One of the most striking characteristics of human behavior in contrast to all other animal is that we show extraordinary variability across populations. Human cultural diversity is a biological oddity. More specifically, we propose that what makes humans unique is the nature of the individual ontogenetic process, that results in this unparalleled cultural diversity. Hence, our central question is: How is human ontogeny adapted to cultural diversity and how does it contribute to it? This question is critical, because cultural diversity does not only entail our predominant mode of adaptation to local ecologies, but is key in the construction of our cognitive architecture. The colors we see, the tones that we hear, the memories we form, the norms we adhere to are all the consequence of an interaction between our emerging cognitive system and our lived experiences.
While psychologists make careers measuring cognitive systems, we are terrible at measuring experience. The standard methods all face unsurmountable limitations. In our department, we hope to apply Machine Learning, Deep Learning and Computer Vision to automatically extract developmentally important indicators of humans’ daily experience. Similarly to the way that modern sequencing technologies allow us to study the human genotype at scale, applying AI methods to reliably quantify humans’ lived experience would allow us to study the human behavioral phenotype at scale, and fundamentally alter the science of human behavior and its application in education, mental health and medicine: The phenotyping revolution.
Biography: Daniel Haun, born 1977 in Bad Kreuznach, Germany, studied Experimental Psychology in Germany, the United States and England. He received his Ph.D. at the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics investigating cross-cultural variability of spatial cognition under the supervision of Stephen Levinson. He spent his postdoctoral studies focusing on spatial and social cognition in non-human great apes and children at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. From 2007 to 2008 Haun was a lecturer for Psychology at the University of Portsmouth before directing the Research Group for Comparative Cognitive Anthropology, a joint project of the Max Planck Institutes for Psycholinguistics and Evolutionary Anthropology, from 2008 to 2013. He was Professor of Developmental Psychology at the University of Jena from 2014 to 2015, and since 2015, has been a Professor of Early Child Development and Culture at Leipzig University and Director at the Leipzig Research Center for Early Child Development. In 2019 Haun started his position as a director of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig