Monday, January 12, 2009

Sneakiness and brain size

I have a huge backlog of potential mindblog posts which haven't yet made it into the two posts per day routine I have set up. They are interesting, but keep getting pushed back in the queue by newer material that is appearing. Here is an engaging piece from Natalie Angier, motivated perhaps by the Madoff scandal, on deception in humans and other animals - the 'lying in everyday life' that lubricates human and animal social interactions.
...[there is] a direct relationship between sneakiness and brain size. The larger the average volume of a primate species’ neocortex — the newest, “highest” region of the brain — the greater the chance that the monkey or ape would pull a stunt like this one described in The New Scientist: a young baboon being chased by an enraged mother intent on punishment suddenly stopped in midpursuit, stood up and began scanning the horizon intently, an act that conveniently distracted the entire baboon troop into preparing for nonexistent intruders.

...researchers found that the college students told an average of two lies a day, community members one a day, and that most of the lies fell into the minor fib category...There is a counterintuitive motivation not to detect lies, or we would have become much better at may not really want to know that the dinner you just cooked stinks, or even that your spouse is cheating on you.
The article notes a further number of interesting deceptive behaviors in humans and other animals.

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