A nice little review of new study about voles exhibiting empathic behaviors toward one another. It features a squirrel studying alum from my lab, Stephanie Preston! I would add that some of the willingness to look at empathic behaviors in other animals is not neccessarily due to a shift away from abhorring anthropomorphism, but a shift away from anthropocentrism!
The uncanny valley is that strange feeling you experience when you see something that is almost, but not quite, human-like, such as animation in a film or video game, or robotic movements that mimic our own. You may even experience this feeling when you see other primates. Some folks have suggested that "the valley" may be what caused us to kill off Neanderthals (although I'm still looking for a more reputable source on this topic)!
Long story short, turns out that a recent study suggests that monkeys are also disturbed by almost life-like images of other monkeys. Marc Bekoff gives some nice explanations for why animals might be hardwired to look for stimuli that match expectations of what other members of their species should look or act like (or as another scientist points out, these likenesses may not be visual at all, but could be sound or olfactory-based). Read it all here!
Variable schedules of reinforcement are powerful, and keep us crushing candy
I can't decide if I love or hate Candy Crush, but I am definitely hooked. Here's why: intermittent and unexpected rewards lead to a bigger dopamine rush (when the reward center of your brain is activated). It also doesn't hurt that the images are of candy. Read more here.
The marshmallow task is a classic psychological paradigm (often tested on children) - would you rather have one marshmallow now - or wait and receive two marshmallows later?
Researchers examined whether crows and ravens, known for their intelligence and patience, would rather eat a treat now, or wait a period of time and exchange the treat for a more preferred food item. Their patience depended on the value of the treat, but the clever corvids showed that they exhibit a good amount of self-control. The results have just been published in the journal AnimalBehaviour and you can read a summary here.