Young chimpanzees playing.

Chimpanzees and fairness.

Sometimes, ethologists find behaviors in animals that evoke similarities with behaviors that were previously thought unique to humans. Those cases are interesting in two ways; they can show us that we underestimate what animals can do, and sometimes they also suggest that we might be overestimating the complexity of what we do as humans. Frans de Waal is one of the researchers who has pioneered the study of cooperation and aggressive behaviors in non-human animals. Continue reading

Posted in Authors, Brain Basics, by Jean-Francois Gariepy, Diseases & Disorders, Evolution, In Society, Language, Neuroeconomics, Psychiatric Disorders, Sensing, Thinking & Behaving
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Social Network Analysis

Us and them, and our brains.

Political arguments, moral judgment and social conflicts are among the most complex social behaviors that humans engage in, yet we perform these things with a brain that is not so much different from that of a chimpanzee. There is definitely an interest in understanding what happens in the brain when people argue, fight, judge, stereotype or segregate, but scientific advancement on this controversial issue is rather slow1,2,3,4. Continue reading

Posted in Authors, Brain Basics, by Jean-Francois Gariepy, Diseases & Disorders, Evolution, Language, Learning and Memory, Mood, Psychiatric Disorders, Sensing, Thinking & Behaving
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The Superb Fairywren

Birds use passwords too.

Passwords are private pieces of information that protect important aspects of our lives. They lose their main function when known by others, and they need to be complex enough not to be guessed too easily. A fascinating study published in Current Biology suggests that a species of birds has developed a system of communication between parents and offspring that resembles passwords. Families of Superb Fairywren use this system to recognize each other as a defense against an intruding parasite species. Continue reading

Posted in Brain Basics, Brain Development, by Jean-Francois Gariepy, Evolution, Language, Learning and Memory, Sensing, Thinking & Behaving
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A brain region sensitive to social rank.

Our social environment is hierarchical and we can all guess roughly where we and others lie in this hierarchy. It rarely needs to be stated explicitly – a boss does not need to remind his employee that he’s the boss every day. Yet hierarchy acts in the background, like an invisible hand, modifying almost each of our interactions. It makes us more or less polite, familiar, or audacious with those people for whom each attitude is more or less appropriate. Continue reading

Posted in Brain Basics, by Jean-Francois Gariepy, Evolution, In Society, Language, Neuroanatomy, Neuroeconomics, Sensing, Thinking & Behaving
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