Developing Benign Cities | University of Liverpool | Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Tom Dickins invited me to contribute a short presentation about the SSC at this event. Tom is working on a project called Prosocial Place, which has a lot in common with the work being done by DS Wilson in Binghamton (USA), and Daniel Nettle in Newcastle (UK).

It was a very interesting day… more soon.

SSI | Week Two | 26012014 (draft)

Can a metaphor change your mind? Relational Frame Theory, ACT and Laura’s Raw Ingredients.

The etymology of the word University (the whole – the community of masters and scholars).

The etymology of the word Scholar (leisure… in solidarity!).

Knowledge and Education – Positional Goods or Public Goods (or both?).

The deep (evolutionary) history of co-operation, co-ordination and motivation.

There were twelve in the room, and I only whispered the name Robin Dunbar.

Incidental Haptic Sensations Influence Social Judgements and Decisions.

PhD Evolutionary Educational Psychology | Thursday, 28 November 2013 | Blog

Where is my mind?

Was one of the questions we considered during this afternoon’s session.

For what it’s worth, I think that it depends on the nature of the task you’re attending to, for instance, your brain and body; my brian and body; embedded in our environment – and what that environment affords – might meaningfully be called a ‘mind’ for the duration of that particular task. Anderson’s calls this kind of mind a ‘task-specific synergy’.

We’ve spent the last two weeks discussing, among many other things, this paper by Ritter et al.


The paper raised a number of important questions, cheif among them;

But aren’t cognitive responses to ‘neutral’ stimuli always modulated culturally?

Not unsurprisingly, I went back to Anderson’s work on neural reuse, and in particular one of the commentaries (Immordino-Yang et al.)  on his 2010 BBS paper (275-276).


The riffing continues…

Ritual Significance | The Collection, Lincoln | 17112013

I bumped into Kate Genever (Poly-Technic) on the High Street in Lincoln on Friday, she asked if I would share with her some of the research that Ashley, Josh and I are using to inform our work.





I can never say no to Kate!

PhD Evolutionary Educational Psychology | Monday, 11 November 2013 | Blog

Sarah (Amsler) and I have been riffing on evolutionary approaches to social science since we met in autumn 2011; I continue to find the process tremendously exciting. During October, we began meeting regularly in The Angel Coffee House to discuss our ideas on one another’s texts/offerings. I will be using this blog to share the research that is informing my contribution to our work/play.

Michael L Anderson’s work on neural reuse, especially his paper on Eroding the Boundaries of Cognition, has often been in play.

As has the work of evolutionary minded theorists like Eva Jablonka…

Ideas about heredity and evolution are undergoing a revolutionary change. New findings in molecular biology challenge the gene-centered version of Darwinian theory according to which adaptation occurs only through natural selection of chance DNA variations. In Evolution in Four Dimensions, Eva Jablonka and Marion Lamb argue that there is more to heredity than genes. They trace four “dimensions” in evolution—four inheritance systems that play a role in evolution: genetic, epigenetic (or non-DNA cellular transmission of traits), behavioral, and symbolic (transmission through language and other forms of symbolic communication). These systems, they argue, can all provide variations on which natural selection can act. Evolution in Four Dimensions offers a richer, more complex view of evolution than the gene-based, one-dimensional view held by many today. The new synthesis advanced by Jablonka and Lamb makes clear that induced and acquired changes also play a role in evolution.

After discussing each of the four inheritance systems in detail, Jablonka and Lamb “put Humpty Dumpty together again” by showing how all of these systems interact. They consider how each may have originated and guided evolutionary history and they discuss the social and philosophical implications of the four-dimensional view of evolution. Each chapter ends with a dialogue in which the authors engage the contrarieties of the fictional (and skeptical) “I.M.,” or Ifcha Mistabra—Aramaic for “the opposite conjecture”—refining their arguments against I.M.’s vigorous counterarguments. The lucid and accessible text is accompanied by artist-physician Anna Zeligowski’s lively drawings, which humorously and effectively illustrate the authors’ points.

(Text: VideoLectures.Net Single Lectures Series – Eva Jablonka)

Richerson: Human Co-operation is Complex. In response: SSI Week 19 07032013

Richerson, P.J. (2012) ‘Human cooperation is a complex problem with many possible solutions: perhaps all of them are true! Social Evolutionary Forum, 2 December, available online at

At the end of our session on Thursday, I asked everyone if they had any questions… this is my first offering to Alice, Vernon and Mike.

I also think John Bellamy Foster’s Marx’s Ecology (188-189) addresses some of Mike’s concerns; I’ll bring my copy along next Thursday.

Respectfully yours,