Unique social structure of Hunter-gatherers explained

Sex equality in residential decision-making explains the unique social structure of hunter-gatherers, a new UCL study reveals. Previous research has noted the low level of relatedness in hunter-gatherer bands. This is surprising because humans depend on close kin to raise offspring, so generally exhibit a strong preference for living close to parents, siblings and grandparents. The new study, published today in Science and funded by the Leverhulme Trust, is the first to demonstrate the relationship between sex equality in residential decision-making and group composition. In work conducted over two years, researchers from the Hunter-Gatherer Resilience Project in UCL Anthropology lived among populations of hunter-gatherers in Congo and the Philippines. They collected genealogical data on kinship relations, between-camp mobility and residence patterns by interviewing hundreds of people.


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Why our ancestors were more gender equal than us

It is often believed that hierarchical and sometimes oppressive social structures like the patriarchy are somehow natural – a reflection of the law of the jungle. But the social structure of today’s hunter gatherers suggests that our ancestors were in fact highly egalitarian, even when it came to gender. Their secret? Not living with many relatives. These societies were not only strikingly different from most horticulturalist, farming and pastoralist societies today, but also from the hierarchical societies of apes, our closest evolutionary relatives. Chimpanzees and gorillas are known to have patterns of sex inequality similar to post-agriculture humans.


Posted in Equality, Gender, Hunter-gatherer | Tagged , ,

How Friendship Networks at College impact students’ academic and social success

Student friendships at college should not be underestimated, as they can either help or hinder students academically and socially, according to a Dartmouth study “Friends with Academic Benefits,” published in the current issue of Contexts. The article by Janice McCabe, associate professor of sociology at Dartmouth, serves as a precursor to her upcoming book, “Connecting in College: How Friendship Networks Matter for Academics and Social Success”..Previous studies on the importance of peers have examined the broader role that peers play in student life, often focusing on their social influence, whereas, this study examines: individual friendships at college, how students benefit academically and socially from such networks, and how such networks reflect a student’s race and class. The research analyzes and visually maps the friendship networks of 67 students at a Midwestern university that is predominantly white, by looking at the role that friendship groups play in a student’s life and the density of ties that he/she shares with friends. McCabe finds that student friendships can be classified into three types of networks: tight-knitters, samplers and compartmentalizers.


Read also:  Connecting in College

Posted in Academic achievement, Connect, Friendship, Networks | Tagged , , ,

A Socratic Seminar for Elementary Learners

Socratic seminars have been around, obviously, since the days of Socratics. I believe they are an underutilized but powerful instructional strategy. In the Socratic method of education, teachers engage students by asking questions that require generative answers. Ideally, the answers to questions are not a stopping point for thought but are instead a beginning to further analysis and research. The goal of the Socratic method is to help students process information and engage in deeper understanding of topics. Most importantly, Socratic teaching engages students in dialogue and discussion that is collaborative and open-minded.


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Sequence Memory Constraints Give Rise to Language-Like Structure through Iterated Learning

Human language is composed of sequences of reusable elements. The origins of the sequential structure of language is a hotly debated topic in evolutionary linguistics. In this paper, we show that sets of sequences with language-like statistical properties can emerge from a process of cultural evolution under pressure from chunk-based memory constraints. We employ a novel experimental task that is non-linguistic and non-communicative in nature, in which participants are trained on and later asked to recall a set of sequences one-by-one. Recalled sequences from one participant become training data for the next participant. In this way, we simulate cultural evolution in the laboratory. Our results show a cumulative increase in structure, and by comparing this structure to data from existing linguistic corpora, we demonstrate a close parallel between the sets of sequences that emerge in our experiment and those seen in natural language.


Posted in Evolution, Linguistic | Tagged , ,

Complexity Theory and the Social Sciences: An Introduction

Chaos and complexity are the new buzz words in both science and contemporary society. The ideas they represent have enormous implications for the way we understand and engage with the world. Complexity Theory and the Social Sciences introduces students to the central ideas which surround the chaos/complexity theories. It discusses key concepts before using them as a way of investigating the nature of social research. By applying them to such familiar topics as urban studies, education and health, David Byrne allows readers new to the subject to appreciate the contribution which complexity theory can make to social research and to illuminating the crucial social issues of our day.


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Complexity, Methodology and Method

This paper defines a theoretical framework aiming to support the actions and reflections of researchers looking for a ‘method’ in order to critically conceive the complexity of a scientific process of research. First, it starts with a brief overview of the core assumptions framing Morin’s “paradigm of complexity” and Le Moigne’s “general system theory”. Distinguishing ‘methodology’ and ‘method’, the framework is conceived based on three moments, which represent recurring stages of the spiraling development of research. The first moment focuses on the definition of the research process and its sub-systems (author, system of ideas, object of study and method) understood as a complex form of organization finalized in a specific environment. The second moment introduces a matrix aiming to model the research process and nine core methodological issues, according to a programmatic and critical approach. Using the matrix previously modeled, the third moment suggests conceiving of the research process following a strategic mindset that focuses on contingencies, in order to locate, share and communicate the path followed throughout the inquiry.


Posted in Complexity, Methodology, Methods | Tagged , ,

The Intelligence of Complexity

To better appreciate the contribution of the ‘paradigm of complexity’ in Educational sciences, this paper proposes a framework discussing its cultural and historical roots. First, it focuses on Giambattista Vico’s (1668-1744) critique of René Descartes’ method (1637), contrasting Cartesian’s principles (evidence, disjunction, linear causality and enumeration), with the open rationality of the ‘ingenium’ (capacity to establish relationships and contextualize). Acknowledging the teleological character of scientific inquiry (Bachelard) and the inseparability between ‘subject’ and ‘object’, the second part of the text explores the relevance of ‘designo’ (intentional design) implemented by Leonardo da Vinci (1453-1519) in order to identify and formulate problems encountered by researchers. Referring to contemporary epistemologists (Bachelard, Valéry, Simon, Morin), this contribution finally questions the relationships between the ‘ingenio’ (pragmatic intelligence), the ‘designo’ (modeling method) and ethics. It proposes one to conceive the paradigm of complexity through the relationships it establishes between (pragmatic) action, (epistemic) reflection and meditation (ethics).


Posted in Complexity, Complexity & change, Complexity & education, Complexity & learning, Intelligence | Tagged , , ,

When Time Makes a Difference: Addressing Ergodicity and Complexity in Education

The detection of complexity in behavioral outcomes often requires an estimation of their variability over a prolonged time spectrum to assess processes of stability and transformation. Conventional scholarship typically relies on snapshots to analyze those outcomes, assuming that group means and their associated standard deviations, computed across individuals, are sufficient to characterize the educational outcomes that inform policy, and that time does not matter in this context. In its statistically abstract form, the assumption that you can rely on snapshots is referred to as the ergodicity assumption. This paper argues that ergodicity cannot be taken for granted in educational data. The first section discusses artificially generated time series trajectories to illustrate ergodicity (white noise) and three types of non-ergodicity: short-term correlations between observations, long-term correlations (pink noise) and infinite correlations (Brownian motion). A second section presents daily attendance data observed in two urban high schools over a seven-year period to show that these data are non-ergodic and suggest complexity. These findings offer a counter-example to the efficacy of using time-independent measures (‘snapshots’) to measure educational outcomes.


Posted in Complexity, Complexity & education, Complexity & learning, Education | Tagged , , ,

Getting the Teacher Out of the Way: Learning, Risk, and Choice

Students learn best when teachers get out of the way. Unfortunately, university classrooms continue to be intensely teacher-centric, are driven by the teacher’s agenda and calendar, and embrace simple models rather complex alternatives. These simple types of learning environments frustrate students’ development of the risk-taking and choice making confidence they need in the workplace. Bain makes the point that environments embracing choice as a priority, welcoming risk taking, and nurturing students who make mistakes, are better at preparing students for professional success. In this paper, we intend to provide context to the conversation about how learning-risks and agency impact and promote the individual growth of the student when the teacher gets out of the way.


Posted in Education, Student, Student engagement, Teachers | Tagged , , ,