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Department of Anthropology


Animal Minds Symposium

This three-day workshop, sponsored by Durham University's Institute of Advanced Study as part of its 2015-16 Evidence theme, will examine the problem of evidence in accounting for the phenomenon of ‘animal minds’ – the existence and character of (broadly conceived) mental phenomena in non-human animals. This controversial question offers a rich case for exploring the meanings of ‘evidence’ from a range of disciplinary perspectives. For more detail click here.

(23 Jun 2015) » More about Animal Minds Symposium

Do you think like a typical Brit? Test how you compare with other nationalities

Have you ever wondered whether all people think the same way, or whether cultural differences across the world mean people's minds work differently? A new app, 'Global Village: Discover Your Thinking Style', lets you compare your own thinking style with the rest of the world. Devised by Dr Alex Mesoudi, Anthropologist at Durham University, and funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, the free app lets users discover which nationality they most think like.


Previous research has shown that people from Western societies like the US and UK often think differently to 'non-Westerners' from countries like Japan and China. For example, they tend to group objects according to formal categories, while non-Westerners instead group according to the relationships between objects. When asked whether a cow should be paired with grass or a chicken, people from the US tend to choose the chicken because cows and chickens are both farmyard animals. People from China tend to choose the grass, because cows eat grass.


In social relationships, Westerners tend to be more individualistic, which means that they see themselves as separate from others and are motivated more by personal goals and achievements. Non-Westerners, on the other hand, are more collectivistic; they see themselves as part of larger social groups and are motivated more by the success of their family or social group.


The Global Village app works out thinking styles through a mixture of games and quizzes. After completing the tasks the app gives users a score and allows them to compare this to the average score recorded in different countries, to reveal which nationality they most think like.


The app has been devised by a team led by Dr Alex Mesoudi from Durham University as a way of expanding the small sample sizes of previous studies. It will provide more information about the thinking styles of people who don’t fit into simple notions of East and West, such as people living in countries other than the US, Western Europe or East Asia, or immigrants who grew up in one place and later moved to another. The app is part of Dr Mesoudi's wider Thinking Styles project, which aims to unpick the reasons why people from different cultures think differently.


In a previous study, Dr Mesoudi and his colleagues measured the thinking styles of British Bangladeshi immigrants living in East London to see how exposure to Western culture affects the way migrants see the world.


"We have found that first-generation British Bangladeshi migrants, that is people who were born in Bangladesh but have since moved to Britain, often tend to think in a 'non-Western' way, as expected," says Dr Mesoudi.


"However, second generation British Bangladeshis who were born in Britain to Bangladeshi-born parents are largely indistinguishable from native Londoners' Western thinking styles, showing that variation in thinking patterns is certainly not genetic, but more likely a product of cultural factors such as schooling or exposure to Western media. One of the aims of our Global Village App is to see whether similar cultural factors shape variation in thinking styles in other migrant communities, too."


The Global Village app, compatible with iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch, is available as a free download from the iTunes store.

(19 Jun 2015)

Copying varies cross-culturally: People from China rely more on other people’s solutions to complex tasks than people from the UK

(12 Nov 2014) » More about Copying varies cross-culturally: People from China rely more on other people’s solutions to complex tasks than people from the UK

Durham University recognised for advancing gender equality

(4 Sep 2014) » More about Durham University recognised for advancing gender equality

Durham anthropologist Dr Kate Nowak warns about private hunting companies' impact on elephants

Durham anthropologist Dr Kate Nowak has written on the National Geographic's website about the dangers that private hunting companies pose for elephant populations.

She writes that while governments are making increasing efforts to protect elephants and their ecosystems, this effort is threatened by companies that allow trophy hunting and the shooting of wild game for sport.

She recommends that governments impose top-down bans on trophy hunting, lest previous efforts to curb elephant hunting be undone.

Read more on the National Geographic website.

(1 Sep 2014)

Durham MAnth graduate is awarded PhD studentship at Cardiff University

Harriet Quinn-Scoggins, a recent graduate of Durham's MAnth Medical Anthropology degree, has been awarded a fully-funded PhD studentship at Cardiff University sponsored by The Healing Foundation, and based in the School of Medicine and the Cochrane Institute of Primary Care and Public Health.

The MAnth programmes are four-year integrated masters programmes which combine three years of undergraduate study with an additional fourth year of masters-level study.

Harriet's MAnth thesis was conducted within the Parent-Infant Sleep Lab and supervised by Prof Helen Ball. She examined paternal-infant nighttime interactions and how the ideology of the 'new-father' shapes current paternal personal experiences, understanding and knowledge of infant sleep. Harriet says "Although I thoroughly enjoyed my undergraduate years and masters research at Durham University I am happy to have a change of direction and combine my academic studies with my personal interest in the teaching of first aid."

The Healing Foundation is a national charity championing those living with disfigurement through the funding of holistic research for physical and psychological healing treatments and rehabilitation techniques, alongside raising awareness and preventative measures. Harriet's PhD studentship, titled 'A school based intervention for childhood burns and scalds', will work towards raising awareness and preventative measures. She will be designing and testing a program of teaching for primary school aged children on the topic of burns, scalds and first aid. Childhood burns and scalds are a significant problem and have the potential for life long scarring and psycosocial consequences. While preschool children predominate, there is another peak prevalence in older children as they become involved in food preparation,domestic chores, and high risk behaviours outside the home. Most prevention programs address parents, thus effective prevention and first aid knowledge is limited amongst this age group. Thus there is a perfect gap for a school based intervention to reduce avoidable burns and increase effective first aid. Hopefully the message, if successful, will help to inform the next generation of parents.

Read more about the range of degrees offered by the Department of Anthropology at Durham, and the work of the Parent-Infant Sleep Lab.

(1 Sep 2014)

Durham anthropology teaching rated highly in the National Student Survey (NSS)

Durham anthropology undergraduate students have reported high levels of satisfaction with teaching on their course, according to this year’s National Student Survey (NSS).

From a sample of 96 third-year Durham anthropology undergraduates, 94% agreed with the statement “Staff are good at explaining things”, 93% agreed that “Staff have made the subject interesting”, 96% agreed that “Staff are enthusiastic about what they are teaching”, and 95% agreed that “The course is intellectually stimulating”.

Overall, 91% of Durham anthropology respondents agreed that “Overall, I am satisfied with the quality of the course”. This is higher than the average of 87% for all UK anthropology departments.

Durham University as a whole achieved a top ten position among Higher Education Institutions, maintaining its position as one of the highest ranked mainstream UK universities for student satisfaction.

The National Student Survey (NSS) is an independent annual survey that evaluates how satisfied students are with the overall quality of their higher education experience. University-level data can be found on the NSS website, while subject-level data will be published in September on the Unistats website.

Read more about Durham’s success in the 2014 National Student Survey.

(12 Aug 2014)

Durham primatologist features on BBC's Talk To The Animals

Durham anthropology PhD student Andrea Donaldson features in BBC One's "Talk To The Animals" this Thursday, 10th July at 20.00

Andrea will be talking about her work with vervet monkeys in Kenya, and how they use alarm calls to communicate with each other about predators.

Find out more about the work of the Primates and Predators research group

Link to the programme (external BBC website)

(10 Jul 2014)

Anthropology PhD graduates attend graduation ceremony

Anthropology PhD graduates Martyn Hurst, Emilio Berrocal, Lyn Robinson, Carolyn O'Connor and Denise Crane attended their graduation ceremony earlier this month at Durham Cathedral.

The photo shows the PhD graduates with present and past Heads of Department Profs Helen Ball and Bob Simpson.

Find out more about PhD research in anthropology at Durham

(7 Jul 2014)

Haringey Bursary for Durham's MSc Energy and Society - deadline extended to July 21st

In partnership with Haringey Council, a student bursary is available for Durham University's MSc in Energy and Society. The deadline for applications has now been extended to July 21st

The bursary covers UK/EU fees plus an amount to cover expenses for dissertation research towards Haringey’s carbon reduction and inequality goals. Dissertation topics should be developed in dialogue with Haringey and their local partners within the following theme:

Changing households and improving domestic energy efficiency? The role of the Green Deal Communities Funding programme.

Applications will be considered on the quality of a research proposal put forward in relation to the above theme. The actual project undertaken will be developed with guidance from course tutors and in dialogue with Haringey council.

Applicants for the bursary should hold an offer of a place on the MSc Energy and Society. If you do not already have an offer, please apply via the university’s online application website.

Bursary applications should use the attached outline and be submitted by 21st July 2014 as email attachments to:

Find out more about Durham's MSc Energy and Society

For further information about Haringey Carbon Commission, see:

Priority will be given to applicants resident in the borough of Haringey.

(7 Jul 2014)

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