Wolves Have 21 Distinct Howling ‘Dialects’

Researchers have for the first time translated the different howling dialects of wolves. A new study from the University of Cambridge suggests that the animals’ “accents” or “vocal fingerprints” largely depend on breed and location.

A total of 21 howl types were identified based on pitch and fluctuation and then assigned to specific subspecies of wolf, as well as jackals and domestic dogs. For example, the howling repertoire of the timber wolf is heavy with low, flat howls, while the critically endangered red wolf has a high, looping howl. Researchers believe their findings may help conservationists protect certain subspecies, and even shed light on the earliest evolution of human language.

“Wolves may not be close to us taxonomically, but ecologically their behavior in a social structure is remarkably close to that of humans. That’s why we domesticated dogs – they are very similar to us,” lead researcher Dr. Arik Kershenbaum, from Cambridge’s Department of Zoology, said a news release.

Their study was recently published in the journal Behavioural Processes

Researchers have identified several different dialects of wolves, coyotes and dogs.  (Photo : Flickr: Fool4myCanon) 

38/100 || 08/02/16 || I’m feeling super productive, probably because I know that this is the last week before my holidays. I revised half of the things for this last exam and now I’m reading my last book. I’m so happy right now.


Great animated book summary of How to Win Friends and Influence People by the legendary Dale Carnegie. 

Hermeneutics, Communication, and the Other’s Pain

“Interpretation is a fact of human life”, says philosophical theologian and psychotherapist James H. Olthius.[1]  We are always interpreting, always engaged in the hermeneutic circle.  What does hermeneutics, the study of interpretation, have to do with clinical philosophy?  While Olthius tackles that question in one of his works,[2] I’d like to turn to a proposal by psychologist Donna M. Orange.  She elaborates on a “hermeneutics of trust”, which assumes that all parties strive for truthfulness and good intention in their conversation(s).  In the context of clinical philosophy, she continues:

“This approach… interprets from a point of view that assumes a common world, in which both people live, suffer, play, and search for meaning together.  It assumes the goodwill of both partners in the search for meaning and truth.  It assumes not that everything is obvious, explicit, and transparent but that what is unhidden also contains important truth.  The hermeneutics of trust works from what both partners hold in common to find understanding where differences exist… Without this assumption, there can be no real dialogue.”  [3]

In contrast to a hermeneutics of suspicion (which is a child of Marx, Nietzsche, and, most importantly, Freud and his psychological approach), this hermeneutic permits an emotional availability that keeps in mind the Other’s perspective.  This approach “understands resistance and defense as absolutely needed modes of coping with unbearable traumatic terrors and lonely anxieties”. 

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How Can You Draw Close to God? - part 4

How Can You Draw Close to God?

Besides praying, there is another important way that we draw close to Jehovah. Communication is a two-way street, in which we talk and we listen. We talk to Jehovah by praying to him but we listen to him by reading his Word, the Bible. At Joshua 1:8 we read, “This book of the Law should not depart from your mouth, and you must read it in an undertone day and night, in order to observe carefully all that is written in it; for then your way will be successful and then you will act wisely.” Just reading it is not enough though. We need to meditate on what we learn from the Bible and apply it in our lives. We do this by contemplating his activities, his advice, and his promises. Psalm 1:1-3 reads: “Happy is the man who does not walk according to the advice of the wicked and does not stand on the path of sinners and does not sit in the seat of scoffers.  But his delight is in the law of Jehovah,And he reads His law in an undertone day and night.  He will be like a tree planted by streams of water, a tree that produces fruit in its season, the foliage of which does not wither. And everything he does will succeed.” By prayerfully meditating on God’s Word we build appreciation in our hearts for God’s love and wisdom.

Most importantly though, we need to trust Jehovah and have faith in him. The Bible makes this clear at Hebrews 11:1, 6: “Faith is the assured expectation of what is hoped for, the evident demonstration of realities that are not seen…  Moreover, without faith it is impossible to please God well, for whoever approaches God must believe that he is and that he becomes the rewarder of those earnestly seeking him.” It’s important to keep in mind though that faith is like a living thing that needs feeding. Jesus himself said at Matthew 4:4, “It is written: ‘Man must live, not on bread alone, but on every word that comes from Jehovah’s mouth.’” In order to keep your faith well fed you need to constantly review the basis for your beliefs and reaffirm them in your heart and mind. 


> The Bible (New World Translation)

“Good News From God!” brochure published by Jehovah’s Witnesses, avialble for free download, or to read on line, on jw.org.

> image from jw.org

> for more info visit www.jw.org

Communication Motifs in 12th/Clara’s Era (series 8)-Reflection

This is the fourth part of a series project which focused on 12th and Clara’s communication motifs in series 8, and how that defined their evolving relationship. (contains spoilers of series 9)

The overall preface and outline entry is here. (1.misunderstanding2.Ambiguity3.Reinterpretation)

4. Reflection

Their words echoed each other. They remembered those sentences they were told, and returned to the addresser at some point, either with or without a further meaning development.

They were each other’s mirror. In Deep Breath, there was a hint made metaphorically by a shot transition. The camera first showed 12th jumped into water (the Thames), and then it switched/connected to the basin in which Clara was pouring water. They were connected by reflections. We could find lots of moments like this in their era, especially in visual settings (water, mirrors, and similar shots) and the actual plot. Here, I’d like to focus on how the way they communicated reflected each other. 


(1). They used same words during one conversation.

Psychologically, using similar words when talking could shorten the psychological distance between one and the other. When writing a conversation, making characters do this could also let the audience feel their closeness whether it’s intimacy or intense confronting.

Clara: You asked me if you’re a good man and the answer is, I don’t know. But I think you try to be and I think that’s probably the point.
12th: I think you’re probably an amazing teacher.

(Into the Dalek, 8x02)

At the end of Into the Dalek, Clara tried to comfort 12th after the backfire he had been through with Rusty, and 12th chose the same “I think… probably….” words to structure his response, to show his gratitude and how much he’d like to depend on her opinions.


12th:  Why are you still here?
Clara: Because I am not going to leave you in danger!
12th: Then you will never travel with me again, because that is the deal! TARDIS, now! Do as you are told!

12th: I don’t take orders, Clara.
Clara: Do as you’re told.

(Listen, 8x04)

“Do as you’re told” was an opposite example. Clara was throwing what he said earlier back to him. In this case, 12th was trying to protect Clara when he was determining to find out the truth. From a double-standard point of view, which believed the Doctor and companions played different roles, his ask was right. Clara, however, never viewed herself as a sidekick of her own story, and at the end of Listen, she was the one holding more information and asked 12th not to ask further questions. Here, “Do as you’re told” served as a similarity that they both believed he/she was the one taking the lead, which was also what they saw when looking into each other/the mirror.


12th: I am in control. Throw away the key. Do as you are told.
Clara: No!
12th: Well, either you do as you’re told or stop threatening me. There really isn’t a third option here.

Clara: Do as you are told.
12th: No.
Clara: Say it again so I know you mean it.
12th: No!

(Dark Water, 8x11)

A similar yet extremely-pushed example happened at the beginning of Dark Water. According to the context and actor’s interview, 12th knew something was wrong with Clara, but he let her went through all those because that’s the only way to help her. They pushed each other to extremes and “Do as you’re told” was their fuel. He demanded her to throw away the key, and she refused. She ordered him to change the timeline and save Danny, and he refused. They reflected the other’s state and their negotiation went nowhere simply because there were only smoke and mirrors.

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This Class Learnt Sign Language So They Could Communicate With Their Deaf Friend

A class of six-year-old pupils have all been hard at work learning sign language - just so they could communicate with a deaf student.

Zejd Coralic, from Sarajevo, Bosnia, moved from a specialist school to a standard one last year but was unhappy after discovering he and his new pals couldn’t speak to each other.

But rather than see the boy suffer in silence as those around him communicated, teacher Sanela Ljumanovic decided that the whole class should learn sign language.

Communicating: The class are now able to speak to Zejd (AP/Amel Emric)

Now, three months on, the pupils in the class at Osman Nakas primary school have got to grips with the basics and can converse with their deaf friend.

Zejd’s mother says her son is no longer upset when he goes to school in the morning.

She said: “Zejd looks forward to going to school… now he is happy and motivated.”

Tarik Sijaric, one of Zejd’s best friends, added: “I like to learn Zejd’s language so I can talk to him and to other deaf people. It is fun.”

Lessons: The teacher is now hoping sign language will be part of the curriculum (AP/Amel Emric)

The pupils are so into learning sign language that some have started teaching their parents when they get home.

Teacher Sanela said: “We are all happy as we are learning a new language.

“The goal, however, is also to teach Zejd to read lips… he is a good kid, a smart kid.”

Zejd’s teacher now hopes to get sign language added to the curriculum so that children become more aware of those with disabilities.

Top pic: AP/Amel Emric

Will computers ever truly understand what we’re saying?

From Apple’s Siri to Honda’s robot Asimo, machines seem to be getting better and better at communicating with humans.

But some neuroscientists caution that today’s computers will never truly understand what we’re saying because they do not take into account the context of a conversation the way people do.

Specifically, say University of California, Berkeley, postdoctoral fellow Arjen Stolk and his Dutch colleagues, machines don’t develop a shared understanding of the people, place and situation – often including a long social history – that is key to human communication. Without such common ground, a computer cannot help but be confused.

“People tend to think of communication as an exchange of linguistic signs or gestures, forgetting that much of communication is about the social context, about who you are communicating with,” Stolk said.

The word “bank,” for example, would be interpreted one way if you’re holding a credit card but a different way if you’re holding a fishing pole. Without context, making a “V” with two fingers could mean victory, the number two, or “these are the two fingers I broke.”

“All these subtleties are quite crucial to understanding one another,” Stolk said, perhaps more so than the words and signals that computers and many neuroscientists focus on as the key to communication. “In fact, we can understand one another without language, without words and signs that already have a shared meaning.”

Babies and parents, not to mention strangers lacking a common language, communicate effectively all the time, based solely on gestures and a shared context they build up over even a short time.

(Image caption: As two people conversing rely more and more on previously shared concepts, the same area of their brains – the right superior temporal gyrus – becomes more active (blue is activity in communicator, orange is activity in interpreter). This suggests that this brain region is key to mutual understanding as people continually update their shared understanding of the context of the conversation to improve mutual understanding)

Stolk argues that scientists and engineers should focus more on the contextual aspects of mutual understanding, basing his argument on experimental evidence from brain scans that humans achieve nonverbal mutual understanding using unique computational and neural mechanisms. Some of the studies Stolk has conducted suggest that a breakdown in mutual understanding is behind social disorders such as autism.

“This shift in understanding how people communicate without any need for language provides a new theoretical and empirical foundation for understanding normal social communication, and provides a new window into understanding and treating disorders of social communication in neurological and neurodevelopmental disorders,” said Dr. Robert Knight, a UC Berkeley professor of psychology in the campus’s Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute and a professor of neurology and neurosurgery at UCSF.

Stolk and his colleagues discuss the importance of conceptual alignment for mutual understanding in an opinion piece appearing Jan. 11 in the journal Trends in Cognitive Sciences.

Brain scans pinpoint site for ‘meeting of minds’

To explore how brains achieve mutual understanding, Stolk created a game that requires two players to communicate the rules to each other solely by game movements, without talking or even seeing one another, eliminating the influence of language or gesture. He then placed both players in an fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imager) and scanned their brains as they nonverbally communicated with one another via computer.

(Image caption: A game in which players try to communicate the rules without talking or even seeing one another helps neuroscientists isolate the parts of the brain responsible for mutual understanding)

He found that the same regions of the brain – located in the poorly understood right temporal lobe, just above the ear – became active in both players during attempts to communicate the rules of the game. Critically, the superior temporal gyrus of the right temporal lobe maintained a steady, baseline activity throughout the game but became more active when one player suddenly understood what the other player was trying to communicate. The brain’s right hemisphere is more involved in abstract thought and social interactions than the left hemisphere.

“These regions in the right temporal lobe increase in activity the moment you establish a shared meaning for something, but not when you communicate a signal,” Stolk said. “The better the players got at understanding each other, the more active this region became.”

This means that both players are building a similar conceptual framework in the same area of the brain, constantly testing one another to make sure their concepts align, and updating only when new information changes that mutual understanding. The results were reported in 2014 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“It is surprising,” said Stolk, “that for both the communicator, who has static input while she is planning her move, and the addressee, who is observing dynamic visual input during the game, the same region of the brain becomes more active over the course of the experiment as they improve their mutual understanding.”

Robots’ statistical reasoning

Robots and computers, on the other hand, converse based on a statistical analysis of a word’s meaning, Stolk said. If you usually use the word “bank” to mean a place to cash a check, then that will be the assumed meaning in a conversation, even when the conversation is about fishing.

(Image caption: A computer would have a hard time understanding this conversation, but humans get it immediately. That’s because human communicators share a conceptual space or common ground that enables them to quickly interpret a situation. Words and signs are merely a means to seek and provide evidence for such mutual understanding. Artwork (Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks) courtesy of the Art Institute of Chicago)

“Apple’s Siri focuses on statistical regularities, but communication is not about statistical regularities,” he said. “Statistical regularities may get you far, but it is not how the brain does it. In order for computers to communicate with us, they would need a cognitive architecture that continuously captures and updates the conceptual space shared with their communication partner during a conversation.”

Hypothetically, such a dynamic conceptual framework would allow computers to resolve the intrinsically ambiguous communication signals produced by a real person, including drawing upon information stored years earlier.

Stolk’s studies have pinpointed other brain areas critical to mutual understanding. In a 2014 study, he used brain stimulation to disrupt a rear portion of the temporal lobe and found that it is important for integrating incoming signals with knowledge from previous interactions. A later study found that in patients with damage to the frontal lobe (the ventromedial prefrontal cortex), decisions to communicate are no longer fine-tuned to stored knowledge about an addressee. Both studies could explain why such patients appear socially awkward in everyday social interactions.

Stolk plans future studies with Knight using fine-tuned brain mapping on the actual surfaces of the brains of volunteers, so-called electrocorticography.

Stolk said he wrote the new paper in hopes of moving the study of communication to a new level with a focus on conceptual alignment.

“Most cognitive neuroscientists focus on the signals themselves, on the words, gestures and their statistical relationships, ignoring the underlying conceptual ability that we use during communication and the flexibility of everyday life,” he said. “Language is very helpful, but it is a tool for communication, it is not communication per se. By focusing on language, you may be focusing on the tool, not on the underlying mechanism, the cognitive architecture we have in our brain that helps us to communicate.”

Pedagogy of the Oppressed

Pre-reading for lecture, The Cautious Anthropologist

Freire, P. (1972), Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Penguin Books, UK, pp. 87-96

Word mutually includes Reflection + Action = Praxis: practice, as distinguished from theory

Remove Action = word becomes verbalism: concentration on forms, rather than content of expression, e.g. idle chat, ‘blah’, empty word. No transformation without Action

Remove Reflection = word becomes activism: vigourous action, e.g. action for action’s sake, dialogue impossible. No dialogue without Reflection

True words ‘transform the world’ i.e. reality = process, transformation, not static entity

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One of the most important things that I heard a few years ago was something a counselor said to me, after I’d unburdened some things to her, mainly about my self-perceived speech impediment. She told me I was normal. I looked normal, I acted normal, and I sounded normal. It was something I needed to hear, because as an INFP it’s easy to blow up perceived faults within myself. So for all those INFPs out there angsting about something similar, I want to let you know that you are normal. Yes you are. YES. YOU. ARE.
—  Submitted by sarahzahde