Friday, September 10, 2010

The Anthro Reader, Vol. 6

From around the web this week: context cues and language, gender norming, social sensitivity, epitaphs, and things you should know from people who wish they had known.

Thanks for the Tweets and replies to my request for info about the Reader. As I responded to a comment, it's nice to know that this post doesn't just vanish into the digital space.

Now, our first stop is at Child's Play where Melodye walks us through an exercise in learning language through context:
It turns out that in English — and in every other language studied — words do not bunch together with equal frequency.  For example, there are many possible words that could potentially follow the phrase “the effects of doing…” but which rarely or never do so. Compare the number of Google hits for “the effects of doing drugs” (13,900) with:
…the effects of doing research (6)
…the effects of doing everything (4)
…the effects of doing better (2)
…the effects of doing laundry (1)
…the effects of doing yardwork (0)
Melodye gives a really clear explanation on the patterns that words cluster into, and how we use learned probability to gauge potential responses to clauses that we encounter in conversation.

Big Bird learns words by reading signs.

Also on Scientopia, Zuska tackles gender normalization using engagement announcements. She explores the ways social expectations are conveyed through congratulatory remarks:
Heterosexual ladies, when you get engaged, and people begin to inquire oh so solicitously about your baby-making future and your supposed lack of career interest, ponder this: whether they realize it or not, they are doing the work of the Heteronormative Marriage Patrol. The HMP’s job is to make sure that marriage is understood to belong to the one-man, one-woman crowd, that marriage is about procreation, that your coworkers and friends are there to remind you of your Married Womanly Duties to pop out babies, and don’t expect any corresponding societal support in the way of childcare accommodations, because A Mother’s Place Is In The Home.
Head on over and join the discussion at Thus Spoke Zuska.

At A Replicated Typo, Sean further explores the social sensitivity hypothesis. He builds on a previous post that discussed the correlation researchers found between certain genetic variants and degrees of collectivism versus individualism in society. The social sensitivity hypothesis states that:
that certain genetic variants will make a person more sensitive to social contact and more reliant on social contact under stress, it proposes that certain genetic variants ‘fit’ better with certain social structures.
Sean raises a question about migratory patterns and proposes that genetics may also make individuals less socially reliant, and those individuals may be more likely to migrate and settle elsewhere. So areas settled later, such as the Americas would have a higher instance of individualism in its population. Sean has generated his own model to test these ideas—it's definitely worth a read.

We can pause here for a moment of sensitivity from Kermit.

The Trinity Church blog, The Archivist's Mailbag is thinking ahead to Halloween already with a feature on epitaphs from the church's famous graveyard. (I have some Trinity posts planned for October as well, so this was a great find and precursor of what is to come.)

Finally, there's a bit of whining sharing happening over at LabSpaces where bloggers are writing about things they wish they had known. There is of course a post about moving to New York, and it contains all the cliched items you expect on a list like this:
  • parking sucks
  • don't talk to strangers
  • it's crowded
It's all true. So if you're thinking of moving to NYC, it might be worth a read—because, yes, it's true and New York City makes no apologies for it. But it's not all bad either: Dr. Becca amends the post with a comment about how much she enjoys living in NYC. (Seriously kidding about the whining. There are some great bloggers at LabSpaces.)

That's all for this time, folks. Remember, you can send me suggestions on things you find interesting in your web travels on Twitter at @anthinpractice or via email. I'm always interested in knowing what you're reading.

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