Monday, August 06, 2012

The MindBlog queue: moral responsibility; evolution of music; booze and hypnosis

During this period of relative inactivity for MindBlog, while I am pursuing other projects, I still accumulate references to work that looks interesting. Rather than letting them disappear into the list of potential posts that has accumulated by now to 50 pages of links, I’m going to post some of the links, with minimal descriptions, to make it possible for readers who find a favorite topic to click their way to the source.

Did your brain make you do it? Neuroscience and moral responsibility.
“Naïve dualism” is the belief that acts are brought about either by intentions or by the physical laws that govern our brains and that those two types of causes — psychological and biological — are categorically distinct. People are responsible for actions resulting from one but not the other. (In citing neuroscience, the Supreme Court may have been guilty of naïve dualism: did it really need brain evidence to conclude that adolescents are immature?)...Naïve dualism is misguided. “Was the cause psychological or biological?” is the wrong question when assigning responsibility for an action. All psychological states are also biological ones.
A better question is “how strong was the relation between the cause (whatever it happened to be) and the effect?” If, hypothetically, only 1 percent of people with a brain malfunction (or a history of being abused) commit violence, ordinary considerations about blame would still seem relevant. But if 99 percent of them do, you might start to wonder how responsible they really are.

Evolution of music by public choice
Music evolves as composers, performers, and consumers favor some musical variants over others. To investigate the role of consumer selection, we constructed a Darwinian music engine consisting of a population of short audio loops that sexually reproduce and mutate. This population evolved for 2,513 generations under the selective influence of 6,931 consumers who rated the loops’ aesthetic qualities. We found that the loops quickly evolved into music attributable, in part, to the evolution of aesthetically pleasing chords and rhythms. Later, however, evolution slowed. Applying the Price equation, a general description of evolutionary processes, we found that this stasis was mostly attributable to a decrease in the fidelity of transmission. Our experiment shows how cultural dynamics can be explained in terms of competing evolutionary forces.
Also check out:
Adaptive walks on the fitness landscape of music
Darwin Tunes on SoundCloud
Finally, this unrelated quirky fragment:
Booze enhances hypnotic susceptability

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