Maternal Instinct vs. Cruel Heartless Science by Allison Downey.

Allison Downey and her husband engage in the classic nature vs. nurture debate — with their own son. “He’s a baby! He’s not a rat for your evil science experiment!”

Will reinforcement and extinction work in the real world?

Maternal Instinct vs. Cruel Heartless Scientist. The Story Collider podcast, 20th November 2011.


Cultural differences determine when children learn to play fair, by Chris Cesare.

Katherine McCauliffe and Peter Blake have been playing sharing games with children in different countries. Children learn to reject unfair deals at different ages in different countries.

They are critical of the fact that most psychological investigations take place in the WEIRD countries: Westernised, Educated, Industrialised, Rich, and Democratic. This study is an attempt to redress that imbalance.

You can click straight through to read this article on line, and there is also a nice video to watch which demonstrates the sharing game.

Nature, 18th November 2015.

The Touch that Made You, by Linda Geddes.

“We have as much physical contact within our core relationships as monkeys.” Winning sports teams use more physical contact with one another than losing teams. The emotion-linked insular cortex in the brain responds to the areas of the body used for social touch: the back, the shoulders, the upper arms, and the scalp. This New Scientist article explores the way that the nervous system represents social touch. “My hunch is that the natural interaction bewteen parents and the infant – that continuous desire to touch, cuddle, and handle – is providing the essential inputs that lay the foundation for a well-adjusted social brain. It’s more than just nice, it’s absolutely critical.” – Francis McGlone, Liverpool John Moores University. New Scientist No. 3010, 28th February 2015, p. 34-37

Dark Rites by Dan Jones

This article in the New Scientist offers a psychological explanation for rituals like the Japanese tea ceremony, and religious rituals.

“Collective rituals are public signals that you are committed to the group, which facilitate co-operation with the group and create a sense of shared purpose.”

There is a description of an experiment in which children are copy ritualistic actions more accurately if they have previously been made to feel ostracised.

Another experiment compares two groups of children. One group worked together to make necklaces of beads based upon an invariant ritualised procedure: “first we add a green heart, then an orange square”, and so on. A control group simply made freestyle necklaces. After seven minutes the experimental group expressed greater feelings of affiliation and connection to their group than the controls.

“Children copy apparently aimless sequences of actions more faithfully than ones with a clear goal.”

New Scientist, No. 3004, 17th January 2015, p37-39.