From Democratic Consensus to Cannibalistic Hordes: The Principles of Collective Behavior – lecture Tuesday, Feb. 28, 6pm

From Democratic Consensus to Cannibalistic Hordes: The Principles of Collective Behavior

Lecture by Iain Couzin


Why do billions of locusts suddenly break into motion? How do ants carry heavy loads and march with orderly precision along densely packed trails? How do flocks of birds and schools of fish select their navigators? And how do we—humans—make decisions as citizens, drivers, and numerous other social situations? Iain Couzin, Assistant Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Princeton, has made major contributions to understanding the dynamics and evolution of collective animal behavior.

Free and open to the public, Geological Lecture Hall, 24 Oxford Street.

Free parking available in the 52 Oxford Street garage.

Part of the Evolution Matters lecture series. Supported by a generous gift from Drs. Herman and Joan Suit.

Tuesday, January 31: Teresa Amabile, “The Progress Principle”


On Tuesday, January 31, SALMS kicks off its spring 2012 Speakers Series with a talk by Harvard Business School Professor Teresa Amabile. In this talk, Amabile will discuss what makes people happy, motivated, productive, and creative at work. And she will explore the implications for managing people, especially in the professions that drive the law.

Amabile’s new research, based on analyzing nearly 12,000 daily diaries of professionals working on creative projects inside organizations, yielded some surprising discoveries. Inner work life – a person’s day-by-day emotions, perceptions, and motivations at work – has a profound effect on the person’s performance. And, of all the good things that can boost inner work life, the single most important is simply making progress in meaningful work – even if that progress is an incremental “small win.” This is the progress principle.  Its implication? Sustained creative productivity and employee well-being depend less on elaborate incentive systems or performance-management processes than on techniques for facilitating the small wins that constitute daily work progress.

SALMS Announces Spring 2012 Schedule

SALMS is excited to announce its Speakers Series slate for Spring 2012. All of the following talks will take place at noon; stay tuned for further details, including room locations on the Harvard Law School Campus.


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!