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Calleva Research Centre

Research Centre for Evolution & Human Sciences


Upcoming Events

Saturday 14th June 2014
Fourth Calleva Symposium

Speakers to be confirmed.

Past Events

Thursday 2nd May 2013
Evolution, the Moral Sentiments and Rational Belief

There is increasing debate about how our most fundamental moral and intellectual commitments can be reconciled with evolutionary accounts. These issues will be debated at a seminar at Magdalen College at 5pm on Thursday 2nd May (details attached) which is aimed at students and academics alike, from all disciplines - with support from the John Templeton Foundation and the Calleva Research Centre.

Speakers: Stuart West, John Hawthorne, Ralph Walker and Amia Srinivasan.

5 pm @ the Daubeny lab, Magdalen College

Saturday 27th October 2012
Third Calleva Symposium

Speakers included: Professor Nicholas Christakis, Harvard University; Professor Laurence Steinberg, Temple University; Professor David Clark, Oxford University.

Podcasts are now available online!

Wednesday 2nd May 2012
Talk by Kevin Dutton: "Flipnosis: The Ancient Art and New Science of Changing Minds"

Why are some people natural leaders? How do they influence, persuade and sometimes manipulate others? From the political genius of Winston Churchill to the malign influence of psychopaths and conmen, Kevin Dutton explores what psychology can teach us of the techniques of persuasion.

Kevin Dutton is senior research fellow at St Edmund's College, University of Cambridge. He is also Professor for the Public Engagement with Psychological Science at the University of Essex. He is a fellow of the Royal Society of Medicine, and a member of the Society for the Scientific Study of Psychopathy. His first popular book, FLIPNOSIS (William Heinemann, 2010), sold into fifteen languages. His second book, The Wisdom of Psychopaths, is published in October 2012.

Monday 21st November 2011
Talk by Bahador Bahrami: "Interacting minds: The quantitative limits of collaboration"

Most experimental studies on social decision making involve individuals interacting with agents that are simulated or hidden behind a computer screen. In addition, competition over resources tends to lie at the heart of these interactions. While providing interesting findings, these studies do not address an important aspect of social interaction. In particular, most of us would describe our everyday interactions as collaboration rather than competition. I will outline a novel experimental paradigm for shifting from isolated individuals competing over resources to individuals interacting towards a joint goal. The adage "two heads are better than one" summarises the commonly held belief that difficult decisions are better made collectively than by isolated individuals - but we also seem to agree that "too many cooks spoil the broth". I will apply signal detection theory to collective decision making in a simple perceptual task to evaluate the efficacy of collaboration and in turn to delineate some of the cognitive and biological limitations on collaboration. I will also make inferences about the information content of the interaction that takes place en route to arriving at a collective decision.

Bahador Bahrami is a British Academy Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, UCL.

Saturday 8th October 2011
Second Annual Calleva Symposium

On Saturday 8th October 2011 Magdalen College hosted the second annual Calleva Symposium. Jennifer Lau, Tutorial Fellow at Magdalen College and Director of the Calleva Research Centre, opened the symposium with a brief overview of the Centre's on-going activities and talked about its plans for expansion, including collaborations with researchers at the Centre for Experimental Social Sciences as well as the wider academic community within the University.

The keynote speakers at the symposium were Bryan Clarke FRS, Professor Emeritus at the University of Nottingham, and Colin Blakemore FRS, Professor of Neuroscience at Magdalen College. Professor Clarke reflected on the implications of his studies of snails in the Eastern Pacific for evolutionary theory; in particular, his studies seem to show that natural selection plays an important role in the maintenance of genetic variation. Professor Clarke also talked about the Frozen Ark project, which he recently co-founded. The main mission of this project is to collect and preserve DNA tissue from animals facing extinction. Professor Blakemore reflected on brain evolution in humans, arguing that neural plasticity - rather than sheer volume - plays a crucial role in ensuring our behavioural flexibility and adaptiveness. Additionally, observing that growth is merely a process of cell division, Professor Blakemore made the interesting suggestion that we should try to understand why big brains were not selected against in humans - rather than why big brains were selected for in humans. Other speakers at the symposium included Elaine Fox, Professor of Psychology at the University of Essex, who discussed recent evidence on the genetic causes of mood disorders, and Anneke Haddad, Junior Research Fellow at Magdalen College and recipient of the Calleva Research Fellowship, who presented preliminary evidence from her on-going work on the development of risk-taking behaviour in adolescence.

The Calleva Symposium was a great success and well attended by alumni as well as current members of the University.

Friday 24th June 2011
Talk by Arthur Robson: "The Evolution of Utility"

What biological purpose is served by an internal hedonic scoring system for outcomes, or "utility function"? These functions allow Nature to delegate partial responsibility for appropriate behavior onto the individual, who then can cope with a degree of novelty. Such hedonic utility functions should be adaptive-- that is, be reset by the circumstances. Further, such adaptation may entail a split between "decision utility"-- that guides a earlier choice-- and the "experienced utility"-- that is actually attained later, as proposed by psychology.

Arthur Robson is Canada Research Chair in Economic Theory and Evolution at the Department of Economics, Simon Fraser University. Prof Robson was also Visiting Research Fellow at All Souls in 2011.

Thursday 23rd to Friday 24th June 2011
Conference: "New Thinking: Advances in the Study of Human Cognitive Evolution"

An interdisciplinary conference focusing on new ideas and discoveries in research on the evolution of human cognition The conference focused on genetic, developmental, and socio-cultural processes that have played a particularly significant role in the evolution of human cognition, and on uniquely human cognitive achievements in domains such as causal understanding, language, social learning, theory of mind and meta-cognition. Speakers included Robin Dunbar, Andrew Whiten, Chris Frith, Kim Sterelny, Kevin Laland and Cecilia Heyes. The event was supported by All Souls College, The British Academy, Guarantors of Brain, and Magdalen College's Calleva Centre. Podcasts from the conference can be found here.

Saturday 30th October 2010
Launch of the Calleva Centre

The Centre was inaugurated on Saturday 30th October at a packed seminar which drew together academics and past and present students from a wide variety of disciplines. Those attending enjoyed a stimulating keynote lecture by leading science writer Dr Matt Ridley (1976), also a former Zoology student of Magdalen. As the title suggests Ridley's recent book The Rational Optimist paints an upbeat picture of human development. In the same spirit, he argued at the symposium that the ability of humans to exchange goods and services was central to the species' evolutionary triumph - enabling us now to make items of such complexity that no single human being could possibly achieve on their own, let alone understand the minute stages involved in the process of production. A wide-ranging question time saw some his positive account of human progress tested against the recent economic crisis, and environmental concerns.

In three further talks, academics involved in the new Centre presented research on a range of issues in the Evolution and Human sciences - from the propagation of ideas through human networking to the development of complex human social behaviour. Sessions were chaired by Robin Dunbar (Professor of Evolutionary Anthropology at Magdalen) and Oliver Braddick (Professor of Experimental Psychology at Magdalen). Presentations were given by recently elected Fellow to the British Academy, Cecelia Hayes (also Senior Research Fellow in Theoretical Life Sciences and Professor of Psychology at All Souls College), Dr Freya Harrison (Junior Research Fellow in Evolutionary Biology at Magdalen) and Dr Jennifer Lau (Tutorial Fellow in Experimental Psychology at Magdalen and the Calleva Research Centre's first director). This final talk focused on the development of anxiety and mood disorders among adolescents - and the first research programme of the Centre, which will explore changes in social behaviour, both across human development and unique human evolution.

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