• As a stand-up comedian, Pete Holmes knows how words can manipulate audiences — for good and bad.
  • Words aren't just words. They stich together our social fabric, helping establish and maintain relationships.
  • Holmes has a clever linguistic exercise meant to bring you closer to the people around you.




Videos

The return of the 'stoned ape' theory

A long-ridiculed theory about humankind's early leap of consciousness is revived.

Photo credit: Elena Schweitzer / procy / Shutterstock / Big Think
  • Terence McKenna first proposed psychedelic mushrooms as the trigger for our rapid cognitive evolution.
  • McKenna's theory was called the "Stoned Ape Hypothesis."
  • The hypothesis is being revisited as a possible answer to a vexxing evolutionary riddle.
Keep reading Show less
Mind & Brain

Why do we feel schadenfreude — and who it feels it the most?

Delving into the psychology of an uncommon joy.

Shutterstock
  • Few words convey as much meaning as Schadenfreude, or the joy that arises from seeing harm come to others.
  • Schadenfreude is a complex psychological phenomenon, and researchers have only begun to look into rigorously.
  • Psychology can tell us why we feel schadenfreude, when we feel it, and who feels it the most.
Keep reading Show less
Mind & Brain

Why humans struggled to make 'f' and 'v' sounds until farming came along

Love to drop F-bombs? Thank the shift to agriculture.

Blasi et al.
  • A new study suggests that the f and v sounds were made easier to pronounce by the change in our diets the invention of farming made possible.
  • The idea isn't a new one, but is only now being taken seriously.
  • Even today, many hunter-gather cultures lack labiodentals in their languages.
Keep reading Show less
Surprising Science

Chimp gestures and human language are underpinned by same mathematical principles

Are these two laws universal throughout nature?

Photo credit: ZOOM DOSSO / AFP / Getty Images
  • Zipf's law of abbreviation and Menzerath's law seem to govern not just human speech but chimpanzee gestures.
  • Fifty-eight individual chimp gestures were catalogued in a new study.
  • Their presence points to an intriguing overlap between language and genetic chemistry.
Keep reading Show less
Surprising Science