Video: Robert Trivers at SALMS – Deceit and Self-Deception

Robert Trivers was hosted by SALMS at Harvard Law School on Thursday, 11/3/11. His talk was called “Deceit and Self-Deception: Fooling others the better to fool ourselves.” Below are the video of the talk and the download link.


Robert Trivers at SALMS – Deceit and Self-Deception: Fooling others the better to fool ourselves (Thursday, 11/3/11)

New Book by Sam Sommers: Situations Matter

SALMS speaker Sam Sommers has a new book called Situations Matter. Some details from the author here:

As many of you know, I’ve written a general-audience book about the psychology of everyday life titled Situations Matter that will be officially released this week, on December 29. Its central argument is that in thinking about human nature, we too often overlook the power of context and ordinary situations.

More details about the book, including video trailer and an excerpt, can be found at (and you can go directly to the listing via If you’re inclined to order a copy, I’m told by those who know much more than I do about such things that now is a great time to do it: much as situations matter, so, too, apparently do pre-order and first-week sales when it comes to a book’s visibility after release.

Evo-Devo: Cognitive adaptations for learning about plants?

The last Evolutionary Development speaker this semester is Annie Wertz, at postdoc in developmental psychology at Yale. Her title and abstract are below.
The talk is on Wed, 12/7 at 12 pm, Haller Hall, 24 Oxford St. (Please note that this talk is in Haller Hall, next to the Museum of Comparative Zoology.)
Lunch will be served.

If anyone is interested in meeting with Annie before or after the talk, please contact me:

Title: Do infants have cognitive adaptations for learning about plants?
Plants have played a critical role in survival throughout human evolutionary
history. However, studies of the cognitive structures that handle knowledge
about plants have been extremely rare. Yet there are reasons to suspect that
such cognitive structures exist and are present very early in development.
Gathered plant resources have traditionally formed the basis of human diets,
but many plants can be harmful, or even deadly, when ingested or handled.
Therefore, humans may possess cognitive structures that preferentially identify
plants as sources of both food and harm. Identifying the particular plants that
are edible or harmful in a given location is a difficult task because the
morphological features that indicate edibility or harm vary widely across
different ecologies. Natural selection may have solved this problem by
designing learning mechanisms that are sensitive to certain types of input over
the course of an individual?s development. I will present evidence from a
series of studies with 6- to 18-month-old infants investigating whether infants
have cognitive structures geared toward 1) learning which plants in the local
environment are suitable food resources, and 2) avoiding the potential harm
posed by dangerous plants.

Diane Rosenfeld: “Penn State, Intervention, and a Theory of Patriarchal Violence” 11/30/2011

Join SALMS for the final event of our Fall Speakers Series, when HLS’s Diane Rosenfeld will present on “Penn State, Intervention, and a Theory of Patriarchal Violence” on Wednesday, November 30, 2011, at noon in Austin West.

Rosenfeld will respond to Harvard primatologist Richard Wrangham’s October 12 SALMS talk on “Sexual Disparities and the Evolution of Patriarchy,” drawing out the legal implications of Professor Wrangham’s scientific findings. The child sexual abuse scandal swirling around the Penn State football program will serve as a point of departure for these deeper conclusions.

As always, SALMS will serve free burritos – come enjoy SALMS food and company before finals season begins in earnest!

Evo-Devo: The Evolution of Spite

This Wednesday (11/16), Patrick Forber (Tufts, Philosophy) and Rory Smead (Northeastern, Philosophy) will present a new model they have developed for the evolution of spite (abstract below).  A draft of their paper is on the seminar site:
The meeting will be in Haller Hall (24 Oxford St.) at noon and lunch will be served.
Abstract: The Evolution of Spite
Spite is the shady relative of altruism.  Biological altruism is social behavior that incurs a cost (in fitness) to confer a benefit on other individuals.  If altruism involves paying a cost to benefit another, spite involves paying a cost to inflict a greater cost on another.  After W. D. Hamilton showed that correlated interactions among kin can produce the evolution of altruistic behavior, he came to realize that spiteful behavior could evolve by a similar process.  Here we analyze a model of spite.  Generally, spiteful behavior is unstable, but we show that it can evolve and be maintained under specific conditions.  While the model is Hamilton’s, we have a novel extension to cases where population size fluctuates over time.  By focusing on a paradigm case of spite, our model helps clarify puzzles surrounding the concept of spite and its application to animal and human behavior.

MBB: What Use is Sleep?


Discover the science behind sleeping, dreaming, and learning

Monday, Nov. 14th
4:00pm – 5:30pm
in William James Hall 105

At HSMBB’s Fall Symposium, you will hear from 3 scholars in the field of sleep research. Robert Stickgold, a sleep researcher at HMS, will give us an overview of his influential research on the nature of cognition during sleep, and the role of sleep in memory and emotional processing. Deirdre Barrett, a psychologist at HMS, will speak to us about how dreams contribute to creativity and objective problem-solving. And James Quattrochi, a lecturer in the MCB department, will walk us through a case study on study habits and sleep. His presentation will involve a lot of audience participation…so be prepared! There will be a Q&A session and reception after the presentations. The reception will feature delicious food—don’t miss out!

MBB events: John Assad and Daniel Dennett

This Friday, the 4th of November, 4-5pm come to Adams House Upper Common Room

to chat with the one and only

Prof. John Assad

As always we’ll have yummy cookies, delicious teas, and great company. We’ll be talking about

‘What links our sensations with our actions?’

Professor John Assad teaches in the Biophysics department of Neurobiology at the Harvard Medical School, though he is currently conducting research in beautiful Italy. His primary focus of interest lies in finding out why we do what we do exactly when we we do it. Talk with us to better understand how we link external information together to produce certain actions. The tea will be very informal, come with or without specific questions for a fun conversation and delicious treats!


Failures of Imagination and the “Mystery” of Consciousness
A Seminar with
Professor Daniel Dennett

Tuesday, November 8, 4:30-5:30 pm
Emerson 305

Space is limited! This is event will be lotteried to keep the discussion and Q&A informal and intimate. Click here to sign-up – students on the HSMBB mailing list will get two slots in the lottery.

Professor Daniel Dennett is the co-director of the Center for Cognitive Studies at Tufts University and teaches as Austin B. Fletcher Professor of Philosophy . His research varies from philosophy of mind to philosophy of science and biology, as well as evolutionary biology and cognitive science. Although this is a talk about consciousness and cognition, some may recognize Professor Dennett as one of the so-called “Four Horsemen of New Atheism” along with Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens.

Of this seminar, Professor Dennett says that the title says it all.

Sign-up for the lottery before 11:59pm this Saturday. Sign up here: