CULTURE

David Pizarro: The Failure of Social and Moral Intuitions (HeadCon '13 Part IX)

Topic/Category: 

Date: 

[2.25.14]

Event Date: 

[ Mon. Nov. 11. 2013 ]

Today I want to talk a little about our social and moral intuitions and I want to present a case that they're rapidly failing, more so than ever. Let me start with an example. Recently, I collaborated with economist Rob Frank, roboticist Cynthia Breazeal, and social psychologist David DeSteno. The experiment that we did was interested in looking at how we detect trustworthiness in others.

Laurie Santos: What Makes Humans Unique (HeadCon '13 Part VII)

Topic/Category: 

Date: 

[1.23.14]

Event Date: 

[ Mon. Nov. 11. 2013 ]

I'm going to talk about some new findings in my field, comparative cognition. I'm interested in what makes humans unique. There are findings that I think are fantastically cool, in that they might be redefining how we think about human nature, but first they're going to pose for us some really interesting new problems.

Joshua Greene: The Role of Brain Imaging in Social Science (HeadCon '13 Part VI)

Topic/Category: 

Date: 

[12.16.13]

Event Date: 

[ Mon. Nov. 11. 2013 ]

We're here in early September 2013 and the topic that's on everybody's minds, (not just here but everywhere) is Syria. Will the U.S. bomb Syria? Should the U.S. bomb Syria? Why do some people think that the U.S. should? Why do other people think that the U.S. shouldn't? These are the kinds of questions that occupy us every day. This is a big national and global issue, sometimes it's personal issues, and these are the kinds of questions that social science tries to answer.

Nicholas Christakis: The Science of Social Connections (HeadCon '13 Part V)

Topic/Category: 

Date: 

[12.9.13]

Event Date: 

[ Mon. Nov. 11. 2013 ]

The part of human nature that I'd like to talk about today is that part of our human nature that is relevant to our interactions with others. There's been a phenomenal amount of work taking place in the last ten years, certainly, and even in the last year or two that seeks to understand how we interact with each other and how we assemble ourselves into social networks.

Robert Kurzban: P-Hacking and the Replication Crisis (HeadCon '13 Part IV)

Topic/Category: 

Date: 

[12.2.13]

Event Date: 

[ Mon. Nov. 11. 2013 ]

P Hacking and the Replication Crisis

The first three talks this morning have been optimistic. We've heard about the promise of big data, we've heard about advances in emotions, and we've just heard from Fiery, who very cleverly managed to find a way to leave before I gave my remarks about how we're understanding something deep about human nature. There's a risk that my remarks are going to be understood as pessimistic but they're really not. My optimism is embodied in the notion that what we're doing here is important and we can do it better.

I really wanted to take this opportunity to have a chance to speak to the people here about what's been going on in some corners of psychology, mostly in areas like social psychology and decision-making. In fact, Danny Kahneman has chimed in on this discussion, which is really what some people thought about as a crisis in certain parts of psychology, which is that insofar as replication is a hallmark of what science is about, there's not a lot of it and what there is shows that things we thought were true maybe aren't; that's really bad. This is a great setting in which to talk about these things, and I want to talk about it in part from my experience in this because I started to come into contact with this in a way that I'll describe right now. 

Robert Kurzban is an Associate Professor, University of Pennsylvania specializing in evolutionary psychology: Author, Why Everyone (Else) Is A Hypocrite.

June Gruber: The Scientific Study of Positive Emotion (HeadCon '13 Part II)

Topic/Category: 

Date: 

[11.18.13]

Event Date: 

[ Mon. Nov. 11. 2013 ]

The Scientific Study of Positive Emotion

What I'm really interested in is the science of human emotion. In particular, what's captivated my field and my interest the most is trying to understand positive emotions. Not only the ways in which perhaps we think they're beneficial for us or confer some sort of adaptive value, but actually the ways in which they may signal dysfunction and may not actually, in all circumstances and in all intensities, be good for us.

I thought I'd first start briefly with a tale of positive emotion. It's a really interesting state because in many ways it's one of the most powerful things that evolution has built for us. If we look at early writings of Charles Darwin, he prominently features these feelings of love, admiration, laughter. So early on we see observations of them, and have some sense that they're really critical for our survival, but when you look at the subsequent scientific study of emotion, it lagged far behind. Indeed, most of the research in human emotion really began with studying negative emotions, trying to build taxonomies, understand cognitive appraisals, physiological signatures, and things like anger, and fear, and disgust. For good reason, we wanted to understand human suffering and hopefully try to ameliorate it.
 
June Gruber is Assistant Professor of Psychology, Director, Positive Emotion & Psychopatology Lab, Yale University. 

Sendhil Mullainathan: What Big Data Means For Social Science (HeadCon '13 Part I)

Topic/Category: 

Date: 

[11.11.13]

Event Date: 

[ Mon. Nov. 11. 2013 ]

I'm going to talk to you today about a project that I've started in the last year or two. This type of thinking, this type of work, is going to be one of the challenges social science faces in the coming three, four, five, ten years. It's work exclusively with Jon Kleinberg. For those of you who don't know him, Jon is a computer scientist, one of the preeminent computer scientists. He's probably the smart one of the two of us, but I'm the pretty one so it's better that I'm being taped.

SCIENCE IS NOT YOUR ENEMY: An Impassioned Plea To Neglected Novelists, Embattled Professors, And Tenure-Less Historians

[8.6.13]

[ED.NOTE: In a brilliant and imporant essay "Science Is Not Your Enemy", published today in The New Republic, Steven Pinker, one our most important public intellectuals, points out that "Though science is beneficially embedded in our material, moral, and intellectual lives, many of our cultural institutions, including the liberal arts programs of many universities, cultivate a philistine indifference to science that shades into contempt. Students can graduate from elite colleges with a trifling exposure to science. They are commonly misinformed that scientists no longer care about truth but merely chase the fashions of shifting paradigms. A demonization campaign anachronistically impugns science for crimes that are as old as civilization, including racism, slavery, conquest, and genocide." ...

 ... "One would think that writers in the humanities would be delighted and energized by the efflorescence of new ideas from the sciences. But one would be wrong. Though everyone endorses science when it can cure disease, monitor the environment, or bash political opponents, the intrusion of science into the territories of the humanities has been deeply resented. Just as reviled is the application of scientific reasoning to religion; many writers without a trace of a belief in God maintain that there is something unseemly about scientists weighing in on the biggest questions. In the major journals of opinion, scientific carpetbaggers are regularly accused of determinism, reductionism, essentialism, positivism, and worst of all, something called “scientism.” The past couple years have seen four denunciations of scientism in this magazine alone, together with attacks in BookforumThe Claremont Review of Books, The Huffington Post,The Nation, National Review OnlineThe New Atlantis, The New York Times, and Standpoint. ...

Read on. — JB]
 


SCIENCE IS NOT YOUR ENEMY: An Impassioned Plea To Neglected Novelists, Embattled Professors, And Tenure-Less Historians
by Steven Pinker


"The great thinkers of the Age of Reason and the Enlightenment were scientists. Not only did many of them contribute to mathematics, physics, and physiology, but all of them were avid theorists in the sciences of human nature. They were cognitive neuroscientists, who tried to explain thought and emotion in terms of physical mechanisms of the nervous system. They were evolutionary psychologists, who speculated on life in a state of nature and on animal instincts that are “infused into our bosoms.” And they were social psychologists, who wrote of the moral sentiments that draw us together, the selfish passions that inflame us, and the foibles of shortsightedness that frustrate our best-laid plans.

"These thinkers—Descartes, Spinoza, Hobbes, Locke, Hume, Rousseau, Leibniz, Kant, Smith—are all the more remarkable for having crafted their ideas in the absence of formal theory and empirical data. The mathematical theories of information, computation, and games had yet to be invented. The words “neuron,” “hormone,” and “gene” meant nothing to them. When reading these thinkers, I often long to travel back in time and offer them some bit of twenty-first-century freshman science that would fill a gap in their arguments or guide them around a stumbling block. What would these Fausts have given for such knowledge? What could they have done with it? ...
 

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