This paper reports that people with autistic spectrum symptoms are less biased by framing effects. Unfortunately, the researchers suggest that the increased rationality is connected to an inability to incorporate emotional cues into some decision making processes, so the rationality comes at a cost in social skills.
Some analysis of how these results fit in with the theory that autism is the opposite end of a spectrum from schizophrenia can be found here:
It seems that the schizophrenic is working on the basis of an internal model and is ignoring external feedback: thus his reliance on previous response.I propose that an opposite pattern would be observed in Autistics with Autistics showing no or less mutual information, as they have poor self-models; but greater cross-mutual information , as they would base their decisions more on external stimuli or feedback.
Book review: The 10,000 Year Explosion: How Civilization Accelerated Human Evolution by Gregory Cochran and Henry Harpending.
This provocative book describes many recent genetic changes in humans, primarily those resulting from the switch from hunter-gatherer lifestyles to agricultural lifestyles. Large changes in diets and disease are the simplest causes of change, but the book also describes subtler influences that alter human minds as well.
I had believed that large populations rarely evolve very fast due to the time required for a mutation to spread. This is true for mutations which provide negligible selective advantage, but the book shows that it’s plausible that a number of mutations have recently gained a large enough selective advantage that the rate at which they become widespread is only modestly dependent on population size. Also, the book makes a surprising but plausible claim that the larger supply of mutations in large populations can mean large populations evolve faster than small populations.
The book is occasionally not as rigorous as I would like. For instance, the claim that Ashkenazi “must have been exposed to very similar diseases” as their neighbors is false if the diseases were sexually transmitted.
Most of their claims convince me that conventional wisdom underestimates how important human genetic differences compared to cultural differences, but leave plenty of room for doubt about the magnitude of that underestimation.
They provide an interesting counterargument to the claim that differences within human populations are larger than the differences between populations. Their belief that differences between populations are more important seems to rest on little more than gut feelings, but they convince me that the conventional wisdom they’re disputing is poorly thought out.
They convinced me to take more seriously the possibility that some Neanderthal genes have had significant effects on human genes, although I still put the odds on that at less than 50 percent.
Book review: My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey by Jill Bolte Taylor.
This book provides a unique description of the differences between the left and right sides of the brain, because she experienced about as big a decrease in the functioning of her left hemisphere as anyone who has recovered enough to write about it. It’s a very quick read, but didn’t have as much information as I’d hoped.
She makes plausible claims (with minimal mysticism) that her stroke helped her experience nirvana and continues to help her choose to have the best parts of her brain dominate her personality. It makes me wish there were something better than the Wada test that would enable the rest of us to more safely experiment with such experiences.
It helps me understand what I’m not accomplishing when I try (with little success) to meditate, but it appears that her advice for how to do better only works for people who are starting with a mind that is less strongly dominated by the left brain than mine.
It’s important to remember that the parts of her brain that are reporting the benefits of her experience are the ones that survived. We have little information about how the parts of her brain that died would have evaluated the experience.