NIAS CONSCIOUSNESS STUDIES PROGRAMME
Binoy V V

Person 3

Binoy is interested in understanding the biological and environmental basis of social cognition in both animals and human beings. He explores the determinants of social decision-making and personality traits (also referred to as individual variation in the behaviour, coping style or behavioral syndrome) in vertebrates using fish and amphibian model systems. His research also focuses on the development of attitude towards biotic and abiotic natural resources and environmental decision-making in school children from various cultures across India. Cultural variation in the autobiographic memory, cognitive style and fluid intelligence in children is another topic of his research.

Binoy leads the biology education team of the Connected Learning Initiative (CLIx),a joint venture of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA and Tata Institute of Social Science (TISS), Mumbai. Binoy is a research affiliate in the Centre for the Study of Neuro-Economics, George Mason University, USA and Krasnow Institute for Advanced Study, USA. He has a master’s degree and doctorate in Zoology and has been a recipient of the ‘Cognitive Science Research Initiative Postdoctoral Fellowship’ and ‘Young Scientist’ Start-up Research Grant from the Department of Science and Technology, Government of India. He is also passionate about Yoga and Asian martial arts and has been a keen practitioner.

He is interested in science education and communication. He hosts a citizen science initiative named Student-Network (http://www.nias.res.in/wash/), which aims to enhance the student-scientist interaction and joint knowledge production

For further details see: http://social-cognition.weebly.com/

Pic 01

Social Cognition: A "Decision-maker's" Perspectives

© Binoy V V

Let us do a thought experiment! Please recall the names of people whom you have come across in real life and social media during the past two months. Then try to define how you are associated with each individual and recollect one interaction with him or her. Third and last step, now think how those persons are connected to each other and where you position yourself in this large network. Too complex! Isn’t it? Interestingly your brain collects, interpret, categorize, store relevant social information and retrieve it whenever it is required, so effortlessly.

Social cognition “attempts to understand and explain how the thoughts, feelings, and behavior of individuals are influenced by the actual, imagined, or implied presence of others”. Like social life ability for social cognition is not restricted to Homo sapience; many species of animals are also living in societies and exhibits the ability to recognize a particular conspecific or heterospecific individual and modulate behaviours in accordance with the experience from that individual, a trait which is the corner stone of a string of social traits including hierarchy, altruism, trust, empathy as well a determinant of the social decision-making. Our research team explores various dimensions of social cognition and factors influencing social decision-making in fish, an organism located at the base of the tetrapod evolution. Role of acquired familiarity with con and heterospecifics species, in various contexts of social decision making by isolated individuals or groups (shoal) is one of our major focus.

Additionally the biological basis of animal personality (also referred to as individual variation in the behaviour, coping style or behavioral syndrome) and its impact on the lateralized utilization of brain hemisphere and social decision-making in fish are also being explored. Contemporary biology strongly believes that understanding neural and socio-ecological correlates of social decision making and the biological basis of consistent individual variation present in different animal species are vital not only for getting insights into the evolution of social cognition but also for the management and conservation of their populations 8 in natural and artificial habitats. Hence, we are planning to extend the study of this behavioral trait to other animal taxa in the near future. Social decision-making in humans has been an evergreen topic for researchers from science, social science and philosophy. However understanding the exact mechanism and predicting the nature of decision making by an individual or a group is not a trivial task since any human society is not a group of individuals homogenous in their behaviour. One of the major topics in this area of research is the role of culture and personality on the decision-making and such studies are highly important in the Indian context because our nation is a pinnacle of social, cultural and environmental diversity. Availability of a database of cultural variation in decision-making can make social management easy and conflict free.

Pic 02

We study the relationship between knowledge, belief systems, attitude and practices and the modulatory role of these factors on social and environmental decision making in both children and adults from different cultures of Indian subcontinent. Development of attitude towards natural resources, nonhuman species and linkage between the cognitive style and decision-making are the specific topics we follow. It is uncontested that Autobiographical Memory (AM), the remembrance of personal experiences integrated into an overarching life narrative could regulate the decision-making of an individual. AM is a determinant of the four vital element of human behaviour; personal identity, problem solving capacity, emotional control and relationship management. Additionally, this form of memory is a window to “autonoetic consciousness, the human ability to mentally place themselves in the past, in the future, or in counterfactual situations, and to analyse their own thoughts”.

Autobiographic Memory (AM) can put mark on implicit, explicit and intuitive representation of self and personality traits of an individual and thus her/his psychological wellbeing. Like many other cognitive traits characteristics of AM varies from culture to culture. Our research on AM focuses on the cultural divergence in the development of various properties of this form of remembrance and Meta-autobiographic Memory (MAM). The role of AM and MAM in determining the representation of the various dimensions of self, personality traits and social decision making and its modification during different neuropsychopathological conditions also comes under the scope of our research.

Publications

Binoy V V, Kasturirangan R and Sinha A. (2015). Sensory cues employed for the acquisition of familiarity-dependent recognition of a shoal of conspecifics by climbing perch (Anabas testudineus Bloch). Journal of Biosciences 40: 225-232

Binoy V V. (2015). A comparative analysis of the boldness in four teleosts inhabiting an irrigation canal. Indian Journal of Fisheries 62: 128-130

Kurup A, Chandra A and Binoy V V. (2015). ‘Little minds dreaming big science’: are we really promoting ‘children gifted in STEM’ in India? Current Science 108: 779-781 49

Radhakrishna S, Binoy V V and Kurup A. (2014). The culture of environmental education: Insights from a citizen science experiment in India. Current Science 107: 176-178

Binoy V V and Radhakrishna S. (2013). Environmental decision-making: The role of culture-induced divergence in cognition. Current Science 105: 757-759 Karmakar S and

Binoy V V. (2012). Tools as non-elaborated aesthetic form. Science and Culture 78: 347-350

Binoy V V, Roshan K S and Rakesh V B. (2012). Occurrence of Kryptoglanis shajii, an enigmatic subterranean-spring catfish (Siluriformes, Incertae sedis), in channels of paddy field. Current Science 102: 161