MIND

Hugo Mercier: "Toward The Seamless Integration Of The Sciences"

HeadCon '14
[11.18.14]

One of the great things about cognitive science is that it allowed us to continue that seamless integration of the sciences, from physics, to chemistry, to biology, and then to the mind sciences, and it's been quite successful at doing this in a relatively short time. But on the whole, I feel there's still a failure to continue this thing towards some of the social sciences such as, anthropology, to some extent, and sociology or history that still remain very much shut off from what some would see as progress, and as further integration. 


[39:34 minutes]

HUGO MERCIER, a Cognitive Scientist, is an Ambizione Fellow at the Cognitive Science Center at the University of Neuchâtel. Hugo Mercier's Edge Bio Page


TOWARD THE SEAMLESS INTEGRATION OF THE SCIENCES

I am Hugo Mercier. I'm a cognitive scientist, and I currently work at the University of Neuchâtel, in Switzerland, in the Cognitive Science Center. Today I want to talk about the integration of the cognitive and the social sciences, and in particular how the work of Dan Sperber can help us further that integration between the cognitive and the social sciences.  

One of the great things about cognitive science is that it allowed us to continue that seamless integration of the sciences, from physics, to chemistry, to biology, and then to the mind sciences, and it's been quite successful at doing this in a relatively short time. But on the whole, I feel there's still a failure to continue this thing towards some of the social sciences such as, anthropology, to some extent, and sociology or history that still remain very much shut off from what some would see as progress, and as further integration. 

Molly Crockett: "The Neuroscience of Moral Decision Making"

HeadCon '14
[11.18.14]

Imagine we could develop a precise drug that amplifies people's aversion to harming others; on this drug you won't hurt a fly, everyone taking it becomes like Buddhist monks. Who should take this drug? Only convicted criminals—people who have committed violent crimes? Should we put it in the water supply? These are normative questions. These are questions about what should be done. I feel grossly unprepared to answer these questions with the training that I have, but these are important conversations to have between disciplines. Psychologists and neuroscientists need to be talking to philosophers about this. These are conversations that we need to have because we don't want to get to the point where we have the technology but haven't had this conversation, because then terrible things could happen.

MOLLY CROCKETT is an associate professor in the Department of Experimental Psychology, University of Oxford; Wellcome Trust Postdoctoral Fellow, Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging. Molly Crockett's Edge Bio Page


THE NEUROSCIENCE OF MORAL DECISION MAKING

I'm a neuroscientist at the University of Oxford in the UK. I'm interested in decision making, specifically decisions that involve tradeoffs; for example, tradeoffs between my own self-interest and the interests of other people, or tradeoffs between my present desires and my future goals.

One thing that's always fascinated me, specifically about human decision making, is the fact that we have multiple conflicting motives in our decision process. And not only do we have these forces pulling us in different directions, but we can reflect on this fact. We can witness the tug of war that happens when we're trying to make a difficult decision. One thing that is great about our ability to reflect on this process is that it suggests that we can intervene somehow in our decisions. We can make better decisions—more self-controlled decisions, or more moral decisions.
 
The reason I've become interested in the neuroscience of decision making is because I have this sense that pulling apart the different moving parts of this process and looking under the hood will give us clues about where we might be able to intervene and shape our own decisions.

Simone Schnall: "Moral Intuitions, Replication, and the Scientific Study of Human Nature"

Topic: 

  • MIND
http://vimeo.com/106007484

In the end, it's about admissible evidence and ultimately, we need to hold all scientific evidence to the same high standard. Right now we're using a lower standard for the replications involving negative findings when in fact this standard needs to be higher. To establish the absence of an effect is much more difficult than the presence of an effect.

The Paradox of Wu-Wei

[5.2.14]

"One way to look at the trajectory of Chinese thought is that it's driven by this tension I call "the paradox of wu-wei." Wu-wei is effortless action or spontaneity. They all want you to be wu-wei, but none of them think you are right now. You've got to try to be wu-wei, but how do you try not to try? How do you try to be spontaneous? I call it the paradox of wu-wei, and I argue it's at the center of all their theorizing about other things. There are theories about human nature, there are theories about self-cultivation, there are theories about government. These are all ways of grappling with this central tension that's driving a lot of the theorizing."

EDWARD SLINGERLAND is Professor of Asian Studies and Canada Research Chair in Chinese Thought and Embodied Cognition at the University of British Columbia and the author of Trying Not to Try: The Art and Science of SpontaneityEdward Slingerland's Edge Bio Page


THE PARADOX OF WU-WEI

My training was fairly traditional. I got degrees in sinology, the study of Chinese language, and religious studies. I finished my dissertation, which was a fairly traditional, intellectual history of this concept of wu-wei, or effortless action in early China, and it got accepted by Oxford University Press. I was supposed to clean it up and turn it in, and then everything started to go sideways. The first job I had at the University of Colorado, Boulder, I was about to turn in the manuscript and a graduate student in a class I was teaching handed me this book and said, "You might be interested in this," and it was Lakoff and Johnson's Philosophy in the Flesh, which had just come out. This book blew my mind. It immediately solved all of these problems I had with what I was doing.

I had this problem where I was arguing with all these different stories and different texts and saying they're all about wu-wei, they're all about effortless action, but many of the stories don't use the term wu-wei. So how can I say they're really talking about the same concept if they're not using the word? My only solution at that point was just to put the stories side by side and go, "Eh?" Reading about metaphor theory changed everything. The basic argument that Lakoff and Johnson lay out is that we're not disembodied minds floating around somewhere. We are embodied creatures. A lot of our cognition is arising from our embodied interactions with the world, pre-linguistic interactions with the world. And so we build up these basic patterns: walking down a path, dealing with objects, dealing with containers that then structure our abstract thinking. A lot of even very abstract philosophical language is relying on very basic bodily experiences.

DISFLUENCY

A Conversation with
[2.25.13]

We've shown that disfluency leads you to think more deeply, as I mentioned earlier, that it forms a cognitive roadblock, and then you think more deeply, and you work through the information more comprehensively. But the other thing it does is it allows you to depart more from reality, from the reality you're at now. 
 

Introduction

Adam Alter is interested in examining the concrete ways in which we are affected by subtle cues, such as symbols, culture, and colors. Why are Westerners easily fooled by the Müller-Lyer illusion of two lines with different arrows at their ends, while Bushmen from southern Africa are not? Why do certain colors have a calming effect on the intoxicated? Why is it that people with easy-to-pronounce names get ahead in life?

In this conversation, we get an overview of Alter's current line of work on how we experience fluent and disfluent information. Fluency implies that information comes at a very low cost, often because it is already familiar to us in some similar form. Disfluency occurs when information is costly–perhaps it takes a lot of effort to understand a concept, or a name is unfamiliar and therefore difficult to say. His work has interesting implications in the realms of market forces (stocks with pronounceable ticker codes tend to do better when they first enter the market than those that don't, for instance) and globalization, and is highly relevant in a world where cultures continue to meet and to merge.

Jennifer Jacquet

ADAM ALTER is an Assistant Professor of Marketing at Stern School of Business, NYU. He is the author of Drunk Tank Pink: And Other Unexpected Forces that Shape How We Think, Feel, and Behave. Adam Alter's Edge Bio Page 


[33.48 minutes]

[This conversation with Adam Alter was conducted in New York City by Edge Editor-at-Large, Jennifer Jacquet.]


DISFLUENCY

From the beginning of psychology, psychologists have been interested in two aspects of thinking. They've been interested in a lot of aspects, but one of the ways of breaking thinking down is into these two. The first is to look at the content of our thoughts or our cognitions. What is the stuff that we're thinking about, and that goes all the way back to the 1800s, with the introspectionists; they were interested in looking at what people were actually thinking about when they were introspecting. That's carried right through psychology from the 1800s to today.

Another aspect that's only been studied much more recently, which has formed the basis for a lot of my research now, is to look at not what people are thinking, but how that experience is for them. What is it like to think about these things? That topic is known as meta-cognition, and it's basically the idea that when we have any thoughts, not only do we have those thoughts, but there's an overlaid experience of how it feels to have those thoughts. Is it easy to generate those thoughts? Is it difficult to process them? Do we feel like we understand what we're thinking about well? Do we think we understand it poorly? I'll give you a couple of examples of this.


The Normal Well-Tempered Mind

[1.8.13]

The vision of the brain as a computer, which I still champion, is changing so fast. The brain's a computer, but it's so different from any computer that you're used to. It's not like your desktop or your laptop at all, and it's not like your iPhone except in some ways. It's a much more interesting phenomenon. What Turing gave us for the first time (and without Turing you just couldn't do any of this) is a way of thinking about in a disciplined way and taking seriously phenomena that have, as I like to say, trillions of moving parts. Until late 20th century, nobody knew how to take seriously a machine with a trillion moving parts. It's just mind-boggling. 

Hardcover [ May, 2013 ]
Daniel C. Dennett
 

DANIEL C. DENNETT is University Professor, Professor of Philosophy, and Co-Director of the Center for Cognitive Studies at Tufts University. His books include Consciousness Explained; Darwin's Dangerous Idea; Kinds of Minds; Freedom Evolves; and Breaking the Spell. Daniel C. Dennett's Edge Bio Page


[50 minutes]

THE NORMAL WELL-TEMPERED MIND

Topic: 

  • MIND
http://vimeo.com/81869179

The vision of the brain as a computer, which I still champion, is changing so fast. The brain's a computer, but it's so different from any computer that you're used to. It's not like your desktop or your laptop at all, and it's not like your iPhone except in some ways. It's a much more interesting phenomenon. What Turing gave us for the first time (and without Turing you just couldn't do any of this) is a way of thinking about in a disciplined way and taking seriously phenomena that have, as I like to say, trillions of moving parts.

IMAGING CONFLICT RESOLUTION

Topic: 

  • MIND
http://vimeo.com/80821735

"The advantage of neuroscience is being able to look under the hood and see the mechanisms that actually create the thoughts and the behaviors that create and perpetuate conflict. Seems like it ought to be useful. That's the question that I'm asking myself right now, can science in general, or neuroscience in particular, be used to understand what drives conflict, what prevents reconciliation, why some interventions work for some people some of the time, and how to make and evaluate better ones."

IMAGING CONFLICT RESOLUTION

A Conversation with
[8.9.12]

The advantage of neuroscience is being able to look under the hood and see the mechanisms that actually create the thoughts and the behaviors that create and perpetuate conflict. Seems like it ought to be useful. That's the question that I'm asking myself right now, can science in general, or neuroscience in particular, be used to understand what drives conflict, what prevents reconciliation, why some interventions work for some people some of the time, and how to make and evaluate better ones.

REBECCA SAXE is an Associate Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience in the department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences at MIT. She is also an associate member of the McGovern Institute for Brain Research. She is known for her research on the neural basis of social cognition.

Rebecca Saxe's Edge Bio Page


[
32:58 minutes]


IMAGING CONFLICT RESOLUTION

[REBECCA SAXE:] One of the questions I'm asking myself from my work is the question I've always been asking myself: how is it going to be useful? I have an idea for how the kind of work I do could be useful, but I'm not at all sure this is possible, or possible in my lifetime. The idea has a big version and a little version. The big version has to do with self-knowledge and understanding ourselves. The big idea is that neuroscience is a kind of self-knowledge. It's a way of understanding our minds and our behaviors. If we get it right, if we really come to understand our brains, we will understand ourselves, we will be better at predicting our behaviors in contexts and in ways that really matter. In trying to run a society, you need to know how the elements of it would work, just as much as to run a machine you need to know how the physical elements work. 

Our society is built of a bunch of minds trying to work together. It seems like having better, more scientific understanding of the mind is the only possible way to have a better functioning society. That's the big idea, which seems quite ludicrous. Then the question is to try to work it out in an example. The example is almost as ludicrous. The example I'm working on right now is conflict and conflict resolution: how to make groups of people that are suspicious of one another and on the brink of war with one another more tolerant, more accepting, more forgiving, and more capable of working together. There are a bunch of ways that the kind of neuroscience I've done could help in that context. 


SUMMER READING 2012

[6.26.12]

Chris Anderson, Samuel Arbesman, Dan Ariely, Scott Atran, John D. Barrow, Mary Catherine Bateson, Roy Baumeister, Gregory Benford, Jesse Bering, Nick Bilton, Max Brockman, John Brockman, David Brooks, Benedict Carey, Noam Chomsky, George Church, Patricia Churchland, Douglas Coupland, Brian Cox, Austin Dacey, Antonio Damasio, Richard Dawkins, Emanuel Derman, Keith Devlin, David Deutsch, Peter Diamandis, Cory Doctorow , George Dyson, David M. Eagleman, Dylan Evans, Daniel L. Everett, Stuart Firestein, Michael Gazzaniga, James Geary, David Gelernter, Herbert Gintis, Rebecca Goldstein, John Gottman, Jonathan Gottschall, A. C. Grayling, Brian Greene, Jonathan Haidt, Sam Harris, Paul Harris, Mark Henderson, Roger Highfield, Bruce Hood, John Horgan, Arianna Huffington, Walter Isaacson, Alok Jha, Steven Johnson, Daniel Kahneman, Eric R. Kandel, Andrew Keen, Christian Keysers, Lawrence M. Krauss, Robert Kurzban, Jonah Lehrer, John Lloyd, Benoit Mandelbrot, Gary Marcus, Annalena Mcafee, Tom Mccarthy, Pamela Mccorduck, John Mcwhorter, Evgeny Morozov, Steve Nadis, John Naughton, Alva Noë, Martin Nowak, Hans Ulrich Obrist, Mark Pagel, Elaine Pagels, Heinz R Pagels, Bruce Parker, Clifford Pickover, Steven Pinker, William Poundstone, Robert Provine, Vilayanur Ramachandran, Lisa Randall, Martin Rees, Ed Regis, Howard Rheingold, Steven Rose , Robin S. Rosenberg, Carlo Rovelli, Rudy Rucker, Douglas Rushkoff, Dimitar Sasselov, Martin Seligman, Karoly Simonyi, Laurence C. Smith, Christopher Stringer, Steven Strogatz, Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Don Tapscott, Eric J. Topol, M.D., Robert Trivers, Sherry Turkle, Neil Turok, Ai Weiwei, Margaret Wertheim, Timothy D. Wilson, David Sloan Wilson, E. O. Wilson, Naomi Wolf, Nathan Wolfe, Shing- Tung Yau, Carl Zimmer, Phil Zuckerman

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