little think

there was a study published in current biology the other day showing that, unlike “neurotypical” kids, autistic kids don’t overimitate after being shown how to do something. from a popular report @livescience:

“Kids with Autism Don’t Copy ‘Silly’ Actions”

“When imitating the behavior of an adult, children with the developmental disorder autism tend to skip ‘silly,’ unnecessary actions, while those without autism tend to copy everything they see, silly or not, a new study suggests.

“The study involved 31 children with an autism spectrum disorder, and 30 typically developing kids without autism. All the children were asked to watch as an adult showed how to remove a toy (a rubber duck) from a closed Tupperware container. Some of the steps performed were necessary, such as unclipping the lid of the box and taking the lid off, while some were unnecessary, such as tapping the lid twice. The children were then given the container, and asked to get the toy out as fast as they could.

“Kids without autism were much more likely to copy the unnecessary steps, even though the children were not specifically instructed to copy everything the adult did. About 43 to 57 percent of kids without autism copied the unnecessary steps, compared with 22 percent of kids with autism….”

the researcher who conducted the study suggests that: “children with autism do things efficiently rather than socially, whereas typical children do things socially rather than efficiently” [my emphasis].

humans are social creatures. in an extreme sort of way (see: the great civilizations). and our sociality has enabled us to do some fantastic things. but it also makes too many humans thick as planks because most humans really, really, really want to follow and belong to the group. whatever the cost (i.e. even if it means being dumber than a chimp).

and woe to those who don’t play along:

“The End of a Bold Experiment: Big Think and Satoshi Kanazawa”

“Over the past few months, across various social media platforms, and also from the mouths of some of our own bloggers, I have listened to a sustained critique of Kanazawa’s presence on Big Think….

“What I hope results from this experience is what educators call a ‘teachable moment.’ We certainly believe in the value of free speech at Big Think, and give voice to controversial thinkers whose opinions tend to span the political spectrum and often challenge the sacred cows of their respective fields…. However, in providing a platform for dangerous ideas, we also run the risk of overreaching and losing the goodwill of our most dedicated readers. Our commitment is first, and always, to you, and to maintaining your trust…”

…’cause we wouldn’t want you to stop LIKING us and exclude us from the in crowd! heavens, no.

what a bunch of … little thinkers! but that’s all most people are capable of, because most people are social, and social belonging trumps all. like i said over here, it really is us contrarians who require explaining because we are the exceptions to the rule!

jared taylor (quoted by john derbyshire) said recently: “Most people are incapable of holding an unfashionable opinion.”


(btw, i’m not saying that all contrarians are on the autistic spectrum … but i think a h*ckuva lot of them probably are!)

(note: comments do not require an email. neurotypical personality disorder [<<joke alert!].)

on bonobos, capuchins, and chimps

the other primates always make me smile. (^_^) here are a couple of quotes from a nice interview of frans de waal over @the primate diaries:

“Johnson: How does the environment affect this? For example, you’ve written that there are distinct differences between bonobos and chimpanzees despite the fact that they are so close genetically. Bonobos live in a female dominated society even though the males are still somewhat larger. You have suggested, as has the bonobo field researcher Frances White (who was one of my advisers in graduate school) that the environment may hold the answer to why this is.

“De Waal: It is possible that bonobos live in a richer environment and have more food sources in their forest that are less dispersed than chimpanzees do. They also have access to ground vegetation, which chimpanzees have to compete with gorillas over. As a result, bonobo females can travel together and don’t need to disperse like chimpanzee females do. Chimp females largely forage alone and would only be competing with each other if they foraged in a large group since the food patches are small. Because bonobo females can travel together, this gives them power in the sense that they can form coalitions against males. They’re very cooperative with each other and that’s how they keep the males in check. The males individually are dominant, but as soon as you get two or three females together they dominate the male.

“Johnson: Chimpanzees have long been the model for human evolution and have been used to justify the story that Huxley advocated about our violent past. Chimps have been known to form all-male bands that patrol their territory, even attacking and killing males from rival groups. However, bonobos show very different behaviors and have even been observed grooming males from other groups. Would you say that these behaviors are purely genetic or, as Cristophe Boesch and Gottfried Hohmann have suggested, that the environment is key to understanding why chimpanzees and bonobos behave so differently? Could it be a behavioral flexibility that is learned or even cultural in origin?

“De Waal: It is true that most chimpanzees and bonobos are very flexible animals who under different circumstances behave differently. We’re in the process of documenting that in Africa and you can also see the same thing in zoo groups. But if you look at, say, a group of twenty chimpanzees or twenty bonobos on a large island, and we have that kind of situation today, the bonobos behave very differently than the chimpanzees. Many of these differences are not just environmentally induced because the zoo environments are pretty much identical….

“Johnson: Today we are faced with what has widely been termed a ‘culture of corruption.’ In your latest book you point to the abuses on Wall Street in which financiers have willfully defrauded the public and Washington politicians who operate through a revolving door of political favors and corporate kickbacks. Is there something in this research with our evolutionary relatives that can help us change our political culture? For example, you and your colleague Sarah Brosnan discovered something very interesting in your study with chimpanzees and capuchin monkeys concerning economic behavior.

“De Waal: Yes, the first experiment was with capuchin monkeys where we would put two monkeys side by side and we would give them rewards for a very simple task. If you give them the same reward, such as small pieces of cucumber, they’re perfectly happy to do this many times in a row. But if you give one of the two monkeys a grape and the second a cucumber then the second monkey gets mad and refuses to perform the task. We have repeated this with chimpanzees where Sarah found that the one who gets more is also affected and refuses the task unless the other one also gets a grape. With this we’re getting very close to the sense of fairness.

interesting! but, me being me (with my quirky interest) would want to know, of course, if the chimps were related to one another or not.

read the whole interview over @the primate diaries.

see also: Why do people and other primates share food?

(note: comments do not require an email. grape?)