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Mercier H.,University of Pennsylvania | Sperber D.,French School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences | Sperber D.,Central European University
Behavioral and Brain Sciences | Year: 2011

Reasoning is generally seen as a means to improve knowledge and make better decisions. However, much evidence shows that reasoning often leads to epistemic distortions and poor decisions. This suggests that the function of reasoning should be rethought. Our hypothesis is that the function of reasoning is argumentative. It is to devise and evaluate arguments intended to persuade. Reasoning so conceived is adaptive given the exceptional dependence of humans on communication and their vulnerability to misinformation. A wide range of evidence in the psychology of reasoning and decision making can be reinterpreted and better explained in the light of this hypothesis. Poor performance in standard reasoning tasks is explained by the lack of argumentative context. When the same problems are placed in a proper argumentative setting, people turn out to be skilled arguers. Skilled arguers, however, are not after the truth but after arguments supporting their views. This explains the notorious confirmation bias. This bias is apparent not only when people are actually arguing, but also when they are reasoning proactively from the perspective of having to defend their opinions. Reasoning so motivated can distort evaluations and attitudes and allow erroneous beliefs to persist. Proactively used reasoning also favors decisions that are easy to justify but not necessarily better. In all these instances traditionally described as failures or flaws, reasoning does exactly what can be expected of an argumentative device: Look for arguments that support a given conclusion, and, ceteris paribus, favor conclusions for which arguments can be found. © 2011 Cambridge University Press.

Cristi A.,French School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences
Journal of the Acoustical Society of America | Year: 2010

The hypothesis that vocalic categories are enhanced in infant-directed speech (IDS) has received a great deal of attention and support. In contrast, work focusing on the acoustic implementation of consonantal categories has been scarce, and positive, negative, and null results have been reported. However, interpreting this mixed evidence is complicated by the facts that the definition of phonetic enhancement varies across articles, that small and heterogeneous groups have been studied across experiments, and further that the categories chosen are likely affected by other characteristics of IDS. Here, an analysis of the English sibilants /s/ and // in a large corpus of caregivers' speech to another adult and to their infant suggests that consonantal categories are indeed enhanced, even after controlling for typical IDS prosodic characteristics. © 2010 Acoustical Society of America.

Mari A.,French School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences
Journal of Semantics | Year: 2014

Reciprocal sentences display a variety of interpretations, ranging from 'strong reciprocity' to 'inclusive alternative orderings'. In this interpretation, every element in the reference set participates with some other member in the relation provided by the predicate either as the first or second argument. Current reciprocal theories cannot fully explain why some sentences that satisfy these truth conditions are in fact false and unacceptable, such as '#the boys are taller than each other' or '#my mother and I procreated each other.' The core insight of the paper is that reciprocal sentences are true if they describe a relation that is either actually or possibly strong reciprocal over the reference set, insofar as the possibilities are reasonable. A branching time framework is used, in which a notion of reasonability is defined. We focus on permanent relations, for which we provide a new definition in modal terms. We show that whenever the relation is asymmetric and permanent, each other-sentences are unacceptable. We consider cases in which the relation is asymmetric and non-permanent and the each other-sentences are also unacceptable.We introduce a new modal notion of decidedness, and prove that for asymmetric relations, permanency entails decidedness. Showing how (a)symmetry, (non-)decidedness and (non-)permanency interact and proving that the truth of each other-sentences requires the relation to be either non-asymmetric or non-decided, we ensure a large and previously unattained empirical coverage. © The Author 2013. Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved.

Guillemot H.,French School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences
Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B - Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics | Year: 2010

Climate modeling is closely tied, through its institutions and practices, to observations from satellites and to the field sciences. The validity, quality and scientific credibility of models are based on interaction between models and observation data. In the case of numerical modeling of climate and climate change, validation is not solely a scientific interest: the legitimacy of computer modeling, as a tool of knowledge, has been called into question in order to deny the reality of any anthropogenic climate change; model validations thereby bring political issues into play as well. There is no systematic protocol of validation: one never validates a model in general, but the capacity of a model to account for a defined climatic phenomenon or characteristic. From practices observed in the two research centers developing and using a climate model in France, this paper reviews different ways in which the researchers establish links between models and empirical data (which are not reduced to the latter validating the former) and convince themselves that their models are valid. The analysis of validation practices-relating to parametrization, modes of variability, climatic phenomena, etc.-allows us to highlight some elements of the epistemology of modeling. © 2010 Elsevier Ltd.

Dautriche I.,French School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences | Chemla E.,French School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences
Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning Memory and Cognition | Year: 2014

Upon hearing a novel word, language learners must identify its correct meaning from a diverse set of situationally relevant options. Such referential ambiguity could be reduced through repetitive exposure to the novel word across diverging learning situations, a learning mechanism referred to as crosssituational learning. Previous research has focused on the amount of information learners carry over from 1 learning instance to the next. In the present article, we investigate how context can modulate the learning strategy and its efficiency. Results from 4 cross-situational learning experiments with adults suggest the following: (a) Learners encode more than the specific hypotheses they form about the meaning of a word, providing evidence against the recent view referred to as single hypothesis testing. (b) Learning is faster when learning situations consistently contain members from a given group, regardless of whether this group is a semantically coherent group (e.g., animals) or induced through repetition (objects being presented together repetitively, just like a fork and a door may occur together repetitively in a kitchen). (c) Learners are subject to memory illusions, in a way that suggests that the learning situation itself appears to be encoded in memory during learning. Overall, our findings demonstrate that realistic contexts (such as the situation in which a given word has occurred; e.g., in the zoo or in the kitchen) help learners retrieve or discard potential referents for a word, because such contexts can be memorized and associated with a to-be-learned word. © 2014 American Psychological Association.

Bonneuil C.,French School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences
Biological Conservation | Year: 2015

Biodiversity offsetting (BO) is now a well-established mechanism worldwide. In several countries, it stands as a regulatory requirement and can be achieved via commercial transactions of biodiversity "credits". Little is known however among ecologists and BO practitioners about the genealogy of BO instruments and the historical factors that shaped them. It is only quite recently that the use of market-based instruments to protect the environment has gone from being politically anathema to politically correct. How can we account for this shift? To shed light on the rise of BOmarketmechanisms, we build upon historical records and historical research. This research documents a link between the emergence of BO market mechanism and the 1973-1990 rollback of environmental regulations. These results help contextualize the rise of market-based instruments in conservation science and policies within the ascent of a new "liberal environmentalism" policy paradigm. They therefore shed light on the co-evolutionary relationship linking conservation to societal and ideological dynamics. © 2015 Elsevier Ltd.

Lama-Rewal S.T.,French School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences
Environment and Urbanization | Year: 2011

This paper considers how changes in urban governance in Delhi over the last two decades have influenced the provision of health care services. It begins by describing the introduction of, or return to, elected governments for the National Capital Territory of Delhi and for the Municipal Corporation of Delhi. It then discusses public health care, which in effect serves low-income groups as most higher-income groups now use private services, and how this has changed, drawing on interviews and direct observations of elected representatives and officials at state and municipal levels, political cadres, NGOs, members of residential welfare associations and public health care users. The research focused on four municipal wards that included a middle-class area, a mixed-income area, a ward where many slum communities had been relocated and an "urban village". The research also included an analysis of the priority given to health care issues (and what those issues are) in the Legislative Assembly and in the Municipal Health Department and Municipal Health Committee. The paper suggests that the opening by state government of new invited spaces for resident welfare associations meant that the elected members of the Legislative Assembly and of the municipal government were by-passed. It increased the influence of resident welfare associations, but these are a feature of middle-class areas whose inhabitants use private health care. It avoided contestation, as the state could decide who was invited. The role of NGOs as advocates for the urban poor also diminished, as many were drawn into becoming implementers of government programmes. In effect, this increase in participation can be seen as a new form of centralization, strengthening the position of senior bureaucrats and by-passing the elected politicians. © 2011 International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED).

Fischler C.,French School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences
Social Science Information | Year: 2011

The founding fathers of the social sciences recognized commensality as a major issue but considered it mostly in a religious, sacrificial, ritualistic context. The notion of commensality is examined in its various dimensions and operations. Empirical data are used to examine cultural variability in attitudes about food, commensality and its correlates among countries usually categorized as 'Western' and 'modern'. Clear-cut differences are identified, hinting at possible relationships between, on the one hand, cultural attachment to commensality and, on the other hand, a lower prevalence of obesity and associated health problems involving nutrition. © The Author(s) 2011.

Barthelemy M.,CEA Saclay Nuclear Research Center | Barthelemy M.,French School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences
Physics Reports | Year: 2011

Complex systems are very often organized under the form of networks where nodes and edges are embedded in space. Transportation and mobility networks, Internet, mobile phone networks, power grids, social and contact networks, and neural networks, are all examples where space is relevant and where topology alone does not contain all the information. Characterizing and understanding the structure and the evolution of spatial networks is thus crucial for many different fields, ranging from urbanism to epidemiology. An important consequence of space on networks is that there is a cost associated with the length of edges which in turn has dramatic effects on the topological structure of these networks. We will thoroughly explain the current state of our understanding of how the spatial constraints affect the structure and properties of these networks. We will review the most recent empirical observations and the most important models of spatial networks. We will also discuss various processes which take place on these spatial networks, such as phase transitions, random walks, synchronization, navigation, resilience, and disease spread. © 2010 Elsevier B.V.

Boroumand R.H.,French School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences
Energy Policy | Year: 2012

The failure of the asset-light retailer's organizational model is indicative of the incapacity of this organizational structure to manage efficiently the combination of sourcing and market risks in the current market environment. Because of the structural dimensions of electricity's market risks, a retailer's level of risk exposure is unknown ex ante and will only be revealed ex post when consumption is known. In contrast to the "textbook model" of electricity reforms, the paper demonstrates through numerical simulations that in the current market context pure portfolios of contracts are incomplete risk management instruments compared to physical hedging. The latter is critical to overcome the asset-light retailer's curse. © 2011 Elsevier Ltd.

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