What Morris's team found is that although the amygdala showed more activity during unseen fear-inducing faces, other areas of the brain associated with conscious visual activity were more active when the faces were seen. The mask [the effect making it difficult to consciously perceive the faces] appeared to disrupt the conscious visual process, but not the process that led to the fear reaction. The masked images were sensed -- detected by the eye -- but not perceived. The researchers identified a separate neural pathway which activates the amygdala, independently of visual cognition.On to something more recent, there's an interesting post by John Hawks on culture, communication (animal and human), and the relationship between human culture and other animals. It's very thought-provoking.
At Brainethics, there is a post with a link to and discussion of a paper by Fisher and Marcus on the evolution of language. Here is the paper's abstract:
The human capacity to acquire complex language seems to be without parallel in the natural world. The origins of this remarkable trait have long resisted adequate explanation, but advances in fields that range from molecular genetics to cognitive neuroscience offer new promise. Here we synthesize recent developments in linguistics, psychology and neuroimaging with progress in comparative genomics, gene-expression profiling and studies of developmental disorders. We argue that language should be viewed not as a wholesale innovation, but as a complex reconfiguration of ancestral systems that have been adapted in evolutionarily novel ways.On a non-cognitive science related note, Brandon has two posts over at Siris about the Texas revolution, the first on Lorenzo de Zavala, and the second on Juan Seguín. It had been a while since I'd thought about Seguín's story, but I'm glad Brandon reminded me of it. Seguín was at the Alamo, but after Santa Anna's army had laid siege to the mission, Travis sent him to Goliad to get reinforcements. He returned after the battle, and was charged with burying the dead defenders. After the revolution, he went into politics, but when Texas became a state, he was forced to return to Mexico, where he was arrested and forced to fight in the Mexican-American war on the Mexican side. What I find so interesting about his story is that it's one among many that shows how complicated the story of the Texas revolution, and Texas' subsequent independence and annexation, really were. Instead of the clean elementary school textbook picture of brave men fighting for freedom against a crazed (and cowardly) military dictator, it was actually a big mess of social, political, and ethnic conflicts.
This post at blac(k)ademic, inspired by discussion of the Duke rape case, takes the position that gender does not trump race. The post is very thought-provoking in itself, but it also reminds me of one of the issues on which I've been meaning to actually explore empirically (as in running actual experiments; anyone want to help with the design?). The issue is this: people who are not the subjects of racism, sexism, homophobia, and other forms of oppression on a regular basis tend to have a more difficult time perceiving instances of those forms of oppression, especially when those instances are subtle, as they so often are. In the extreme, this leads to white people actually believing that racism is no longer a problem, and men believing that sexism is dead, and straight people being ignorant of the very idea of heteronormativity. This probably seems obvious to some of you, but as far as I can tell, there is no empirical research on the issue. In her post, blac(k)ademic is discussing the tendency for white feminists to ignore, or at least de-emphasize race when gender is also at issue. In the post, and the comments, you'll find many frustrated exhortations about the race-unconsciousness of mainstream, white-dominated feminism. I wonder whether this is an instance of what I just described: white women, who are subject to pervasive discrimination themselves for reasons of gender, being less sensitive to issues of race because they simply don't have to deal with them in their own lives. One might think that being the object of discrimination would make people more sensitive to discrimination in general, but if my own theory is right, that wouldn't be the case, and it would mean that even for white feminists and others fighting discrimination against groups to which they belong, a great deal of dilligence is required to perceive and take into account other forms of discrimination.
Oh, and I almost forgot, at Crooked Timber, you can read a passage from Karl Marx's one attempt at fiction (written when he was 19). I have to say, it makes me feel a little better about my own youthful attempts at fiction writing.
LATE ADDITION: The Neurocritic discusses a new study on video game violence.