Why Intelligent People Stay Up Later and Drink More Alcohol? : An Evolutionary Approach
A recent theory suggests that humans may have evolved a specific "module of mind" that allows us to deal effectively with evolutionarily novel, non-recurrent problems. We now call this module "general intelligence" and the presentation deals with why the general intelligence "module" may have evolved, and why some of us have more of it than others.
Thinking about cellphones, pencils and spray-cans: When language and actions collide.
When we act, even in so simple a way as picking up a coffee mug, we act as creatures with language who can represent what we are doing in conceptual terms. We can think to ourselves, and say to another if asked: I am picking up this cup of coffee because I now intend to have breakfast. Thus, unlike simpler animals, human beings can think in abstract terms, and therefore can talk about their actions. I will discuss recent work in our laboratory that provides insight into the rapid crosstalk that takes place between language and action when we understand the meaning of a sentence like: John used the cell-phone to speak with his mother. This new research begins to clarify a dimly explored region of human ability, one that I would argue is crucial to the flexibility and ingenuity of human endeavour: the ability not only to act but to develop and communicate action concepts. I discuss the dynamic role of action concepts in language and perception.
Photoshopped Memories: False memories and false, true and irrelevant photographs
Remembering is a reconstructive process that draws on information from multiple sources. Sometimes ideas from one source are misattributed to another, giving rise to illusions of remembering. Researchers have, for example, told people made-up stories about things that supposedly happened to them in childhood (e.g., "Your mom says that you knocked over a punchbowl at a wedding reception") and then pushed them to work at remembering the alleged events. In most such studies, a sizable minority of people appear to come to "remember" the suggested but false event. My co-workers and I have explored variants of such procedures that use photographs rather than or as well as made-up stories. We have found that exposure to a false photograph can lead a substantial percentage of people to develop "memories" of the pictured event. Moreover, a true photograph that is thematically related to a false event can double the likelihood that individuals exposed to verbal suggestions about that event come to report false memories of it. Most recently, we found that irrelevant photographs can inflate belief in a variety of kinds of statements, a phenomenon we refer to as the "photo truthiness effect."
The Good, the Bad, and the Evolutionary: Can Evolutionary Psychology be Careful Science
Evolutionary psychology gets a lot of press these days, good and bad. But like most scientific areas that are "hot topics" it is difficult to tell the careful and valid science from the sensationalism. Many aspects of evolutionary psychology are misunderstood even by well-published academics. In this talk I will briefly lay out the logic of adaptationism, which is the reason underlying the evolutionary psychologist's view of the brain. It explains, among other things, why the evolutionary psychologist thinks of the brain as a Swiss-Army knife of functions, why the field is often so past-focused, and why it is open to empirical testing in the present day.
Facing up to autism: The mysteries of facial recognition
We know a person by their face. Based on their face, we determine a person’s identity, interpret their emotional state and make judgments about their attractiveness and personality. For most of us, these perceptions are effortless and automatic, but for individuals with autism, finding the meaning in a face is not always easy. How do we recognize a face and what happens when the face recognition system breaks down? In my talk, I will discuss the mysteries of the human face recognition and how it is affected by autism. I will also discuss exciting, new computer applications that we are developing in our lab to help kids with autism recognize faces and understand facial emotions.
Am I ready for a relationship?
Relationship initiation is an essential first step in forming new romantic relationships, yet the process is inherently risky. While success can lead to a new relationship, an unsuccessful attempt can result in painful rejection. Therefore, each time a person contemplates relationship initiation, he or she must weigh the value of success and the cost of failure, and thus decide whether to make a move or not. But how do people carry out this complex decision-making process? I will present some research that suggests that relationship insecurity -- in the form of self-esteem or attachment security -- plays a key role in determining people's relationship initiation behaviour. People who are secure tend to blithely pursue new relationships without heed to the potential risks, whereas people who are insecure tend to self-protectively avoid relationship initiation to avoid the pain or rejection. But these patterns of social behaviour are not immutable. To illustrate this point, I will discuss the results of lab-based experiments and longitudinal intervention studies that demonstrate the positive social outcomes that can be achieved when people's social fears and anxieties are alleviated.