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This review provides an overview of the field of social neuroscience from a European perspective and focuses mainly on outlining research topics which originated in European laboratories. After a brief historical synopsis of the emergence of this young field, the most relevant findings related to the investigation of the neural networks underlying our capacity to understand the minds of others are summarized. More specifically, three routes of social cognition are distinguished: (1) our capacity to mentalize, or to infer intentions and beliefs of others, (2) our capacity to mimic and understand other’s motor actions, and (3) our capacity to empathize, or to share and understand the feelings of others. More recent studies focusing on social emotions such as love, compassion, revenge or our sense of fairness will be discussed linking the field of social neuroscience to the even younger field of neuroeconomics, with the focus on the study of human social interactions using game theoretical paradigms. Finally, the use of a multi-method and multi-disciplinary research approach combining genetic, pharmacological, computational and developmental aspects is advocated and future directions for the study of interactive minds are discussed.

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We’re getting more stupid. That’s one point made in a recent article in the New Scientist, reporting on a gradual decline in IQs in developed countries such as the UK, Australia and the Netherlands. Such research feeds into a long-held fascination with testing human intelligence. Yet such debates are too focused on IQ as a life-long trait that can’t be changed. Other research is beginning to show the opposite. One recent pilot study showed that we can considerably raise standard IQ scores by training children in relational language skills tasks over a period of months. Again, this finding challenges the idea that intelligence is fixed for life. So it’s about time we reconsidered our ideas about the nature of intelligence as a trait that cannot be changed. Undoubtedly, there may be some limits to the development of our intellectual skills. But in the short term, the socially responsible thing to do is not to feel bound by those limits, but to help every child work towards and even exceed them.

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The sociologist argued that middle-class kids are raised in a way that provides them with the skills necessary to remain in the middle class. Lareau writes that the working class and the middle class have very different methods of raising their children. Poor and working-class parents practice what Lareau calls accomplishment of natural growth parenting. Their children have long periods of unstructured time where they shoot the breeze with neighbors and cousins, roam around the neighborhood, and watch TV with their large, extended families. In contrast, middle-class kids are driven to soccer practice and band recitals, are involved in family debates at dinner time, and are told that to ask their teacher why they received a B on a French exam. They talk, talk, talk to their kids all the time. Even discipline becomes a matter of negotiation and bargaining between the child and the adult. Lareau calls this style of parenting concerted cultivation. Parenting styles have a huge impact on future outcomes, says Lareau. She speculates that concerted cultivation creates adults who know how to challenge authority, navigate bureaucracy, and manage their time — all the skills needed to remain in the middle class. The working-class kids lack that training.

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In what ways do parents pass advantage or disadvantage on to their children? Persistence, Privilege, and Parenting is an expansive exploration of the relationship between parental socioeconomic status and background and the outcomes of their grown children. Americans like to believe that theirs is the land of opportunity, but the hard facts are that children born into poor families in the United States tend to stay poor and children born into wealthy families generally stay rich. Other countries have shown more success at lessening the effects of inequality on mobility—possibly by making public investments in education, health, and family well-being that offset the private advantages of the wealthy. What can the United States learn from these other countries about how to provide children from disadvantaged backgrounds an equal chance in life? Making comparisons across ten countries, Persistence, Privilege, and Parenting brings together a team of eminent international scholars to examine why advantage and disadvantage persist across generations. The book sheds light on how the social and economic mobility of children differs within and across countries and the impact private family resources, public policies, and social institutions may have on mobility.

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FPU features a lot of innovative, not to say controversial, departures from tradition, including a … library without physical books. As for the electronic-only aspect of the library resources, Miller emphasized that it’s the information that’s key, not its form, and the student’s appropriate use of it. “We want our students to recognize when they have an information need,” she says, “and be able to locate the relevant information to apply it in a scholarly and, ultimately, professional way.” The hardware available in The Commons to help students access all these electronic resources includes 30 desktop computers as well as 12 laptops and 12 tablets that are available for checkout. Twelve collaboration rooms with large monitors provide space for students to work on group projects. Desktop workstations, laptops, and tablets will also be located throughout the campus. For technology help, The Commons has a staffed IT desk in addition to the research assistance available at the Academic Success Desk. Although there will be printers available if a student wants a hard copy of an article, they will be encouraged to use the “Build Your Own Poly Library” system to electronically organize their research information instead. It is based on ProQuest Flow, a cloud-based collaboration platform. For a different kind of printing, the IST building will have a lab with more than 55 MakerBot 3D printers and scanners.

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To understand culture and cultural evolution we must abandon the atomized and anonymous social environment of neoclassical economics. Culture is a product and a cause of the socialized nature of human action. Examination of the phylogenetic and ontogenetic neural mechanisms that make socialization and culture possible reveals: the ways that culture conserves cognitive resources and makes human interaction possible; and the reason that human culture—but not that of are closest relatives the chimpanzees—is capable of rapid evolution. Understanding the deep cognitive nature of culture explains the sometimes pathological outcomes of cultural evolution and how pathologies may be avoided. An understanding of three aspects of the nature of culture and cultural evolution was found necessary to get at these issues: (1) important components of culture are social constructs; (2) the contents of intentional mental states are insufficient by themselves to determine the meaning of those states—the brain provides the missing data necessary to determine meaning, and a significant portion of the data is a product of cultural evolution and learning. Following the lead of Searle, we called the mechanisms that provide the missing data Background; (3) the process by which culture is learned provides insight into its socially constructed nature, the missing data problem mentioned in (2), and intersubjective nature of human interaction.

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Cognitive neuroscience has started to probe crosscultural differences in the neuronal mechanisms underlying cognitive, perceptual and social domains. Moreover, brain imaging has revealed how education changes the brain. Such research opens up a new frontier in brain plasticity research, breaking down the boundaries between neuroscience and other traditionally non-biological disciplines, resulting in many conceptual and practical implications. Although culture and education were previously not commonly considered candidates for the study of neuronal plasticity, recent efforts demonstrate that cognitive neuroscience can enhance our understanding of culture and education. It is now possible to characterize how uniquely human experiences shape brain function and, in turn, consider how neuronal mechanisms give rise to culture, thereby opening new horizons in the study of uniquely human brain functions. This new research is opening pathways between traditional ‘social’ and ‘biological’ approaches. Results from this research will change societal discourse and have important implications for a better understanding of educational and social problems.

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Current explanations of social class gaps in children’s early academic skills tend to focus on non-cognitive skills that more advantaged children acquire in the family. Accordingly, social class matters because the cultural resources more abundant in advantaged families cultivate children’s repertories and tool kits, which allow them to more easily navigate social institutions, such as schools. Within these accounts, parenting practices matter for children’s academic success, but for seemingly arbitrary reasons. Alternatively, findings from current neuroscience research indicate that family context matters for children because it cultivates neural networks that assist in learning and the development of academic skills. That is, children’s exposure to particular parenting practices and stimulating home environments contribute to the growth in neurocognitive skills that affect later academic performance. We synthesize sociological and neuroscience accounts of developmental inequality by focusing on one such skill—fine motor skills—to illustrate how family context alters children’s early academic performance. Our findings support an interdisciplinary account of academic inequality, and extend current accounts of the family’s role in the transmission of social inequality. Our results push sociological theory to incorporate more encompassing accounts of how and why social context and process matter for children’s development, and how the social and biological combine in the emergence of inequality.

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A research team from PALAEO (Centre for Human Palaeoecology and Evolutionary Origins) and the Department of Archaeology at York offer a new and distinctive perspective which suggests that Neanderthal children experienced strong emotional attachments with their immediate social group, used play to develop skills and played a significant role in their society. The traditional perception of the toughness of Neanderthal childhood is based largely on biological evidence, but the archaeologists, led by Dr Penny Spikins, also studied cultural and social evidence to explore the experience of Neanderthal children. In research published in the Oxford Journal of Archaeology, they found that Neanderthal childhood experience was subtly different from that of their modern human counterparts in that it had a greater focus on social relationships within their group. Investigation of Neanderthal burials suggests that children played a particularly significant role in their society, particularly in symbolic expression.

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I will first discuss how social interactions organize, coordinate, and specialize as “artifacts,” tools; how these tools are not only for coordination but for achieving something, for some outcome (goal/function), for a collective work. In particular, I will argue that these artifacts specify (predict and prescribe) the mental contents of the participants, both in terms of beliefs and acceptances and in terms of motives and plans. We have to revise the behavioristic view of “scripts” and “roles”; when we play a role we wear a “mind.” No collective action would be possible without shared and/or ascribed mental contents. This is also very crucial for a central form of automatic mind-reading (mind ascription). Second, I will argue that often what really matters is the ascribed/prescribed, worn, mind not the real, private one. We have to play (like in the symbolic play) “as if” we had those mental contents. This social convention and mutual assumption makes the interaction work. The ascribed beliefs and goals are not necessarily explicitly there; they might be just implicit as inactive (we act just by routine and automatically) or implicit as potential. The coordination and social action works thanks to these “as if” (ascribed and pretended) minds, thanks to those conventional constructs. Our social minds for social interactions are coordination artifacts and social institutions.