September 18, 2014

Mona LisaThe Soul of Original Art
A team of scholars led by George Newman of Yale University argues that “art is seen as a physical extension of the self, and imbued with the person’s soul/essence.” That being the case, the researchers write in the journal Topics in Cognitive Science, “the original possesses an essence that cannot be duplicated.” This dynamic, they add, does not apply to more mundane object such as tools. (Tom Jacobs, Pacific Standard)

Chimpanzee Violence
A major new study of warfare in chimpanzees finds that lethal aggression can be evolutionarily beneficial in that species, rewarding the winners with food, mates, and the opportunity to pass along their genes. The findings run contrary to recent claims that chimps fight only if they are stressed by the impact of nearby human activity—and could help explain the origins of human conflict as well. (Michael Balter, Science)

Thanks for Your Assistance
Thanking a new acquaintance for their help could lay the foundation for an ongoing social relationship with that person, a study has found. Research by the University of New South Wales, published in the journal Emotion, found that expressing gratitude often facilitates the start of new friendships among people who did not know each other previously. Lisa Williams, a psychologist at the institution, said the findings show that saying thank you “provides a valuable signal that you are someone with whom a high-quality relationship could be formed.” (The British Psychological Society)

Diversity of Human Faces
The shape and configuration of a human face are much more variable, compared with other body parts, the study found. What’s more, genes that have been linked to face structure vary more than DNA in other regions of the body. This suggests that the forces of evolution have selected for facial diversity, perhaps to make individuals more recognizable to other people, the researchers say. “An individual may actually benefit from having a unique face,” says lead investigator Michael Sheehan, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of California, Berkeley. (Virginia Hughes, National Geographic)

Q&A
Maurice Schweitzer and Emma Levine

What if deception, in the right circumstances, doesn’t simply tread lightly on sensitivities, but actually breeds trust and promotes other forms of good? Many will judge those kinds of deceptions to be ethical, moral, and even helpful, according to Maurice Schweitzer, a Wharton professor of operations and information management, and co-author Emma E. Levine, a Wharton doctoral student. In their recent research paper, “Are Liars Ethical?: On the Tension between Benevolence and Honesty,” they look at “deception that can sometimes be helpful to other people.” (Knowledge@Wharton)

Category: Field Notes

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