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The programme in the winter term 2021/22

November 11, 2021, 12.15:

Kou Murayama (Tübingen): A reward-learning framework of knowledge acquisition: How we can integrate the concepts of curiosity, interest, and intrinsic-extrinsic rewards

Recent years have seen a considerable surge of research on interest-based engagement, examining how and why people are engaged in activities without relying on extrinsic rewards. However, the field of inquiry has been somewhat segregated into three different research traditions which have been developed relatively independently --- research on curiosity, interest, and trait curiosity/interest. The current talk sets out an integrative perspective; the reward-learning framework of knowledge acquisition. This conceptual framework takes on the basic premise of existing reward-learning models of information seeking: that knowledge acquisition serves as an inherent reward, which reinforces people’s information-seeking behavior through a reward-learning process. However, the framework reveals how the knowledge-acquisition process is sustained and boosted over a long period of time in real-life settings, allowing us to integrate the different research traditions within reward-learning models. The framework also characterizes the knowledge-acquisition process with four distinct features that are not present in the reward-learning process with extrinsic rewards --- (1) cumulativeness, (2) selectivity, (3) vulnerability, and (4) under-appreciation. The talk describes some evidence from our lab supporting these claims.


November 29, 2021, 15.00:

Alexandra M. Freund (Zürich): Exhaustion and Recovery: What’s motivation got to do with it?

How can the same activity, such as one hour of jogging, feel exhausting to some people while it recovers others? Although interindividual differences likely play a role, they cannot explain that that watching TV for hours is relaxing, yet simultaneously for the same person also exhausting, leaving them listless. What are the indicators that tell us that an activity has exhausted or recovered us? In this talk, I will present a motivational approach to exhaustion and recovery. At the core of this approach is the assumption that exhaustion fulfills primarily the function of signaling to the person that their current behavior does not yield sufficient progress on a given goal, prompting them to disengage from it. In the case of relaxation, the goal of the activity is often to relax, and starting to think of what else to do with one’s time, felling time to slow down and a decline in mood might motivate people to engage in different activities. I will present first empirical studies investigating the usefulness of this approach for understanding exhaustion and recovery processes, including age-related differences in exhaustion and recovery.



December 9, 2021, 15.00:


Tara Mandalaywala (University of Massachussetts Amherst): A kid's eye view of race and status

By 4 years of age, many children in the United States express awareness of racial stereotypes about social status, often expecting White people to live in nicer houses and have nicer possessions than Black people. Racial stereotypes about status are important because they are hypothesized to lay the foundation for prejudice and discrimination towards minoritized groups. However, little work has examined how racial stereotypes about status develop. In this talk I will describe three studies that examine whether stereotype expression is related to community racial or economic characteristics (Study 1), and ask whether developmental changes in basic cognitive processes might determine whether community characteristics affect stereotype development at all (Studies 2 and 3). The talk will conclude with a discussion of the limitations of current methods, and a call for more inclusive research that explores the development of status cognition across children from a wide range of social and economic backgrounds.


February 17, 2022; 15.30:

Joey T. Cheng (York University): Force and Persuasion: How Do We Humans Climb the Social Hierarchy?

The avenues through which people compete for social rank are seemingly varied. Do these different strategies effectively promote rank? What effects do these influence tactics, when used by leaders, have on team success and well-being?

This talk will explore how two fundamental strategies to social rank—dominance (i.e., relying on intimidation to induce compliance) and prestige (i.e., earning respect via competence to increase persuasion)—influence individual and group outcomes. In both field and lab groups, individuals who use a dominance or a prestige strategy exercise greater behavioral impact and receive more visual attention. While dominance is especially efficacious in environments with weaker egalitarian norms, prestige on the other hand appears to offer a stable form of influence over time and contexts. In terms of collective outcomes, when these strategies are deployed by leaders, dominant leaders lead to group-wide negative affect. By contrast, prestigious leaders boost team creativity, follower loyalty, and positive affect. Together, these findings indicate that although both dominance and prestige strategies reward individuals with higher rank and social success, they confer distinct benefits and costs on self, other, and teams. Other current and future research will be discussed.


May 5, 2022; 15.00:

Cédric Girard-Buttoz (Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology Leipzig): Complexity and structure of vocal communication in wild chimpanzees

Human languages’ exceptional combinatorial properties enabling endless meaning generation is in stark contrast to the very limited vocal sequence production capacities of non-human primates. This contrast led some researchers to question the suitability of vocal communication studies on non-human primates to understand the evolution of language. However, studies have rarely quantified flexibility and structure of vocal sequence production at the whole repertoire level. Here, we characterised the structure of vocal sequences across the vocal repertoire of wild chimpanzees in the Taï population. We found that chimpanzees produced 390 unique vocal sequences. Most vocal units emitted singly were also emitted in two-unit sequences (bigrams), which in turn were embedded into three-unit sequences (trigrams). Bigrams showed positional and transitional regularities within trigrams, such that certain bigrams predictably occurred either in head or tail positions in trigrams, and predictably co-occurred with specific other units. We then assessed the potential for vocal usage learning of these sequences by comparing the call ordering of two single calls, the long-distance contact call pant-hoot and the submissive call pant-grunt, into the greeting hoot sequence between two chimpanzee populations (Taï and Budongo). We found that both populations consistently differed in call ordering, with pant-hoots being emitted first in the sequence in Taï and pant-grunt first in Budongo. These differences may be linked to different social pressures related to intra-group aggression and killing. Finally, we characterised the developmental trajectory of vocal sequence acquisition throughout ontogeny. This trajectory followed key developmental milestones with the steepest increase in the diversity and length of vocal sequences around the weaning age and the adult level of vocal complexity reached at maturity. Our results demonstrate a flexible complex vocal system in wild chimpanzees, potentially socially learnt. The capacity to organize single units into structured sequences offers a versatile system potentially suitable for expansive meaning generation. Further research must show to what extent these structural sequences signal predictable meanings.



Dana Pefferle +49 551 3851-361 Contact Profile

James Stranks Contact Profile

Antonio Calapai

Antonio Calapai +49 551 3851-345 Contact Profile