You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘Human behavior’ tag.

Video – The Divided Brain (Oct. 2011) – In this new RSAnimate, renowned psychiatrist and writer Iain McGilchrist explains how our ‘divided brain’ has profoundly altered human behaviour, culture and society. Taken from a lecture given by Iain McGilchrist as part of the RSA’s free public events programme. To view the full lecture “The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World“, do jump yourself into another YouTube video.


I think an influencer has a certain confidence,… that probably not many people have, that … they know that what they are doing is the right thing, cause they are comfortable with it…” ~ Rob Stone, in “Influencers”, June 2011.

[…] “Influencers” is a short documentary that explores what it means to be an influencer and how trends and creativity become contagious today in music, fashion and entertainment. The film attempts to understand the essence of influence, what makes a person influential without taking a statistical or metric approach. Written and Directed by Paul Rojanathara and Davis Johnson, the film is a Polaroid snapshot of New York influential creatives (advertising, design, fashion and entertainment) who are shaping today’s pop culture. “Influencers” belongs to the new generation of short films, webdocs, which combine the documentary style and the online experience. […] from Vimeo, June 2011.

Figure – Poker final hand rankings. Poker is a typical example of bounded rationality in our daily lives. Without having all the information available, you still have to make a decision. In one of his works, Herbert Simon states: “boundedly rational agents experience limits in formulating and solving complex problems and in processing (receiving, storing, retrieving, transmitting) information“.

[…] Bounded rationality is the idea that in decision making, rationality of individuals is limited by the information they have, the cognitive limitations of their minds, and the finite amount of time they have to make decisions. It was proposed by Herbert Simon as an alternative basis for the mathematical modelling of decision making, as used in economics and related disciplines; it complements rationality as optimization, which views decision making as a fully rational process of finding an optimal choice given the information available. Another way to look at bounded rationality is that, because decision-makers lack the ability and resources to arrive at the optimal solution, they instead apply their rationality only after having greatly simplified the choices available. Thus the decision-maker is a satisfier, one seeking a satisfactory solution rather than the optimal one. Simon used the analogy of a pair of scissors, where one blade is the “cognitive limitations” of actual humans and the other the “structures of the environment”; minds with limited cognitive resources can thus be successful by exploiting pre-existing structure and regularity in the environment. Some models of human behaviour in the social sciences assume that humans can be reasonably approximated or described as “rational” entities (see for example rational choice theory). Many economics models assume that people are on average rational, and can in large enough quantities be approximated to act according to their preferences. The concept of bounded rationality revises this assumption to account for the fact that perfectly rational decisions are often not feasible in practice due to the finite computational resources available for making them. […] In Wikipedia, (link).

Book cover – Herbert A. Simon. Models of Bounded Rationality, Volume 1, Economic Analysis and Public Policy, MIT Press 1984. The Nobel Prize in Economics was awarded to Herbert Simon in 1978. At Carnegie-Mellon University he holds the title of Professor of Computer Science and Psychology. These two facts together delineate the range and uniqueness of his contributions in creating meaningful interactions among fields that developed in isolation but that are all concerned with human decision-making and problem-solving processes. In particular, Simon has brought the insights of decision theory, organization theory (especially as it applies to the business firm), behavior modeling, cognitive psychology, and the study of artificial intelligence to bear on economic questions. This has led not only to new conceptual dimensions for theoretical constructions, but also to a new humanizing realism in economics, a way of taking into account and dealing with human behavior and interactions that lie at the root of all economic activity. The sixty papers and essays contained in these two volumes are grouped under eight sections, each with a brief introductory essay. These are: Some Questions of Public Policy, Dynamic Programming Under Uncertainty; Technological Change; The Structure of Economic Systems; The Business Firm as an Organization; The Economics of Information Processing; Economics and Psychology; and Substantive and Procedural Reality. Most of Simon’s papers on classical and neoclassical economic theory are contained in volume one. The second volume collects his papers on behavioral theory, with some overlap between the two volumes. (from MIT).

[…] >Chomsky says humans can make more output than they take in as input. There’s a gap he calls creativity […]

Language is meaningless, thought is pointless, and we’re all gonna die. Hello, hi there!” […] New York director Annie Dorsen takes the famous television debate between the philosopher Michel Foucault and linguist and activist Noam Chomsky from the Seventies as inspiration and material for a dialogue between two specially developed chatbots: every evening, these computer programs designed to mimic human conversations perform a new – as it were, improvised – live text. “Hello Hi There” is a performance without people – a literal expression of post-humanism, and simultaneously an examination of what it means to be human. The piece goes inside the question of human nature and intelligence, both the organic and the artificial […] (from Annie Dorsen “Hello Hi There“, PS122, New York, NY, Jan. 2011)

(video) An excerpt from the Chomsky-Foucault debate which was aired on Dutch television in 1971. For more check, Noam Chomsky and Michel Foucault, “The Chomsky-Foucault Debate: On Human Nature” (New York: The New Press, 2006). [a full transcript is available here].

No one really knows what a meme is, nevertheless when a good one comes around, everybody recognizes it!

No one really knows what a meme is, nevertheless when a good one comes around, everybody recognizes it…!

[graphic tag cloud via Wordle]

(via Wikipedia Meme Transmission) Life-forms can transmit information both vertically (from parent to child, via replication of genes) and horizontally (through viruses and other means). Memes can replicate vertically or horizontally within a single biological generation. They may also lie dormant for long periods of time. Memes spread by the behaviors that they generate in their hosts. Imitation counts as an important characteristic in the propagation of memes. Imitation often involves the copying of an observed behaviour of another individual, but memes may transmit from one individual to another through a copy recorded in an inanimate source, such as a book or a musical score. Researchers have observed memetic copying in just a few species on Earth, including hominids, dolphins and birds (which learn how to sing by imitating their parents or neighbors).

Some commentators have likened the transmission of memes to the spread of contagions. Social contagions such as fads, hysterias and copycat suicides exemplify memes seen as the contagious imitation of ideas. Observers distinguish the contagious imitation of memes from instinctively contagious phenomena such as yawning and laughing, which they consider innate (rather than socially learned) behaviors.

Aaron Lynch described seven general patterns of meme transmission, or “thought contagion”:

  1. Quantity of parenthood: an idea which influences the number of children one has. Children respond particularly receptively to the ideas of their parents, and thus ideas which directly or indirectly encourage a higher birthrate will replicate themselves at a higher rate than those that discourage higher birthrates.
  2. Efficiency of parenthood: an idea which increases the proportion of children who will adopt ideas of their parents. Cultural separatism exemplifies one practice in which one can expect a higher rate of meme-replication — because the meme for separation creates a barrier from exposure to competing ideas.
  3. Proselytic: ideas generally passed to others beyond one’s own children. Ideas that encourage the proselytism of a meme, as seen in many religious or political movements, can replicate memes horizontally through a given generation, spreading more rapidly than parent-to-child meme-transmissions do.
  4. Preservational: ideas which influence those that hold them to continue to hold them for a long time. Ideas which encourage longevity in their hosts, or leave their hosts particularly resistant to abandoning or replacing these ideas, enhance the preservability of memes and afford protection from the competition or proselytism of other memes.
  5. Adversative: ideas which influence those that hold them to attack or sabotage competing ideas and/or those that hold them. Adversative replication can give an advantage in meme transmission when the meme itself encourages aggression against other memes.
  6. Cognitive: ideas perceived as cogent by most in the population who encounter them. Cognitively transmitted memes depend heavily on a cluster of other ideas and cognitive traits already widely held in the population, and thus usually spread more passively than other forms of meme transmission. Memes spread in cognitive transmission do not count as self-replicating.
  7. Motivational: ideas that people adopt because they perceive some self-interest in adopting them. Strictly speaking, motivationally transmitted memes do not self-propagate, but this mode of transmission often occurs in association with memes self-replicated in the efficiency parental, proselytic and preservational modes.

In their book Made to Stick, Chip and Dan Heath describe characteristics of an idea that make it “sticky” (i.e. memorable or interesting).

Note: I personally recommend Cosma ShaliziMemes” web entry. Center for the Study of Complex Systems,  University of Michigan (26 September 1997).

[...] People should learn how to play Lego with their minds. Concepts are building bricks [...] V. Ramos, 2002.

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