Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Cover Story

Cover Story

The Rise of Intelligence

evolution

What were the influences that drove the evolution of intelligence?

By Kim Sterelny

What were the influences that drove the evolution of intelligence in humans?

Jared Diamond begins his marvellously entertaining book The Third Chimpanzee by pointing out that if an extraterrestrial zoologist had surveyed the Earth four million years ago it may never have noticed a few hairy, chimp-like primates wandering around East Africa. Our ancestors were a minor element of a declining lineage among very diverse and impressive fauna.

Kim Sterelny is Professor of Philosophy at the Australian National University and holds a Personal Chair in Philosophy at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand.

The True Believers

Image of crucifixion

Why do we believe in God, resurrection, UFOs, clairvoyants and alternative medicines?

By Krissy Wilson

Are we pre-programmed to believe in weird and wonderful things that lack any significant scientific basis, and are some of us more likely to believe than others?

Unwavering belief in phenomena that contradict known scientific laws and principles is a common feature of all western societies, and there is little evidence to suggest that widespread paranormal beliefs are on the wane. While there remains little, if any, evidence to suggest that any of these claims support known, provable phenomena, recent opinion polls suggest that such commonly held beliefs are on the increase.

Krissy Wilson is a lecturer in psychology at the University of Tasmania. This is an extended version of an article that appeared in The Skeptic.

Inside the Minds of the Trendsetters

image of Trendsetter

Social psychologists and consumer behaviourists have found that a small group of consumers are more “knowledgeable” than the majority of consumers. Known as “market mavens”, this group comprises 10–15% of the general population.

By John Gountas and Joseph Ciorciari

Brain scans have revealed which personality types are the most influential in the widespread adoption of new trends and technologies.

How do consumers choose a particular product? Empirical studies have found that personality characteristics influence the amount and type of information that people seek before making purchasing decisions.

Understanding the way we make economic decisions has been a fundamental question for neuroscientists, psychologists and marketing experts for some time. Indeed, the new fields of neuromarketing and neuropsychoeconomics are bringing these seemingly different disciplines together.

Dr John Gountas researches consumer behaviour at La Trobe University’s Faculty of Law and Management. Dr Joseph Ciorciari is a cognitive neuroscientist at Swinburne University’s Brain Sciences Institute.

Meeting the Missing Link

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The cranium of the juvenile skeleton. Photo: Brett Eloff courtesy Wits University

By Paul Dirks

Paul Dirks gives a first-hand account of the expedition that found a new species of hominid linking humans and apes.

As a structural geologist I never expected to become so closely involved in such an important fossil find as Australopithecus sediba, which may be the transitional species between ape-man and the genus Homo from which we evolved (see Linking Man and Ape, p.15).

Professor Paul Dirks is Head of the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences at James Cook University, and former Head of the School of GeoSciences at Wits University in South Africa.