CARTA Glossary

Displaying 1 - 52 of 52 defined words for "Awareness of Death and Personal Mortality: Implications for Anthropogeny". To see all CARTA defined words, please view the complete glossary.

Word Definition Related Vocabulary
Admixture

Breeding between isolated populations.

Allele

Alternative DNA sequence at the same locus (location on the chromosome)

Amygdala

A roughly almond-shaped mass of gray matter inside each cerebral hemisphere, involved with the experiencing of emotions, including fear.

Anatomically Modern Humans

Homo sapiens dating back to almost 200,000 years ago that are within range of the skeletal features of modern Homo sapiens.

Archaic Homo sapiens

Earlier forms of Homo sapiens who were anatomically and behaviorally distinct from modern humans.

Behaviorally Modern Humans

Current Homo sapiens, a population of hominins who evolved in Africa 200-100,000 years ago, developed a suite of behavioral and cognitive traits that distinguished them from other hominins in and outside Africa, which likely allowed them to replace all other related hominins across the planet, with some interbreeding but no surviving hybrid species.

Canids (Canidae)

Carnivorous lineage that includes domestic dogs, wolves, foxes, jackals, dingoes, and other extant and extinct dog-like mammals.

Cetaceans (Cetacea)

A clade of aquatic mammals consisting of whales, dolphins, and porpoises.

Clade

A group of organisms consisting of a common ancestor and all descendants on a particular lineage. Represents a single branch on the “tree of life.”

Conspecifics

Members of the same species.

Corvids (Corvidae)

The family of stout-billed passerine birds (an order of birds characterized by an arrangement of toes with three forward and one backward to facilitate perching) including the crows, ravens, rooks, jackdaws, jays, magpies, treepies, choughs, and nutcrackers.

Corvus brachyrhynchos

The American crow.

Cumulative Cooperative Culture

In human culture, the accumulation of cultural modifications over time (“ratchet effect”) resulting from social learning, active teaching, social motivations for conformity, and normative sanctions against non-conformity.

Developmental Adaptation

An irreversible biological characteristic acquired during growth and development in a stressful environment.

Elephants (Elephantidae)

Large herbivorous mammals recognized by their long trunks, tusks, large ear flaps, and pillar-like legs. Elephants are found throughout sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, and Southeast Asia and consist of three species, the Africa bush elephant (Loxodonta africana), the African forest elephant (L. cyclotis), and the Asian elephant (Elephas maximus).

False Beliefs

The ability to recognize that others can have beliefs about the world that are diverging. An important component of Theory of Mind.

Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI)

A neuroimaging technique for measuring and mapping brain activity that is noninvasive and safe. The phenomenon of nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) is used to generate a signal that can be mapped and turned into an image of brain activity.

Funeral

Intentional, ritualistic disposal of the deceased. May include behaviors such as placement of grave goods (artefacts and/or natural materials such as flowers) and positioning of interred body(ies).

Gene Flow

Movement of alleles between populations.

Genetic Adaptation

A biological characteristic with a heritable basis that improves reproduction and/or survival and results from evolution by natural selection.

Genetic Drift

Loss of alleles by chance.

Genotype

The two alleles at one or more diploid loci.

Great Apes

A taxonomic family that was once incorrectly used to denote chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas and orangutans, but not humans.

Hippocampus

A part of the limbic system that plays important roles in the consolidation of information from short-term memory to long-term memory, and in spatial memory that enables navigation. A major component of the brain of humans and other vertebrates. Humans and other mammals have two hippocampi, one in each side of the brain. It is named after its resemblance to the shape of a sea horse.

Hominid

A classification comprising all modern and extinct “Great Apes”and humans.

Hominin

A classification of species comprising human and extinct relatives (ex. Australopithecus, Paranthropus, and Ardipithecus, etc.- not all are ancestral to humans) following the split with the common ancestor with chimpanzees.

Homo

The genus that comprises the species Homo sapiens, as well as several extinct species classified as ancestral to, or closely related to, humans.

Homo erectus

An extinct hominin species with fossil evidence from 1.9 million (possibly earlier) to 70 thousand years ago and found from Africa to Indonesia. May have been the first hominin to leave Africa. H. erectus DNA may be retrievable from other species due to archaic admixture. 

Hybridization

Breeding among recognized species.

Intentionality

The power of minds to be about, to represent, or to stand for, things, properties and states of affairs. Refers to the ability of the mind to form representations and should not be confused with intention. Beliefs about others’ beliefs display what is sometimes known as “higher-order intentionality.”

Introgression

Transfer of alleles between species.

Locus (pl. Loci)

A unique physical position on a chromosome.

Maladaptation

A genotypic or phenotypic trait that is (or has become) more harmful than helpful in determining survival and reproductive success (in contrast to an adaptation, which is more helpful than harmful).

Middle Pleistocene

A period of geological time (781-126,000 years ago). An important time for the diversification of hominins, including the emergence of Neanderthals and Homo sapiens.

Mind Over Reality Transition (MORT)

A proposed singular phase in hominid evolution in which maladaptive mortality salience and death anxiety were triggered by acquiring the capacity for Extended Theory of Mind, but were (in this one instance) tolerated by the simultaneous acquisition of Reality Denial in the same minds - allowing gene culture-evolution to fix both capacities in the resulting hominin lineage, at the neurobiological and genetic level.

Morphology (Biology)

Shape or form (outward appearance) of an organism.  

The branch of biology interested in the form and structure of organisms and their specific structural features.

Mortality Salience

Conscious understanding and realization of personal mortality.

Neanderthals

An extinct Eurasian hominin species that existed from 500,000 to 30,000 years ago and interbred with ancient humans and Denisovans.

Optimism Bias

An almost universally human cognitive bias that seems to cause individuals to believe that they are at less risk of experiencing a negative event and more likely to experience a positive outcome compared to other people.

Phenotype

Observable traits of an organism (result from interactions between genes and environment).

Phylogeny

Historical relationships of species or loci.

Population

A defined group of similar individuals among whom interbreeding occurs.

Positron Emission Tomography (PET) Neuroimaging

A functional imaging technique used to observe metabolic process in the body.

Primates

A group of mammals that include humans, apes, monkeys, and prosimians.

Psychological Evolutionary Barrier

The mental equivalent of a physiological evolutionary barrier (such as the difficulty of evolving from an aquatic existence to living on land). A hypothetical concept.

Reality Denial

A subconscious defense mechanism characterized by refusal to acknowledge (or rationalization of) unwanted or unpleasant facts, realities, thoughts, or feelings. Related Term: “Denialism.”

Selection

Allele frequency change over time caused by the different replication rate of specific alleles.

Self-Awareness

Conscious knowledge of one’s own character, feelings, motives, and desires.

Species

A population whose individuals can mate with one another to produce viable and fertile offspring. (debated definition)

Terror Management Theory

A concept in social psychology that proposes the existence of a basic psychological conflict that results from having a desire to live but realizing death is inevitable.

Theory of Mind (ToM)

The ability to attribute mental beliefs, desires, intentions, and perspectives, etc., to oneself and to others, and to understand that others have beliefs, desires, intentions, and perspectives that are similar or different from one's own.  Related/Overlapping Terms: “Intentionality”, Attribution of Mental States”, “Inter-subjectivity”, “Mind-Reading”, “Perspective taking”, “Other-regarding Impulses”, etc.

Ungulates

Any typically herbivorous and hoofed mammal belonging to a diverse group that includes both perissodactyls (odd-toed ungulates including horses and rhinos) and artiodactyls (even-toed ungulates including cattle, pigs, giraffes, camels, deer, hippos). Recent discoveries indicate cetaceans evolved from early artiodactyls.