flickr

May 10th, 2011 8:58 AM Tags: ,

Comment by Adriana on May 10, 2011 at 10:09am
@Doone: I posted that and several links in the science! group yesterday
Comment by Doone on May 10, 2011 at 10:05am
Neandertals and modern humans may NOT have coexisted for 10,000 years.
Comment by Michel on May 8, 2011 at 9:24pm

The Psychology Of Terror

Kris Broughton reconsiders it using stats from Brian Michael Jenkins' book Unconquerable Nation:

Psychologists have learned that we rank fatal events by roughly squaring the death toll per event. An automobile accident with one fatality is seen as one fatality. One hundred accidents with one fatality apiece are still seen as 100 deaths. But a single event with ten fatalities has the same psychological impact as 100 individual fatalities, and an event with 100 deaths has the impact of 10,000 deaths.

This is why we pay more attention to increasingly rare airline crashes, which usually involve many fatalities, than we do to the much larger national death toll from automobile accidents. The terrorist attack on 9/11, with nearly 3,000 dead, had the psychological impact of millions dying.


From The Dish

Comment by Doone on May 7, 2011 at 1:37pm

The Reptile Brain's Waking Dreams

Jeff Warren contemplates the science behind the powerful Amazonian hallucinogen, ayahuasca:

We began to discuss the origin of our visions. I suggested the most prudent explanation lay with the brain’s chemistry and the intersection of the drug’s two active agents. One plant boosts the amount of serotonin in the body, creating a hyper-alert ecstatic feeling, while the other boosts the amount of DMT, a naturally-occurring brain chemical thought to play a role in REM sleep. “Thus,” I said, “the serotonin circle overlaps with the DMT circle, and we sit in the middle, submerged in a waking dream.”

Comment by Doone on May 4, 2011 at 9:23am


From PhysOrg:

ChimpanzeesaChimpanzees are self-aware and can anticipate the impact of their actions on the environment around them, an ability once thought to be uniquely human, according to a study released Wednesday. The findings, reported in the, challenge assumptions about the boundary between human and non-human, and shed light on the evolutionary origins of consciousness, the researchers said. Earlier research had demonstrated the capacity of several species of primates, as well as dolphins, to recognize themselves in a mirror, suggesting a fairly sophisticated sense of self.

The most common experiment consisted of marking an animal with paint in a place -- such as the face -- that it could only perceive while looking at its reflection. If the ape sought to touch or wipe off the mark while facing a mirror, it showed that the animal recognised itself. But even if this test revealed a certain degree , many questions remained as to how animals were taking in the information. What, in other words, was the underlying ?

More here.

Comment by Doone on May 3, 2011 at 12:38pm
Comment by Doone on April 30, 2011 at 3:24pm

Bonobos communicate where to find their favourite food using barks and peeps, scientists have found.

In the first study of its kind, researchers in the UK found the apes gave each other specific details about food quality.

The combination of five distinct calls into sequences allowed others to concentrate their foraging around areas known to contain preferred kiwi fruits.

Scientists say the evidence suggests an extensive intelligence in t...


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