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McGill University
PSYC 100
Daniel J Levitin

PSYC 100INTRO TO PSYCHOLOGYSet 4 Lectures 9 10 11Come pick up new sets of NTCs in our office Stewart Biology N78For our office hours check httpmpsasusmcgillcahourshtmlFor updates on when new sets will be out check out httpmpsamazingpbworkscomJoin our facebook group httpwwwfacebookcomgroupphpgid44770821733September 30 20101Hello everybodyWhat a nice responsive class Youre so polite Did anyone have any further thoughts on the film we saw on women last Tuesday Does anyone have any comments they would like to shareSo one of the principles of learningis that learning through observation is very common and it occurs in a wide variety of settings Ill post these notes Actually Joanna willLearning can be passed on through cultural transmission not just through observation and not just through genetics I mean there are some obvious cases of genetic learningspiders dont learn to make a web in conventional sensehuman type learningspiders dont model or observe the behavior of other spiders Theyre just born knowing how to do it So its not something thats learned its imprinted its implanted And as you get higher up the phylogenetic ladder as species become more sophisticated there is a general tendency though there are exceptions that larger brains that go with more advanced species take more information in from the environment and rely less on innate programming So spiders dont learn very much from the environment at all Birds learn somewhat more Birds are preprogrammed to sing certain songs but those songs can be modified by exposure to the cohort that theyre living with When they hear the songs sung by the particular members of the species theyre around their song at least in some songbirds the hardwired imprinted one can be modified to some degree by the environment And of course you get to dogs and cats and they have some instinctive behaviors Most cats will generally cover up their feces Well why is that Its generally occurred throughout evolution Its actually an interesting argument So why do cats cover their feces Its not like they have awareness of the germ theory of transmission of disease Its not that they saw other cats doing iteven kittens will do it Its that natural selection acted on this behavior So you can imagine in the extreme that there were ancient protoferal cats that did not cover their feces and then every once in a while there was some genetic anomaly and some proto cat was born that for no reason it understands or with no intention just a random process its got this tendency to cover its feces You can imagine over evolutionary timescales there are a whole bunch of behaviors that would be maladaptive or have nothing to do with adaptability So Im talking about a random event where a cat covers its feces maybe there were some proto cats that every time they stepped on a crack they would hop Or every time the sun shines they would spin around Or every time they see a piece of food they raise their paw before they eat it These are random activities that dont have anything to do with survival so thered be no reason for evolution to act on them but if a few of these proto cats species were more likely to avoid disease then their offspring in millions and millions of births and deaths and in millions of generations in the long run the species that cover their feces would outperform outlive and outcompete those that dont because theyre less likely to get sickSo why do you think it is that as animals get more sophisticated rely more on environment and les on preprogramming Any ideas Whats your name Brenna Because the environment changes Brennas right The environment changes over time or the environment changes because you move If youre a member of a species that travels you might find that theres better food source Say youre living in one area for generations and the fruit tree dies because of some blight or your source of food goes away so you travel to some neighboring area where the conditions are different Whatever 2preprogrammed information you had in your brain about how to survive may not be applicable anymore in the new environment So its all about adaptability Humans are among the most adaptable species on the entire Earth We manage to live in a wider range of places than almost any other species We manage to live in the great freezing north like Montreal and we manage to live in the tropics and where its wet and where its dry high altitudes at sea level We adapt And its not a strict rule but as species become more advanced more complex they tend to be more adaptable to the environment So having to rely on the environment having structures in place from the environment creates species that are more flexible and can handle a wider range of circumstances Thats why we learn explicitly and we learn from the environmentBut theres also cultural transmission and thats apart from imprinting and implicit observation and these are the ideas of a culture that are passed on For example religious beliefs and values are shaped by culture Youre born into a particular religious culture There are a number of beliefs we hold about agency most of us here in the west believe that there is a logic to things Things arent just happening at random Things dont happen at the whim of capricious gods that need to be satisfied by human sacrifice But for much of human history many people believe what I just said These are culturally transmitted beliefs Even music can be culturally transmitted through culture right If you go into not industrialized regions of China youre going to hear very different music from what you hear in the Afghan mountains to what you hear here and its largely because cultures create art and they create systems of music and systems of beliefs and they pass them on from one generation to the next And these are called memes The term was coined by Richard Dawkins as the equivalent of a gene Memes are ideas that are passed on within a cultureWhat are some examples of culture beliefs Well it turns out that Asian children on average perform better in school than their North American and European counterparts why is that especially in math and science This isnt a racial profile This isnt a function of racismor reverse racism if you want to call it that This is an empirical matter This is shown in study after study Asian children in Asia or first generation second generation children here tend to do better in math and science and they tend to do better in school and one theory is that theres a meme at work Theres some cultural transmission That is Asian children as part of their culture are often taught that learning and success are a function of hard work and Americans and Canadians and western Europeans are often taught that theres some kind of genetic endowment You succeed because your ability to learn is innate Now no one believes 100 one way or the other youd be hardpressed to find a North American that believes you either got it or you dont and thats the end of the story and youd be hardpressed to find an Asian family who says if you work hard you can do anything you want But were talking about a tendencya slight bias Asian families tend to promote the idea that hard work is necessary North American families tend to say well you can work hard but some people are just gifted some people are just talentedYes youre absolutely right Language can support this too The Chinese language those of you who speak Chinese know its easier to hold numbers in your head because theyre monosyllabic so it takes less memory load to hold on to a large number of numbers so theres this influence of language on thought and theres a number of cases well get into hopefully later in the termTheres also a cultural transmission in observation when we talk about mate selection Mate selections an interesting study of how it is that we learn from the environment In society most of us not all most of us go through a period of getting interested in members of the opposite sex or if youre gay then members of the same sex but usually people know theyre gay at an early age but 3
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