I was assigned to read "Sensical Translations: Three Case Studies in Applied Cognitive Communications," which I found to be quite interesting as it entailed an applied anthropological approach to something I have read in previous classes, namely the metaphorical understanding of complex issues adopted by the population at large.
This article discusses the FrameWorks Institute, whose goal is to investigate how our society thinks about social issues, and to help bridge the gap between expert/scientific understanding and public thinking. The research methods used are collectively called a "strategic frame analysis," consisting of cultural models interviews, media content analysis and peer discourse sessions. The strategies employed to reframe public opinion boiled down to two: cultural values and explanatory metaphors. By using these tools, researchers at FrameWorks attempt to foreground the information and knowledge considered by experts to be necessary to full understanding, while backgrounding the assumptions that may work against a comprehensive understanding.
This essay discussed three separate social issues: child mental health, budgets and taxes, and environmental health.
Investigations into the concept of child health revealed a need for a reframing strategy that will foreground an ecological perspective regarding mental health, a model of CMH as linked to brain development and functionality, and a feeling of pragmatism and solvability. The new framework must also push to the background the individualistic assumptions about personal responsibility and the concept of mental health as mostly "feelings". Effective metaphors for bringing about these changes include the brain architecture model, the toxic stress association and the table levelness metaphor.
Budgets and taxes represent what Lindland and Kendall-Taylor call a "cognitive lacuna." That is, the key issues defined by experts as necessary to understanding the reality of a chosen domain are weak or completely nonexistent in public discourse. The goal of this research is, obviously, to fill this lacuna. Combining metaphorical knowledge already in place in public schemas of exchange and cultural values of future planning, the team at FrameWorks was able to develop a "forward exchange" explanation of budget and taxes, which successfully dismantles the individualistic "getting my money's worth" concept and replaces it with a more cooperative, community-based approach.
The third case study about environmental health has yet to conclude anything. This, however, is where my previous education may come into play. "Knowledge, ignorance and the popular culture: climate
change versus the ozone hole" written by Sheldon Ungar discussed the knowledge gap in the public regarding global warming. It appeared through careful analysis that the "ozone hole" metaphor was more easily grasped by the public than the significantly more complicated concept of "global warming," and the various processes it entails. Basically, since we have a militaristic concept of "shields" and armor in connection to bodily safety, the ozone hole theory ("puncturing of the protective shield") fit in nicely with pre-approved schemas. It is nice to see concepts I have previously been exposed to be demonstrated as an applied science, rather than information for the sake of information!
I also really enjoyed seeing academic work being applied for the enhancement of human well-being! What is admirable about Frameworks is that they are doing applied work in such a methodologically robust way. They first do ethnographic work and literature reviews to understand their target populations (lay public and experts), and then move to a prescriptive, iterative stage of research to propose and refine solutions to communication problems between the public and experts. They rely on cognitive anthropology and cultural models theory, but also incorporate quantitative testing of their ideas. This is a great example of applied mixed-methods anthropology. I'm curious whether Frameworks ever does follow up work on the success of their communication recommendations. One thing they could have talked about a little bit more is culture change. It seems to me that Frameworks takes a static view of culture. Once they've described the problem and provided alternative ways to communicate knowledge, they seem to stop. How can we think about how their recommendations actually end up changing culture?
What struck me about this class discussion, and the readings in general for this class was the breadth of topics covered. It makes me wonder if neuroanthropology as a discipline has a field of study. Is neuroanthropology simply a perspective that can be applied to a myriad of basic science and societal problems? Does neuroanthropology have core questions? Perhaps it is a lack of a particular field of study that allows neuroanthropology to be applied to a wide variety of issues, as evidenced by this special issue.
"Life history and real life: an example of neuroanthropology in Aboriginal Australia" (Burbank, Victoria, K. 2012):
This article traces the etiology of the “disturbing difference in mortality between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians” (p. 149) back to the destruction of a way of life, brought about by colonialism (p. 155) and well-meaning missionaries. Burbank challenges deterministic arguments about race and ill health and seeks rather “to understand the mechanisms whereby environmental factors, especially those from the social environment, may not simply affect but transform human bodies and minds” (p.149), influencing fetal and infant development, for example, with long-term consequences not only for that child, but also their off-spring, and grand-offspring. She applies the Developmental origins of health and disease (DOHaD) model, which uses a life history approach. A life history framework goes beyond the ‘nature vs. nurture’ dichotomy that is often applied in social determinants of health research and looks at the events that shaped the development of a species or social group. (p.150). She indicates the “neuroendocrine architecture, particularly the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis” as the mechanisms by which allostatic load, or the experience of stress due to the “cumulative biological cost of maintaining stability vis-a-vischanges in internal and external environment,” creates a restricted and unpredictable uterine environment (p. 151).
She points specifically to two practices of the Rose River Missions project at Numbulwar that likely contributed to maternal stress and thus laid the foundation for the current health problems of the Aboriginal people:
• Outlawing polygyny: which put extra pressure on the sole woman in the marriage to bear many children for her husband (a task that used to be shared by many wives)
• The change from a hunter gatherer, nomadic lifestyle to encouraging them to live a settled and respectable life, with ‘real’ jobs and earning ‘real’ wages. “every endeavor was made to change them from being nomad into people living settled lives in communities… they were taught health and hygiene, and worthwhile trade and occupations” (p. 157). This new sedentary lifestyle further changed fertility patterns and spacing of births “Cowlishaw (1981) also observed the increase in fertility, the lengthening of the fertile period and the decrease in birth spacing among women on missions and government settlements.
(p.159) Diet changed as well.
The author does not doubt that the Missionairies at Rose River where indeed “people of compassion,” concerned with the well-being of the Aboriginal people (p. 181), yet their well-meaning interference may have led or contributed to current health inequalities. She urges us to consider possible future affects of current 'well-meaning' policies.
"From White Bullets to Black Markets and Greened Medicine: the Neuroeconomics and neuroracial politics of opioid pharmaceuticals." (Hansen and Skinner 2012)
This article “traces the “interaction between neuroeconomies and social systems of control. “ (p. 168)
Two opioids used to treat opioid addictions: Buprenorphine & Methadone; two populations: employed, high income white & low income, black and Latino; Two interpretations and treatment: socially accepted, prescribed by physician and taken at home, vs. stigmatized, administered in clinic, with strict control and surveillance.
“Ironically, the attempt to fully biomedicalize opiate addiction, and thereby eliminate the stigma of addiction, by treating it with long-term pharmaceuticals in physicians’ offices, has led to forms of ethnic marketing that heighten stratification and stigma by race [by marketing/making it accessible only to high income, white, population] p. 176.
Thus, high income, white addicts are now no longer stigmatized (or less so) for their opioids abuse, because it has been channeled into socially acceptable (and economically profitable, because the pharmaceutical companies are making a lot of money off it) means of control, through biomedical discourse of addiction as a disease similar to diabetes. Just like a diabetic needs to administer insulin, so an addict needs the approved opiate. But the unemployed, low-income, black latino class is excluded from this paradigm because they cannot afford this socially approved/accepted means of treating their addiction. They must resort to methodane treatment to overcome other opioid addiction, which is still stigmatized.
Cultural Variation in Rugby Skills: A Preliminary Neuroanthropological Report
Different Pacific islands’ rugby teams learned the game in different ways. Each player potentially had an entirely different “mental map” of how to play the game. This goes against the more westernized notion that athletes should be trained in the same way in conjunction with their respective sports. This article proposes that because of the variation in brain patterns in athletes, their training should be more personalized to their unique abilities. This made me think about the standardized tests that are routinely taken by students in elementary grade levels. Because each person has a unique style of learning and because different people’s brains grow and change in different ways, could this applied to how students are taught and how they are tested? Downey also takes this idea to a broader level in discussing the cultural variation in skill.
One quote from this reading that caught my attention was “sports commentary and coaching are strongholds of obsolete and essentialist thinking—racism and faith in ‘talent’ which borders on genetic predestinationism.” This is important in the context of discussing talent of players because for a long time certain ethnic groups were thought (and often still are) to be inherently good at sports. Even listening to football game analyses there is very much a kind of racial bias towards different players’ skills. I think this paper demonstrates the significance of actually looking at the way the brain changes while learning and playing sports. It points out the importance of how training affects the nervous system.
Downey also discusses the model of enskilment, which means “learning is inseparable from doing, and in which both are embedded in the context of a practical engagement in the world.” He argues that enskilment is beneficial to neuroanthropology because is emphasizes the biocultural processes that contribute to enculturation. I took this to mean that enskilment is a part of enculturation in that learning a certain skill or practicing any kind of mental/physical discipline will kind of “train” the brain to kind of rewire in a way that accommodates for the continued practice of that discipline. This in turn feeds into the cultural context of the person who learns a certain skill. One example of this that he gives is a study done on the math skills of American and Chinese children. The children were given the same math problem to work out, and different parts of the brain activated in the Americans than the Chinese children.
He also discusses the use of eye-tracking technology to measure the attention of athletes, since eye motions can give insight into the visual and cognitive processing of the individual. However, as he points out, it would be very difficult to conduct an experiment using this method, as players would likely not be able to use the same cognitive processes they are accustomed to in a laboratory setting. I assume that if a method of tracking the more “natural” eye movements of players during a real game becomes a possibility then a cross-cultural comparison will be made for all types of athletics. This could potentially give insight into how different cultures go about learning and implementing skills on a neurological level, which could also provide talent scouts with a more accurate standard of assessing different players’ level of skill.
This article is yet another example of the plasticity of the brain in response to enculturation. I really like the idea of using eye-tracking to measure attention. Even though it would be hard to track the attention of rugby players in a lab setting, it might be useful to measure attention in different contexts. Perhaps if neuroanthropologists tracked the eyes in similar situations, such as driving or playing a video game, it could give more insight into the process of enculturation.
Empathy and the Robot: A Neuroanthropological Analysis by Katie Glaskin
In her article, Glaskin discusses the developing technology within the robotics field. Robots can be used for numerous purposes, but the focus of this article is on socially interactive robots that can interact with humans. A major aspect of the social interaction between humans and robots involves emotions; in order for a person to empathize and relate to a robot, the robot must display emotion. Humans will tend to anthropomorphize the robot, aiding the social process. Robots can be designed to either demonstrate emotion-like responses or actually demonstrate emotions. Emotion-like responses replicate the appearance of emotions, while actually creating emotions within a robot is more challenging. It is more challenging due to the fact that emotions are influenced by empathy and culture. Other aspects are considered, such as the difference between feelings (internal states) and emotions (the external experience), and the primary (universal and innate) and secondary (social) emotions.
An example of a robot with emotion-like response is a baby seal robot used therapeutically. It can interact with the environment, adapt its behavior from these interactions, and express its feelings in response to a stimulus. On the other hand, affective computing actually creates emotions in robots and requires five components necessary for this result to occur: emergent emotions, fast primary emotions, cognitively generated emotions, emotional experience, and body-mind interaction. Some robots are programmed to have learning and developmental abilities that involve an embodied approach. Glaskin says, “Robotic learning can be ‘embodied’ in the sense that robots have mechanical ‘bodies’ that can be covered in ‘skin’ that includes ‘pain sensors’ and ‘algorithms for learning’.”
Hybrid theories of emotion are also mentioned, discussing that not all emotions are biologically based and many are influenced by culture. Options for systematizing empathy (which involves mirror neurons and the amygdala) in robots are also discussed, along with the challenges, such as cultural variation and the influence of experience. In conclusion, the author proposes the view that culture influences more than just emotions, but also our bodily states and the experience of emotion.
I really enjoyed reading this article. I am fairly unaware of the technological advancements within the robotics field, and I think that the development of emotions in these creations is really amazing. I thought that the author did a nice job of summarizing the important aspects of this endeavor, and I have a better understanding of some of the details within emotion. I also agreed with her point that culture influences more than just the social experience of emotions, and I'm interested to see where/how fast this process of advancement goes. I also really enjoyed understanding why robots are so accepted within Japan, as opposed to some other countries, such as Australia. For example, their history, religious view of Animism, and language and the use of "to be" all play a role in robot popularity.
There were two different things that I found particularly compelling in this article. One is something that Glaskin brings up right at the end of her article: when we're talking about building robots with emotions, we're talking about imbuing them with a particular understanding of emotions. Many researchers use Antonio Damasio's model of emotions (the primary and secondary emotions mentioned above) when attempting to code emotions into robots. Little to no consideration is given to the idea that Damasio's model of emotions might not capture emotions in a cultural context outside of the halls of academia and the West in general. Another point Glaskin highlights is that humans can be empathetic because of our shared physiology, and that this may be an insurmountable difficulty in inserting emotion into robots. An interesting extension of this idea is that robots that have shared "physiology" might then be able to relate to the "feelings" of another robot, enabling something analogous to "empathy." It's mind boggling to imagine a world in which robots experience something like empathy because of their shared embodiment of the environment and "physiological state."
I am also curious about other models of emotion, as Edward mentions. What if there is a different, easier way to understand the emotions that humans feel? Is there a better way to give robots emotions? I think giving robots empathy would be incredibly complex, as not all humans are even capable of it. This sort of thing also is interesting as well as slightly scary. I think this new frontier is a great place for neuroanthropology to make strides in the understanding of our own minds as well as the technological side.
I thought this article was interesting, but I found myself getting caught up in some serious ethical dilemmas revolving around providing a non-human lifeform human characteristics ranging from judgment to emotional response. If we are creating machinery which is able to empathize with its owner, utilize logical pathways, and learn from varying response and form personal connections that vary in depth and meaning, then employing them in the service industry seems entirely too much like slavery to me; however, I'm not entirely certain if this is a negative thing or not, because we could use robotics to end one of the world's most ancient and cruel (but sadly nearly always necessary for any kind of significant economic or social progress) practices.
This aside, I did think that the way cultural differences among nations influences how they feel about humanoid machinery was incredibly interesting. I, personally, am a bit weirded out by the idea of a non-human creation having human characteristics, but seeing how a person raised in another place may view it in an entirely different way has given me quite a bit to consider.
Upon rereading the robotics article, I found myself asking different questions. Rather than being caught up in the “weirdness” of interacting regularly with this kind of machine, I tried to think about what the benefits could be. I thought about how useful it could be in the long-term in certain contexts, such as providing companionship to those who struggle with interpersonal relationships as a form of therapy. Given that we don’t know everything about our own emotions and decision-making processes, it’s something of a frightening thought that a machine may be able to reason the way a human can without feeling – a lack of empathy in such a machine could prove seriously detrimental to us, but if their brains aren’t as complex as ours are, perhaps that won’t be a problem.
I found the articles I was assigned from the Annals of Anthropological Practice shared a common theme. Both discussed how culture and mental illness interplay together. The first article (Kohrt et al, 2012) gave an account of an ethnography of Bhutanese Nepali refugees in America with a focus on how mental healthcare providers can use Nepali understandings of the self to better serve the refugee population. The authors argue that since the Nepali studied view a distinction between the "heart-mind" and the "brain-mind and the heart-mind is associated with emotion while the brain-mind is associated with reason, mental healthcare providers should take this distinction into account as they use psychotherapy to treat Bhutanese refugees.
The other article (Myers, 2012) was a case study and ethnography of a prisoner, Leroy, who was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder following an 80-day stay in solitary confinement. The author argues that it might have been the case that the stint in solitary confinement presented an extreme contextual stressor on Leroy. According to the diathesis-stress model, problems can arise when a person with a prior predisposition to a mental condition experiences a significant stressor at some point in their life. The author argues that it is important to consider the stress of solitary confinement as a possible triggering event for a psychosis like schizophrenia. Furthermore, the author concludes that a nueroanthropological study should be conducted in prisons to assess whether solitary confinement might contribute to later psychosis in prisoners.
Both of these articles dealt with how culture interacts with the mind. Different concepts of the self can interfere with how predominantly western concepts of psychological health are applied to patients of differing nationalities. Moreover, culture in the form of contextual stressors can be a trigger in the development of psychological illness as per the diathesis-stress model. Given the current state of the times with large-scale refugee movements and recent changes to solitary confinement sentences, I found these articles to be remarkably salient to today. Seeing neuroanthropology applied to real-world problems dramatically helped me in seeing the far-reaching implications of this new field. I am even more convinced now that nueroanthropology will assist in how we view mental illness, how to appropriately treat patients, and how to combat the stigma associated with illness.
In the articles that I was assigned there was a bit of an overlap in the theme of feelings and how there are portrayed. I really enjoyed the article by Glaskin titles “Empathy And the Robot”. Robots are often thought of as inanimate objects that can conduct specific duties. The word robot means a act of labor that is forced or in the form of being a slave. Glaskin dives into the heart of robots and how they are slowly by surely making their appearance into society as well as being acknowledged in the sense of being people. Japan is noted as being the robot kingdom throughout the world. While many robots are making their debuts there is one distinguished robot named Nao. Nao not only has the ability to “show emotions but he can also develop emotions” as well (Glaskin 69). Emotion is much deeper than just one’s facial expressions but how they in fact feel inside and out. Glaskin mentions that in order for man to create a robot who interacts with humans if it important that the individuals view the robot as one of their own.
The only way for a robot to interact with humans effectively is if the robot is placed in an environment where the robot as seen as a being and not a machine that is commanded to perform a specific service. Having the ability to create robots who embody emotions is a cultural challenge. Emotions are very complex as they are triggered differently for each individual. Two people will not react the same in every situation that may arise even if they are prepared for the worst. Changes in the human body occur based on the current emotions that one is feeling, facial expressions and heart rate are just a few changes that Glaskin mentions. The robots such as Nao are learning emotions as they form bonds with the humans who spend much of their time molding the robot for many circumstances it might encounter.
Robots are widely accepted in Japan because the Japanese believe that everything has a soul whether or not it is an animate or inanimate object. If humans are said to have a soul this also means that the robots have a soul to (Glaskin 78). Because of this mindset the Japanese are more open to have robots enter into their everyday life allowing them to sense emotions and how they are portrayed. Picard mentions that “even if a machine has emotions we cannot expect it to feel how we feel” (Glaskin 81). It does not matter if these robots encounter humans each and every day and learn to store emotions and feelings based on what they see they are still a form of machine that has been conditioned.
I really liked this article as I have never thought of robots as having the ability to endure the same feelings that I have in a given day. Like the word robota I have always thought as robots just being a machine that was programmed to conduct one given specific duty.
This article was one of the most interesting articles that I was able to read this semester. I think one of the main reason that I have enjoyed it was because I have been fascinated with Robots since I was a very little girl. Trying to wrap my mind around the fact they could perform duties of an adult. Even twenty years later I am still curious and trying to wrap my mind around the idea that the individuals in japan is noted as having feelings. If they can make robots express emotions at the drop of a hat it really makes you wonder what kinds of other inventions I will see in my life time. From an anthropology aspect it really sends the idea of having a holistic viewpoint and meeting individuals on their terms. This is the exact idea that the Japanese are trying to convey through there robots which they have build and in a sense trained.
Looking back, given what is now known about Flint, Michigan and other places facing environmental discrimination in this country, I think it is important that neuroanthropology studies the effects lead poisoning in order to both counteract theories that feature a reductionist perspective that ignores context and to develop services that can better help those affected. I think that incorporating an applied anthropology focus into the broader neuroanthropology will help develop the new field.
One of the two documents I read this week was by Helena Hansen and Mary E. Skinner. The article was titled: “From White Bullets to Black Markets and Greened Medicine: The Neuroeconomics and Neuroracial Politics of Opioid Pharmaceuticals”. Hansen and Skinner provide perspective on the social stratification of opioid treatment and addiction in United States populations. Specifically, the Black and Latino urban poor and white middle class populations. The focused issue by the authors concerns the reinforced stigma that provides structure to the biological, political, and economic dependence of the various classes of opioid markets (167).
Opioid maintenance drugs of importance in this article are methadone and buprenorphine. The racial and class stratification of these drugs is particularly significant in the United States as we consume 80% of the world’s opioids supply (168). The polarization of methadone and buprenorphine is partially caused the the residual criminalization and association with marginal populations (168). Large pharmaceutical profits are made within this polarization.
Hansen and Skinner discuss one of the more popular opioids, oxycodone (marketed as Oxycontin). FDA approved in 1996, Oxycontin was advertised as a “minimally addictive” painkiller (169). After more than half of the country’s primary doctors prescribed the drug before they realized that a tolerance could be built up and patients could become dependent on Oxycontin. Treatments to combat this addiction were rarely adhered to until methadone was used as treatment maintenance. However, stigma followed methadone, which was more commonly used in impoverished neighborhoods with Black and Latino residents (171). At the same time, buprenorphine was receiving it’s own social status as a white middle class drug (173). A lack of regulation around buprenorphine led to its abuse among intravenous drug users. Yet the drug was still commonly prescribed as the best hope for opioid addicts.
The pattern surrounding opioid abuse seems to be that it is marketed as a non addictive substance until proven other wise. When building on a stark socially stratified system, stigma is perpetuated through the use of opioid and opioid maintenance drugs.
I found this article deeply interesting. It is amazing how the popularization of Oxycontin, accompanied with a false label of being minimally addictive, has the ability to create stigma within our levels of socioeconomic status. And that pharmaceutical companies are constructed on the foundation of these profits. I found it interesting that methadone was seen as a drug of poverty because of where it was most commonly prescribed, but buprenorphine was not associated with the same stigma despite being originally used as a HIV prevention medication. I wonder if this had much to do with the perspective of HIV/AIDS being divided by categories of race and sexuality.
The article by Collura & Lende provides an applied neuroanthropological approach to PTSD and its rising prevalence. This article provides a complementary perspective to the biomedical and psychiatric perspective on PTSD, highlighting the relevance of interpretation and meaning-making of trauma both before, during, and after it is experienced. Collura & Lende also highlight the relevance of identity to the experience of combat and trauma (in terms of their identity as a soldier and their identity back home). Possible avenues for preventing PTSD are provided, including identity cards that help maintain a balance of overall cultural identity along with the soldiers’ more narrow institutional identity as well as taking measures to improve communication and therefore the effectiveness of the “battle-buddy system”.
This article offers a very insightful and useful application of neuroanthropology to a long existing problem, PTSD in soldiers. I think they rightly refuse to ignore broader institutional factors of relevance, such as the overrepresentation of individuals from lower socioeconomic statuses in the armed forces. While the authors do not address this fact much besides referencing it, this is understandable, as major institutional changes are unlikely (and unfortunately) realistic. Instead, they focus on more modest changes that can be more immediately implemented.
The article by Burbank examines how stressors “get under the skin” and manifest in intergenerational health outcomes. Drawing from life history theory and the developmental origins of health and disease model, Burbank outlines how maternal stress can impact the development and health of their children. Burbank highlights health disparities found in Australia among Indigenous populations and their non-Indigenous counterparts, and traces historical roots of inequality as a source of this. Harsher conditions experienced by the Indigenous population could have prenatal ramifications, as fetal growth can be negatively affected with the result of a low birth weight, which is an antecedent to later life health complications, including Type 2 diabetes, hypertension, coronary heart disease, and depressive disorders.
I found this article very interesting and relevant as the field of epigenetics continues to grow at a rapid pace along with its relevance to intergenerational health. Recently, a study was conducted under this same framework by Rodney & Mulligan (2014), in which they examined maternal stressors in the Democratic Republic of Congo in order to see if different stressors had a relationship with low birth weight as well as gene methylations (an epigenetic mechanism that “turns off” a gene). They found that stressors did have a relationship with a specific methylation of a gene relevant to the stress response as well as low birth weight. This relationship also depended on the stressor, as the most extreme stressor of being exposed to war explained more variance in the methylation than the stressor of inadequate material resources. This study provides further evidence for the combined use of life history theory and the developmental origins of health and disease model for explaining health disparities.
Rodney, N. C., & Mulligan, C. J. (2014). A biocultural study of the effects of maternal stress on mother and newborn health in the Democratic Republic of Congo. American journal of physical anthropology, 155(2), 200-209.
The article by Collura & Lende is particularly interesting following the discussion of identity construction and narrative a few weeks ago. Understanding that identity is fluid and always being constructed is highlighted through this article. Based on our class discussion, it would be interesting to see the role of narrative construction incorporated into the identity aspect of this article.
Greg Downey's article, Culture Variation in Rugby Skills: A Preliminary Neuroanthropological Report, discusses the difference in how rugby skills are acquired throughout the pacific island nations. Downey focuses on the great differences and variations on how these skills are taught to the players in different cultures in the pacific. Some of the major differences are between the Australian teams - teaching in a more rigorous process of drilling and concepts of the game - and islands like Tonga and Fiji - which strictly teach in a form of scrimmages between local groups or teams. On page 29 Downey describes the difference between two practices in anthropology to explain skill acquisition. The first is enculturation, “entails an internalisation of collective representations" or creating an understanding of something through its practice. The second is enskilment, "learning is inseparable from doing, and in which both are embedded in the context of a practical engagement in the world—that is, in dwelling".
Downey concludes that coaches of rugby that teach developmental skills and anthropologists seek for the same things when coaching and studying. His main point in this argument is that both the coach and the anthropologist are looking for diversity and variation in the players or subjects. Having a wide variety of players on a rugby team creates a more well rounded team, which is why he suggests that many players from island nations are contracted to other nations or private leagues. This can be said for a study conducted by an anthropologist, in that the more variation in the study the better or more true the results will be.
Downey's article was meant to show the similarities in what rugby coaches and anthropologists look for when putting together a team or group of participants for a study. He concludes that both are looking for a wide variety of diversity among the groups in order to receive the best results.
Downey says that the best rugby teams are comprised of athletes from all over the world to make up the most well-rounded team. Stating that the cultural differences between each player affected how they learned to play the sport and that how each player works together creates the most efficient team. Downey says that in this way, the coach of the team is like an anthropologist seeking people from all over the place to create unbiased and well concluded results. Although I find this to be very interesting and helpful to creating a great rugby team, I find it slightly inaccurate after discussing the subject in class.
Although most anthropological studies look for variety within the participants, it is rare to see two people from direct opposite cultures to be directly compared or studied in one experiment. Many of the anthropological research we have read about throughout this class focuses on a small group of individuals from one culture, often with similar experiences in life. For instance, the group of autistic people from Israel and the group of teenagers who used drugs in Columbia.
Although this cross-comparison of rugby and anthropology was interesting I think that the research or thesis could have been stronger.
Downey, G. "Cultural Variation in Rugby Skills" and Lende, D. H. "Poverty Poisons the Brain."
The two articles I was assigned to review were very different, in that Downey talked about cultural variability in "enskilment" in sports, whereas Lende talked about the multifaceted effects of poverty on human brain ontogeny. However, the uniting theme of both articles was their attention to the fact that early experience (i.e., the psychophysiological reactions to diverse and constant culturally-mediated stimuli) shapes how humans develop.
An important observation by Downey is that there is cultural/geographic variation in how rugby (and sports in general) are played. He notes that as skills are trained (similar to Bourdieu-ean "habitus"), there are certain shifts in neuroanatomy and cognitive function (especially in problem-solving).
One of the things I thought of when reading about differences in problem solving was actually an early psychological experiment involving a chimp devising ways to reach bananas hanging from the ceiling. The researchers had left certain tools in the room: a ladder was what they expected it to use. However, someone had accidentally left a broom in the room, which the chimpanzee grabbed and used to whack the bananas until they fell from the ceiling.
Lende, on the other hand, talked about the multiple avenues by which the overall theme of poverty "poisons" the brain. Through less tangible things like stress (and therefore hormones), to more tangible things like lack of access to healthy foods (or foods at all, for that matter) and living in environments that allow for children to ingest lead, poverty has ways of keeping people down. To a point, it reminded me of Gravlee (2009) "How Race Becomes Biology" --Relatedly, Lende outlines how Poverty then becomes biology.
“Sensical Translations: Three Case Studies in Applied Cognitive Communications”
This article, written by Eric Lindland and Nathaniel Kendall-Taylor of the FrameWorks Institute, describes a unique method of “applying cultural models and metaphor theory from cognitive anthropology to develop communications devices that reframe public understandings and discourses on social problems.” They focus on three case studies which exemplify a substantial disconnect between scientific and public knowledge, and the process by which “explanatory metaphors” are utilized to close this gap and alter cultural perception of an issue in such a way that allows the person to see it from a more accurate and expansive way. Three different kinds of communications tasks are described: 1) bringing a recessive, public cognitive model to the foreground of public thinking; 2) filling a domain-specific “cognitive lacuna” (basically a gap in knowledge) by introducing a modified version of an existing model from a related domain; and 3) building off or working around an existing dominant model which is consistent with expert knowledge, but incomplete.
The authors begin by describing the desire of Western anthropologists to determine the margins between what we consider culturally “common sense” knowledge and those we gain in the pursuit of specialized knowledge, particularly those which revolve around social issue. The FrameWorks Institute focuses on discovering ways to engage the public in thinking about public policy, and does so by means of an innovative communications research method referred to as Strategic Frame Analysis, which works to illuminate how communications in general (but particularly media) influence public support for certain policies. In order for this research method to be affective, two major assumptions are adopted: that all people operate with multiple models in mind, and that human cognition is layered – that is, people construct their models at varying degrees of meaning-making (ranging from more specific to more general). Once research is underway, anthropologists have been able to “map” the gaps between the primary forms of shared public thinking and the expert opinions on the issue, which then leads to the development of more effective methods of communication.
Research methods fall into two distinct categories: descriptive and prescriptive. The former utilizes interview, materials reviews to determine content and messaging strategies (network and cable TV, newspapers, radio, online news, blogs), literature reviews, and professional conference attendance by ethnographers. They then seek to identify models that appear to be shared most broadly, and deemphasize any differences they find. Prescriptive research relies on certain tools (usually values and explanatory metaphor) that are able to reframe public understanding of a social issue, which are later tested extensively to see how the information is exchanged between individuals and whether understanding remains intact.
They describe three case studies in detail, revolving around child mental health, budgets and taxes, and environmental health. In all three situations, sets of “dominant cultural models [are] persistently applied in ways that occlude more science-based or comprehensive understandings of the issue[s]” which are ultimately contributing to the hindrance of social progress. The goal of the CMH project was to shift from this dominant model to a more back-grounded model which may be able to “upstage” the dominant one. In the CMH study specifically, the goal was to shift people’s perception of child mental health from the idea that mental health is simply a combination of “feelings” that we must learn to control, or a simple chemical imbalance that can be corrected with the right combination of prescription drugs and lifestyle changes to one that understands how several factors contribute to a child’s mental health, including the importance of the community a child grows in, that prolonged and severe stress can negatively impact it, that having poor foundations of health and development is related to poor mental health, and finally that CMH refers to a child’s ability to function. Once these areas were recognized, research of the prescriptive variety could commence. This research yielded three metaphors that seemed to be effective in altering public perception: brain architecture (brain can be compared to building a house from the bottom up), toxic stress (that some types of stress can disrupt development and ultimately damage the stress response and its related systems, and levelness (helped people comprehend both the range of factors that can affect CMH and recognize that mental health can be located in the brain). These metaphors were then paired with the values of national prosperity and ingenuity, which promote a
The article “Towards an Applied Neuroanthropology of Psychosis: Interplay of Culture, Brains, and Experience” by Myers, provided an ethnographic case study of a man diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder and the events of his life that led to his diagnosis. In the interview, Leroy (the subject of study), discussed his upbringing. From birth he was label by his grandmother to have ‘the veil over his eyes’ which culturally for her meant that he could see what others could not. In his childhood he saw things, and had dreams and so his aunt performed exorcisms to rid him of the spirits, which worked for him. But growing up poor with no way out of his situation led him to make poor decisions, that he knew were bad but did out of care for his friends. Eventually this led him to prison. In prison he was a model prisoner which ultimately led to his downfall, in which he was alienated. Eventually this stress triggered him to offend an officer who put him in solitary for 80 days. A man who had was prone to visions and delusions as a child was subjected to being isolated alone with nothing but his thoughts that eventually overcame him and led to his psychiatric disorder. This cultural stressor of solitary triggered his schizoaffective disorder, a disorder he was susceptible to because of his development. This article emphasizes how culture experience or life experience can ‘get under the skin’ and have a biological and psychological effect on persons. It is discussed that in western culture it is harder to overcome these psychiatric disorder labels because of the cultural stressors, whereas in other cultures it can be improved or the title can be removed in entirety. Myers goes into length about the chemical changes that can occur due to stressors and that when those stressors cease, the chemical levels or “allostatic overload” can diminish (Myers 122). I found this article to be very intriguing and I would like to understand more of how diagnosis of disorders vary culturally and can be treated or even eliminated based on cultural experiences and views on them and how proactive approaches can be studied in order to prevent such disorders from hindering one’s life experience.
The article “Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Neuroanthropology: Stopping PTSD Before it Begins”, by Collura and Lende discusses how a neuroanthropological approach can be applied to PTSD. They state that Neuroanthropology combines interdisciplinary studies that show what they call “a big picture” of stress and trauma (Collura & Lende 131). Through cultural formations, biocultural responses and neuroscience, researchers can begin to recognize certain cultural contexts and stressors can increase the probability of PTSD after a traumatic experience like those in combat zones. The article discusses in length the definition of PTSD and the criteria of the diagnosis while noting that there is no preparation for the experience by which can result in it. There are merely post institutional treatments for PTSD where there should be a proactive approach in preventing it in the first place. Unfortunately PTSD has been constrained to be viewed as a ‘medicalized psychiatric disorder’ that is defined in exclusively psychobiological terms (Collura & Lende 133). PTSD can be examined anthropologically not just through biological terms and psychology.
Both articles emphasize this idea of cultural experience ‘getting under the skin’. This is something I find to have a strong influence on how psychiatric disorders need to be analyzed and interpreted, not only for research purposes but as a way to understand these disorders and the triggers. Neuroanthropology can provide those with ‘ high potential’ for these disorders to be able to take a proactive approach to the disorder before it becomes a problem.
After class discussion, I still feel that both of these articles provide important insight in how psychological diseases need to be viewed neuroanthropologically. Psychological disorders cannot just be viewed by one interdisciplinary area of study. A multitude of factors such as culture, psychology, biology, and life experiences can all influence an individual and can trigger certain conditions.
Both of the articles I read had a similarity between them. Both of the articles deal with how culture and the mind are entangled and have affects on one another. In the first article i read by Collura and Lende examines PTSD through a nuroanthropological lens. The authors highlight the facts that there had been little efforts by the military or any other entity for that matter to focus on a predeployment approach to dealing with and understanding PTSD Nuroanthropologically the authors want to emphasize the importance of understanding how trauma, stress, and adversity are experienced and interpenetrated before during and after combat experiences. The stress the importance of culture, and cultural identity of the individual, and how trauma can alter the understanding of how the individual understands them self. Another important element of the article is the idea of dislocation and how a soldier in many ways and forms is constantly being dislocated from their own personal cultural identity and that can greatly affect their potential to have PTSD. Later in the article they give various suggestions as to how soldiers can prepare for these things on a personal level.
The second article i read by Laurenzo was just as fascinating and interesting as the one by Collura and Lende, and even shared similar themes. This article also dealt with how the culture has an affect on the brain. This article was dealing with psychotic disorders, and specifically highlighted the case of a schizophrenic man who had just got out of an 80 day stent in solitary confinement. The author places emphasis on the life history's of individuals with psychiatric disorders and how that life history in turn effects that individual. However, more focus and emphasis was on stress and how it can perpetuate disorders such as schizophrenia. The author want to look at and understand how solitary confinement relates to effects psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia.
Both of these article are highly effective at getting their point across and are very rich in information. These articles show a better way to approach and understand mental illness is through an anthropological channel, more specifically a nuroanthropological channel.Instead of continuing the "assembly line" method of treating mental illness the medical and the scientific community should be more proactive in helping to understand these different forms illness through multidisciplinary studies. These two articles show how these approach to understanding can be very effective and positive.
The two articles that I covered in this section were, to me, studies that are truly nuroanthropological in nature. The articles do a good job at showing the interplay and exchange that the mind has with culture and that culture has on the mind.
That is not to say these article are 100% pure nuroanthropology. There are aspects that could be added to these studies to make the more so, but the field of nuroanthropology is still developing, and so are the studies associated with the field, but as it is understood now these studies fit the build for nuroanthropology.
While reading Katie Glaskin's article, "Empathy and the Robot," I found my ideas of artificial intelligence from the fictional movies and novels that I've known coming to life. Despite an initial sense of discomfort with the concept of robots being able to adapt to human emotion so easily, the article did a good job of redirecting that concern into support for the robotic 'cause' as it were. By addressing the distinction between feeling and emotion, feeling being the more private and in this sense 'human' event and emotion being the publicly expressed behavior for communicative purposes, the author does a brilliant job of dismantling the thought that robots could one day take over the world and leave us humans in the dust (or worse...). In fact, there are many practical and effective uses for robots that have the capability to express emotional states and interpret the emotional states of humans. One example of this practicality is mentioned with regard to the medical field in hospitals and with the care of elderly. Robots with emotional capabilities, even in a very basic fashion, can and do provide all of the consistency of a computer program with an added sense of attachment and care that we are used to thinking can only come from another human. Although human error can never be eradicated from life, the use of robots to minimize certain issues with processes in the medical, industrial, educational (etc.) fields could have impressive implications for our own and future generations.
In Brandon A Kohrt's article "Applying Nepali Ethnopsychology to Psychotherapy for the Treatment of Mental Illness and Prevention of Suicide Among Bhutanese Refugees," there is a particular emphasis on the differing ideologies regarding mental health between western culture and the Bhutanese culture. Due to the lack of accommodation in terms of mental health for immigrants who have been relocated, there is an astounding increase in the amount of suicides. The article encourages the investigation of integral methods regarding mental health so that the rates of suicide will eventually decrease.
Although I still fear the robotic apocalypse, I believe that having certain robotic assistants could have positive implications for people in the medical field, industrial field, and in education which could produce wonders for the general population and it's quality of life.
This blog is group authored by Dr. DeCaro and the students in his ANT 474/574: Neuroanthropology.