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Strungmann Forum Reports

The Ernst Strüngmann Forum is dedicated to the promotion of interdisciplinary communication and research. It facilitates the expansion of knowledge by providing experts with a creative environment to scrutinize high-priority problems from multiple perspectives. The insights and future research directions that emerge are disseminated in the Strüngmann Forum Reports. 

The Transformative Power of Children and Families

Can more peaceful childhoods promote a culture of peace? Increasing evidence from a broad range of disciplines shows that how we raise our children affects the propensity for conflict and the potential for peace within a given community. In this book, experts from a range of disciplines examine the biological and social underpinnings of child development and the importance of strengthening families to build harmonious and equitable relations across generations.

Today, global land use is affected by a variety of factors, including urbanization and the growing interconnectedness of economies and markets. This book examines the challenges and opportunities we face in achieving sustainable land use in the twenty-first century. While land resources remain finite, the global population is projected to reach ten billion by the end of the century, bringing issues of ethics and fairness to center stage. Who should decide how land is used? Where does competition for land occur, and why?

Evolution and Synthesis

Despite major advances in methodology and thousands of published studies every year, treatment outcomes in schizophrenia have not improved over the last fifty years. Moreover, we still lack strategies for prevention and we do not yet understand how the interaction of genetic, developmental, and environmental factors contribute to the disorder. In this book, leading researchers consider conceptual and technical obstacles to progress in understanding schizophrenia and suggest novel strategies for advancing research and treatment.

Society, Technology, Language, and Religion

Over the past few decades, a growing body of research has emerged from a variety of disciplines to highlight the importance of cultural evolution in understanding human behavior. Wider application of these insights, however, has been hampered by traditional disciplinary boundaries. To remedy this, in this volume leading researchers from theoretical biology, developmental and cognitive psychology, linguistics, anthropology, sociology, religious studies, history, and economics come together to explore the central role of cultural evolution in different aspects of human endeavor.

A Mysterious Relationship

This book explores the relationships between language, music, and the brain by pursuing four key themes and the crosstalk among them: song and dance as a bridge between music and language; multiple levels of structure from brain to behavior to culture; the semantics of internal and external worlds and the role of emotion; and the evolution and development of language. The book offers specially commissioned expositions of current research accessible both to experts across disciplines and to non-experts.

How do we make decisions? Conventional decision theory tells us only which behavioral choices we ought to make if we follow certain axioms. In real life, however, our choices are governed by cognitive mechanisms shaped over evolutionary time through the process of natural selection. Evolution has created strong biases in how and when we process information, and it is these evolved cognitive building blocks--from signal detection and memory to individual and social learning--that provide the foundation for our choices.

Evolution, Algorithms, and the Brain

Over a century ago, William James proposed that people search through memory much as they rummage through a house looking for lost keys. We scour our environments for territory, food, mates, and information. We search for items in visual scenes, for historical facts, and for the best deals on Internet sites; we search for new friends to add to our social networks, and for solutions to novel problems. What we find is always governed by how we search and by the structure of the environment.

Contemporary Issues in Comparative Cognition

Do animals have cognitive maps? Do they possess knowledge? Do they plan for the future? Do they understand that others have mental lives of their own? This volume provides a state-of-the-art assessment of animal cognition, with experts from psychology, neuroscience, philosophy, ecology, and evolutionary biology addressing these questions in an integrative fashion. It summarizes the latest research, identifies areas where consensus has been reached, and takes on current controversies.

Implications for Global Health

Disease eradication represents the ultimate in global equity and the definitive outcome of good public health practice. Thirty years ago, the elimination of smallpox defined disease eradication as a monumental global achievement with lasting benefits for society. Today, the global commitment to eradicate polio and guinea worm and heightened interest in the potential eradication of other infectious diseases, including measles/rubella, lymphatic filariasis, onchocerciasis, and malaria, dominate public health concerns. But what does it take to eradicate a disease?

Envisioning Health Care 2020

Contrary to popular opinion, one of the main problems in providing uniformly excellent health care is not lack of money but lack of knowledge—on the part of both doctors and patients. The studies in this book show that many doctors and most patients do not understand the available medical evidence. Both patients and doctors are “risk illiterate”—frequently unable to tell the difference between actual risk and relative risk. Further, unwarranted disparity in treatment decisions is the rule rather than the exception in the United States and Europe.

From Neurons to Mind

A fundamental shift is occurring in neuroscience and related disciplines. In the past, researchers focused on functional specialization of the brain, discovering complex processing strategies based on convergence and divergence in slowly adapting anatomical architectures. Yet for the brain to cope with ever-changing and unpredictable circumstances, it needs strategies with richer interactive short-term dynamics. Recent research has revealed ways in which the brain effectively coordinates widely distributed and specialized activities to meet the needs of the moment.

Humanity faces immense hurdles as it struggles to define the path toward a sustainable future. The multiple components of sustainability, all of which demand attention, make understanding the very concept of sustainability itself a challenge. Information about whether global agriculture can be made sustainable, for example, or calculations of the global need for water are useless unless we understand how these issues connect to each other and to other components of sustainability.

Syntax is arguably the most human-specific aspect of language. Despite the proto-linguistic capacities of some animals, syntax appears to be the last major evolutionary transition in humans that has some genetic basis. Yet what are the elements to a scenario that can explain such a transition? In this book, experts from linguistics, neurology and neurobiology, cognitive psychology, ecology and evolutionary biology, and computer modeling address this question.

Their Relationship to Energy Balance, Atmospheric Dynamics, and Precipitation

More than half the globe is covered by visible clouds. Clouds control major parts of the Earth's energy balance, influencing both incoming shortwave solar radiation and outgoing longwave thermal radiation. Latent heating and cooling related to cloud processes modify atmospheric circulation, and, by modulating sea surface temperatures, clouds affect the oceanic circulation. Clouds are also an essential component of the global water cycle, on which all terrestrial life depends.

Decision Making, the Human Mind, and Implications for Institutions

Conscious control enables human decision makers to override routines, to exercise willpower, to find innovative solutions, to learn by instruction, to decide collectively, and to justify their choices. These and many more advantages, however, come at a price: the ability to process information consciously is severely limited and conscious decision makers are liable to hundreds of biases. Measured against the norms of rational choice theory, conscious decision makers perform poorly.