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Linnda R Caporael

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Name  Linnda Caporael

Linnda R. Caporael wwwstsrpiedufiles24631w408mcsq

Linnda Caporael is a professor at the Science and Technology Studies Department at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.


Educational background

Linnda R. Caporael is a professor at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in the department of Technical Studies and Science. She received her PhD in Psychology at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and she also studied human ethology at the Institute of Child Development at the University of London. She is a Fulbright-Hayes Scholar and a visiting scientist in the Dept. of Invertebrate Paleontology and in the Dept. of Anthropology at the American Museum of Natural History. She researches culture from a biological persepective and biology from a cultural perspective.

Contribution to Historiography of Salem Witch Trials

In April 1976, Caporael debuted a new theory to the historiography of the Salem Witch Trials, when she proposed that they were caused due to an outbreak of ergotism. Ergotism is a disease that results from eating rye bread that has been contaminated by the fungus, ergot. Her evidence for this theory include, growing conditions, localization, and symptoms. Ergot can cause hallucinations, crawling sensations in skin, tingling in fingers, headaches, and vomiting. According to Caporael, many of these symptoms match up with the symptoms of the victims in Salem. In December, 1976, psychologists, Nicholas P. Spanos and Jack Gottlieb, refuted Caporael's theory by arguing that there was no evidence for symptoms of convulsive ergotism in Salem and no evidence that the growing conditions were prime for ergot. In 1982, historian, Mary Matossian, defended Caporael's theory by restating that the weather conditions were prime for growing ergot and that the symptoms of ergot matched the symptoms of the victims. A year later in 1983, Nicholas Spanos challenged Matossian saying that her information was misleading, irrelevant, and incorrect.. He challenged Matossian's defense of Caporael's theory and defended his original rebuttal. Linnda Caporael's ergotism theory sparked a massive debate and is still discussed in articles today.


Caporael is interested and has studied the following topics:

  • Evolution of human sociality.
  • Group coordination.
  • Social identity.
  • Behavioral decision-making.
  • The attribution of human characteristics to animals.
  • Machines and artificial agents.
  • Evolutionary and technological designs.
  • The design of culturally "fit" artifacts.
  • Published works

  • Caporael, L. R. (1976). Ergotism: The Satan loosed in Salem? Science, 192, 21-26.
  • Caporael, L. R. & Atherton, P. R. (1985). A Subjective Judgment Study of Polygon Based Curved Surface Imagery. In L. Borman and & B. Curtis (Eds.), Proceedings of the ACM CHI 85 Human Factors in Computing Systems Conference. April 14–18, 1985, San Francisco, California. p. 27-34.
  • Caporael, L. R. (1986). Anthropomorphism and mechanomorphism: Two faces of the human machine. Computers in Human Behavior, 2, 215-234.
  • Caporael, L. R. (1987). Homo sapiens, Homo faber, Homo socians: Technology and the social animal. In W. Callebaut & R. Pinxten (Eds.), Evolutionary epistemology: A multiparadigm program (pp. 233–244). Dordrecht: Reidel.
  • Caporael, L. R. (1987). A window on war: Women and militarism in Ancient Greece. Paper presented at the American Anthropological Association, Chicago.
  • Caporael, L. R., Dawes, R. M., Orbell, J. M., & van de Kragt, A. J. C. (1989). Selfishness examined: Cooperation in the absence of egoistic incentives. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 12, 683-739.
  • Caporael, L. R. (1997). Vehicles of knowledge: Artifacts and social groups. Evolution and Cognition, 3, 39-43.
  • Caporael, L. R. (2001). Evolutionary psychology: Toward a unifying theory and a hybrid science. Annual Review of Psychology, 52, 607-628.
  • Caporael, L. R. (2003). Repeated assembly. In S. Schur & F. Rauscher (Eds.), Alternative approaches to evolutionary psychology (pp. 71–90): Kluwer.
  • Caporael, L. R. (2007). Evolutionary theory for social and cultural psychology. In E. T. Higgins & A. Kruglanski (Eds.), Social psychology: Handbook of basic principles (pp. 3–18). New York: Guildford Press.
  • References

    Linnda R. Caporael Wikipedia