The Birth of Social Intelligence

The ability to make sense out of the actions of others is critical to people’s daily functioning. Adults are social experts: They understand that people’s actions are directed at goals and are driven by intentions. In this article, the authors highlight key findings  from studies examining infants’ understanding of human action.  These  findings suggest that infants come to understand that intentions and attention guide human action within the first few months of their lives. By 13 months, infants understand that intentions are specific to individuals, yet there are some actions that are shared by all individuals within a group. Taken together, the evidence suggests that infants are well on their way to becoming social experts by their second birthdays.


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The Cognitive Neuroscience of Design Creativity

Design cognition is a human cognitive ability that is characterized by multi-faceted skills and competencies. This skill requires finding solutions for a vague problem, where the end point is not specified and the transformations from the problem state to the solution state are also flexible. Designers solve such tasks regularly, but the mental processes involved in such a skill are not known completely. Design research has involved empirical studies and theoretical modeling to understand the cognitive processes underlying this skill. In lab-based studies, a sub-class of problem-solving tasks called “ill-structured” tasks has been used to study the design process. However, the use of a cognitive neuroscience perspective has only been nascent. In this review, some defining features of design creativity will be elucidated and a few cognitive neuroscience studies of design creativity that shows the underlying brain networks will be highlighted. Results from these experiments using ill-structured tasks along with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) show that the brain networks underlying design creativity only partially overlap with brain networks underlying other kinds of creativity. This argues for studying design creativity as a unique subset of creativity using experiments that mimic the real-world design creative processes.


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Applying the neuroscience of creativity to creativity training

This article investigates how neuroscience in general, and neuroscience of creativity in particular, can be used in teaching “applied creativity” and the usefulness of this approach to creativity training. The article is based on empirical data and our experiences from the Applied NeuroCreativity (ANC) program, taught at business schools in Denmark and Canada. In line with previous studies of successful creativity training programs the ANC participants are first introduced to cognitive concepts of creativity, before applying these concepts to a relevant real world creative problem. The novelty in the ANC program is that the conceptualization of creativity is built on neuroscience, and a crucial aspect of the course is giving the students a thorough understanding of the neuroscience of creativity. Previous studies have reported that the conceptualization of creativity used in such training is of major importance for the success of the training, and we believe that the neuroscience of creativity offers a novel conceptualization for creativity training. Here we present pre/post-training tests showing that ANC students gained more fluency in divergent thinking (a traditional measure of trait creativity) than those in highly similar courses without the neuroscience component, suggesting that principles from neuroscience can contribute effectively to creativity training and produce measurable results on creativity tests. The evidence presented indicates that the inclusion of neuroscience principles in a creativity course can in 8 weeks increase divergent thinking skills with an individual relative average of 28.5%.


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Parenting in a Pandemic

I am a graduate student in coursework, and I am also the parent of a 2-year-old. With offices and daycares closed due to COVID-19, my typical workday is shortened and often interrupted with requests to walk to the park, read a book, or get a snack. I bring this up not as a complaint, however; I find the time I spend parenting to be one of the most meaningful and enjoyable parts of my day. Perhaps the only silver lining of quarantine has been that it has forced me to spend less time on work and more time with my son. I’ve lately found myself genuinely thankful for this, and yet at the same time, it’s hard to shake the sense that I should somehow feel guilty for prioritizing parenting over research.


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Parenting in the Time of the Coronavirus

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Innovation and Organization: An Overview from the Perspective of Luhmann’s Autopoiesis

Few words in modern society have become as positively charged as the word innovation. Of course, premodern societies were also innovative in their way. Still, technology, ideas, and organizational forms have changed over time, and it is only in modern society that innovation has become almost mandatory; that is to say, ranked uppermost in society’s value system. ‘‘Be innovative!’’ has become an imperative in modern society.

Niklas Luhmann viewed innovative processes (understood as social change or renewal) not from an action-theoretical perspective, i.e., as the result of an intervention into a social system with the structural changes that go with it, but rather from the perspective of self-referential processes of systems where change in structures are interpreted as changes in communicative events. Innovation can thus be understood as structural changes where systems react to events in the environment with a changed connectivity between communications.


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Overcoming Autopoiesis: An Enactive Detour on the Way from Life to Society

Modern organic metaphors for society have run parallel to the very idea of sociology as a science, starting with Comte and Spencer’s use of the term “social organism” (Comte, 1830–42; Spencer, 1897). These metaphors provide a self-renewing source of debate, analogies, and disanalogies. Processes of social regulation, conservation, growth, and reproduction provoke an irresistible epistemic resonance and make us lose little time in offering explanations resembling those of biological regulation, conservation, growth, and reproduction. The phenomenon has not been restricted to metaphor-hungry social scientists: the final chapter of W. B. Cannon’s The wisdom of the body (1932) is called “Relations of biological and social homeostasis.” Attempts to apply a modern theory of living organisms — the theory of autopoiesis (Maturana & Varela, 1980) — to social systems are but the latest installment in this saga. Despite the appeal of the organic metaphor, there are good reasons to remain skeptical of these parallels. “Because every man is a biped, fifty men are not a centipede,” says G. K. Chesterton (1910) ironically in his essay against the medical fallacy. Doctors may disagree on the diagnosis of an illness, he says, but they know what is the state they are trying to restore: that of a healthy organism (implying, admittedly, a rather unproblematic concept of health). In social systems, a “social illness” confronts us with precisely the opposite situation: the disagreement is about what the healthy state should be.


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Outlining the Terrain of Autopoietic Theory

Although Maturana and Varela’s idea of autopoiesis is not new to organization studies — it has hovered around the margins of the field for several decades — it has yet to enter the mainstream of organizational thinking. One can debate the reasons for this; however, it is almost certainly the case that the complexity and scope of the idea has been one of the main impediments to its wider take-up. The basic concept of autopoiesis is straightforward enough; it refers to the idea that some systems arise through a circular process in which they ‘‘self-produce’’ their own components. If these components are molecular, the result is a particular class of system that we describe as ‘‘biological’’ or ‘‘living.’’ Beyond this relatively simple idea, for example when the domain of application extends from biological to social systems, or from molecular to abstract components, and when one adds into the mix the broader set of ideas and concepts that people tend to associate with the term autopoiesis, the terrain becomes infinitely more challenging and complex. Here the extended concept, i.e., what is often referred to as ‘‘autopoietic theory (Whitaker, 1996),’’ spans a broad range of topics as diverse as cognition, language, epistemology, emotion, social organizations, culture, human relationships, and ethics, to name but a few. Given this breadth, gaining a sense of what the theory, in its developed form, really is, and where one might best start in trying to understand it, presents a significant challenge. This is especially so for those scholars who are accustomed to thinking in reductionist terms and who prefer to develop specialist expertise or understanding in one or two key areas. Even for those who take a more holistic approach, understanding the complete set of ideas at once, in all its finery, is a daunting prospect.


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Autopoiesis Theory and Organization: An Overview

This introductory chapter elaborates some of the key ideas which shaped the concept of this book. The overriding idea is that autopoiesis theory has the potential to provide a unifying framework for the study of organizational phenomena in the 21st century. Although organization studies have recently had no shortage of new paradigms and approaches — such as postmodernism, phenomenology, ethnomethodology, reflexivity, and critical theory — the field seems to be expanding in ways that make it increasingly difficult to comprehend, especially for the uninitiated.


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Rethinking Children’s Participation in Curriculum Making: A Rhizomatic Movement

Today, freedom of expression is viewed as both a right and a universal value. In the early childhood field, respecting children’s views is seen as important for children to develop a sense of worth, make responsible decisions, and become active citizens. Children are no longer considered passive objects in the hands of their parents and society, but full-fledged persons to whom public authorities are accountable (Santos-Pais, 1999). Children’s rights to be heard and to have their views taken into account are now embedded in education policy and practice.

For example, over the past two decades, considerable movement has been made on the global stage and in Canada to recognize children’s right to participate in decision-making processes. Globally, the international policy landmark the 1989 United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child is now used by many states to develop policies for children. These policies generally outline that young children can and should participate in matters that affect them, and suggest that children’s early experiences influence their later abilities, identities, and well-being.


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On Beauty and Classroom Teaching

Beauty is why we teach, and how we learn. I remember reading the philosopher Michel Foucault for the first time, and finding his ideas so challenging and compelling — so beautiful, really, in their explanatory power — that I could not help but think of them as I sat in classrooms, navigated the dining hall, or exercised in the university gym. After Foucault, my world was teeming with micro-practices of surveillance and normalization, meaning that my own perceptual processes had been altered to include micro-practices of surveilling the surveillance all around me.

As educators, we choose the discipline, topics, and texts we teach based not only on our interests, but also on the beauty we see in them. We teach at our best not when we conceive of ourselves as lecturers delivering content, but when we invite our students to explore with us the internal logic, complexity, and beauty of the subject matter we teach, whether it’s organic chemistry or the contemporary Japanese novel.


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