Evolutionary Psychology

Dutch primatologist Frans de Waal screens a video depicting what happens when a Capuchin monkey suspects that it is receiving unequal “pay” for a task it was trained to perform. How much is our own sense of “fairness” genetically hardwired, and what does this imply for our dominant economic systems?

In this RSA Animate, Jeremy Rifkin examines our innate capacity for empathy, one of the defining traits of the human race (though we share it with a few other species). Rifkin argues that throughout history humans have progressively expanded their “spheres of empathy”, and that our survival as a species depends on expanding empathy further, rather than retreating into tribalism. Will our empathic impulses become more globalized, along with everything else? Or do the conditions of today breed a narrow self-interest which could destroy us?

BBC News reports: When it comes to choosing a mate, female toads may have more control than previously thought, say scientists. A report in the Royal Society’s Biology Letters journal describes how…

Scientists say that dolphins as a species are significantly smarter than chimpanzees, so smart that they should be classified as “non-human persons” — making it deeply unethical to keep them in amusement parks or inadvertently kill them in fishing operations.

Until recently, dolphins were placed third among animals in intelligence (behind humans and chimps). However, new behavioral studies suggests that dolphins are smarter than previously believed. How smart? From the U.K.’s Times:

Dolphins have distinct personalities, a strong sense of self and can think about the future.

Dolphins can solve difficult problems, and those in the wild cooperate in ways that imply complex social structures and a high level of emotional sophistication. It has also become clear that they are “cultural” animals.

Bottlenose dolphins [can] recognize themselves in a mirror and use it to inspect various parts of their bodies, an ability that had been thought limited to humans and great apes.

This is why some people think that cats are snakes with fur. Perhaps your grandmother from the old country wasn’t that crazy. Matthew Hayden writes on Cracked.com:

There seem to be two kinds of people in the world: those who don’t understand cats, and those who think cats are kind of douchebags.

Unfortunately for cat lovers, science has kind of come down on the side of that second group. Research has revealed that a lot of the quirky and even cute things your kitty does are actually signs that your cat is kind of a dick.

CatOverlordRubbing Against You to Declare Ownership: By nature cats are hard to read. They’re not like dogs, hopping around with joy when you walk in the door, or slinking away with shame when caught eating the garbage. No, cats have mastered an expression of almost disdainful indifference that they seem to wear regardless of their mood.

However, as any spinster will tell you, a cat’s affection is obvious when its purring and rubbing its face and body against your leg. It’s like the animal is giving you a little kitty hug the only way it knows how!

The problem with that, though, is when cats rub up against their owners, it has nothing to do with affection at all, but instead is kitty’s way of claiming you as its property.

Paul W. Andrews and J. Anderson Thomson, Jr. write in Scientific American (via Theoretick): Depression seems to pose an evolutionary paradox. Research in the US and other countries estimates that between 30…