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Tolerant one day, xenophobic the next: Can we humans actually get along?

Whether they are proposing to build a wall or to exit an international coalition, populist politicians like to pitch themselves as keeping ‘outsiders’ at bay, and it clearly strikes a chord with their home crowd.

One evolutionary hypothesis for our tendency toward ingroup loyalty is that it would have been advantageous to our tribal hunter-gatherer ancestors in their competition with rival tribes (as groups with more loyal and devoted members would have been more likely to survive and reproduce). The warring behaviour seen in our chimpanzee cousins, who form coalitions to steal the territory of rival groups, is cited as evidence that supports this theory.

Anne Pisor.

Yet chimps might not be the most apposite species comparison for understanding humans, and there is a more optimistic perspective on human intergroup behaviour, one that has been largely neglected by scientists to date. In a recent issue of Evolutionary Anthropology, Anne Pisor, assistant professor of Anthropology at Washington State University and Martin Surbeck at Harvard University explain that, among primates, humans are an “outlier.”

In fact, Pisor and Surbeck believe that we have evolved to be uniquely tolerant among fission-fusion species, and that the roots of this lie in part in our unusually large brains and relatively high reproductive rates, compared with other primates. Together these characteristics make us extremely dependent on high-quality, high-risk (i.e., unpredictable across time and location) food and tool supplies.

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The Big Smoke

WSU researchers look into differences between political ads on TV vs. Facebook

In an age where more and more political advertising is moving online, Washington State University researchers have found ads on Facebook use more partisan language than those on TV but are generally less negative.

Travis Ridout.

“One of the findings is that the ads themselves are quite different — you find a lot more negativity on TV than you do on digital advertising but on digital ads, you find more partisanship,” said WSU professor of Politics, Philosophy and Public Affairs, and author on the study, Travis Ridout. “The other main finding or the main difference there is that digital advertising is actually less likely to talk about policy issues than is TV advertising.”

Ridout said there are a number of reasons for the disparities between the two mediums, including that the goals for digital advertisements are much more extensive than their televised counterparts. He said while both formats endeavor to persuade viewers to be sympathetic toward a particular point of view, digital ads may also seek to fundraise, gather demographic information or mobilize voters.

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Daily News
WSU Insider

Wildlife biologists study threatened Canada lynx at Glacier

The Glacier National Park Conservancy, Glacier National Park and Washington State University are in year two of a three-year research study.

Alissa Anderson.

“Climate change is highly likely to shrink lynx habitat and make it more fragmented,” said Alissa Anderson, a master’s student in environmental sciences at Washington State University and wildlife biologist.

The trail cams are able to snap photos of more than just the lynx. Over the span of the study so far, the trail cams have captured photos of hundreds of moose, elk, bears, deer and thousands of hikers.

Project workers will be able to collect the data from all sorts of animals, not just lynx, and share the information with other researchers and studies.

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NBC Montana

WSU Vancouver’s Electronic Literature Lab hosts two international scholars

Dene Grigar.

Two international scholars will collaborate with Electronic Literature Lab (ELL) director Dene Grigar, professor of digital media/tech & culture at WSU Vancouver, on such projects as live-streamed performances of born-digital narratives originally produced on floppy disks and CD-ROMs from 1988 – 2000, and an open-source multimedia book documenting early works of computer-based literature.

Founded by Grigar in 2012 at WSU Vancouver, ELL is among only a handful of media archaeology labs in the United States and is used for advanced inquiry into the curation, documentation, preservation and production of born-digital literary works and other media.

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Mirage News

WSU Insider


Census undercounts in rural areas could threaten health care funding, experts say

Door-knocking, which experts say is crucial to counting people of color and rural residents, is stopping later this month, the Census Bureau announced in August. It’s a month earlier than the Bureau had planned to stop. Experts worry undercounts could threaten federal funding for a host of programs that sustain rural areas.

Don Dillman.

However, there are some promising signs in Idaho’s census counts. Roughly 96.7% of the state’s households have responded, according to a Monday report by Census Bureau. That’s the highest in the nation.

The “main reason” for Idaho’s high total response rate is, according to Washington State University sociologist Don Dillman, “in-person (counting) has been more successful here than in other places.”

Census counts determine how much representation states will have in the House of Representatives. They also guide funding formulas for public programs.

The Pew Research Center says 95% of all federal funding programs to local and state governments are tied to census figures, amounting to $580 billion. Even hospital planning uses census data. Also funded through these figures are health care services such as the Children’s Health Insurance Program, Medicaid and school lunch programs.

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Idaho State Journal