September 24, 2013

Did Complex Societies and Religion Arise From War?
War drove the formation of complex social institutions such as religions and bureaucracies, a study suggests. The institutions would have helped to maintain stability in large and ethnically diverse early societies. The study authors, who tested their theories in simulations and compared the results with historical data, found that empires arise in response to the pressure of warfare between small states. (Laura Spinney, Nature)

Lovers of Romance Novels
You are unusually good at sensing what others are feeling. That’s the conclusion of a newly published study, which finds devotees of romantic fiction have a talent for reading subtle facial cues, and picking up on the emotions they express. (Tom Jacobs, Pacific Standard)

Mentalizing and the Brain’s Social “Modules”
Two new papers out this week suggest that people can still mentalize successfully after damage to “key parts of the theory of mind network.” (Neuroskeptic, Discover)

Studying Disgust
In science, disgust has languished unstudied—it was once dubbed the “forgotten emotion of psychiatry”—while emotions like fear, love, and anger took the limelight. But Valerie Curtis, who refers to herself half-jokingly as a “disgustologist,” is among a growing group of scientists seeking to change that by establishing the importance of the science of revulsion in everything from sex and society to survival. (Kate Kelland, Reuters)

Does Science Require Faith?
Tania Lombrozo: That’s the wrong question. We shouldn’t be looking for declarations of “yes” or “no,” especially when they do little more than mark party lines. There probably is no simple dichotomy that differentiates science from religion, such as “reason versus faith.” But what we can do is aim to identify the many ways in which science and religion are different, and the many ways in which they—and more importantly their advocates—are the same. (13.7: Cosmos and Culture, NPR)

Category: Field Notes

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