MIND

THE ADOLESCENT BRAIN

Topic: 

  • MIND
http://vimeo.com/82216856

"The idea that the brain is somehow fixed in early childhood, which was an idea that was very strongly believed up until fairly recently, is completely wrong. There's no evidence that the brain is somehow set and can't change after early childhood. In fact, it goes through this very large development throughout adolescence and right into the 20s and 30s, and even after that it's plastic forever, the plasticity is a baseline state, no matter how old you are. That has implications for things like intervention programs and educational programs for teenagers."

THE ADOLESCENT BRAIN

[6.5.12]

The idea that the brain is somehow fixed in early childhood, which was an idea that was very strongly believed up until fairly recently, is completely wrong. There's no evidence that the brain is somehow set and can't change after early childhood. In fact, it goes through this very large development throughout adolescence and right into the 20s and 30s, and even after that it's plastic forever, the plasticity is a baseline state, no matter how old you are. That has implications for things like intervention programs and educational programs for teenagers.

Introduction

Sarah-Jayne Blakemore is a leading social neuroscientist of adolescent development. She has reawakened research interest into the puberty period by focusing on social cognition and its neural underpinnings. Part of her question is whether adolescence involves egocentrism, as many popular conceptions suggest, since this is testable. 

Part of her originality is to remind us of the remarkable changes in brain structure during adolescence, given the traditional focus of developmental psychology is on early childhood. Using a range of techniques, including conducting elegant MRI studies, she illuminates a neglected phase of cognitive development. Given that the sex steroid hormones are produced in higher quantities during this period, her research opens up interesting questions about whether the changes in the brain are driven by the endocrine system, or by changing social experience, or an interaction of these factors. 

—Simon Baron-Cohen

SARAH-JAYNE BLAKEMORE is a Royal Society University Research Fellow and Full Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience at the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, University College London, UK. Blakemore’s research centers on the development of social cognition and executive function in the typically developing adolescent brain, using a variety of behavioral and neuroimaging methods. 

Sarah-Jayne Blakemore's Edge Bio

SIMON BARON-COHEN, Psychologist, is Professor of Developmental Psychopathology and Director of the Autism Research Centre at Cambridge University, a Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge; Author, The Science of Evil; The Essential Difference.


 

ESSENTIALISM

[5.17.12]

"The self is something that is central to a lot of psychological questions and, in fact, a lot of psychologists have difficulty describing their work without positing the notion of a self. It's such a common daily, profound, indivisible experience for most of us. Some people do manage to achieve states of divided self or anatta, no self, they're really skilled Buddhists. But for the majority of us the self is a very compulsive experience. I happen to think it's an illusion and certainly the neuroscience seems to support that contention. Simply from the logical positions that it's very difficult to, without avoiding some degree of infinite regress, to say a starting point, the trail of thought, just the fractionation of the mind, when we see this happening in neurological conditions. The famous split-brain studies showing that actually we're not integrated entities inside our head, rather we're the output of a multitude of unconscious processes."

BRUCE HOOD is a British experimental psychologist who holds the Chair in Developmental Psychology in Society at Bristol Cognitive Development Centre. He is well known for his ideas on humans being hard-wired for supernatural beliefs. He is the author of Supersense: Why We Believe in the Unbelievable, and most recently, The Self Illusion: How the Brain Creates Identity. In 2011, he presented the Royal Institution Christmas Lectures, "Meet Your Brain" which was broadcast on the BBC.

Bruce Hood's Edge Bio Page

 

ESSENTIALISM

Topic: 

  • MIND
http://vimeo.com/87287783

"The self is something that is central to a lot of psychological questions and, in fact, a lot of psychologists have difficulty describing their work without positing the notion of a self. It's such a common daily, profound, indivisible experience for most of us. Some people do manage to achieve states of divided self or anatta, no self, they're really skilled Buddhists. But for the majority of us the self is a very compulsive experience. I happen to think it's an illusion and certainly the neuroscience seems to support that contention.

TEMPLATE

[5.1.12]

What would I do with a million dollar chair? Well, my big thing is essentialism. Its origins probably can be traced to sort of the notion of ideal forums, which is a platonic idea. I discovered essentialism basically by reading Susan Gelman's work, and essentialism has an experimental tradition, not that old by the way, in biology.

Introduction

[to come]

JB

BRUCE HOOD is a British experimental psychologist who holds the Chair in Developmental Psychology at Bristol Cognitive Development Centre. He is well known for his ideas on humans being hard-wired for religion. He is the author of SuperSence: Why We Believe in the UnbelievableThe Science of Superstition: How the Developing Brain Creates Supernatural Beliefs; and most recently, The Self Illusion: Why There is No 'You' Inside Your Head.

Bruce Hood's Edge Bio Page


CLICK HERE FOR TEMPORARY PRE-PUBLICATION VIDEO LINK


TEMPLATE

[BRUCE HOOD:] I've reached a crossroads in my research and in the questions I'm now starting to ask. Part of that was driven by some insight and realization about the direction I was taking, and part of it was also driven by changes in economic circumstances. Notably, the reduction in funding in this country has impacted upon my field quite dramatically (behavioral sciences). The way that that's impacted is that there's far less money to fund research, so the competition to get funding has become very acute. Now we have to justify with a view to application. In the past you could just go off on a light of fantasy studying the things that were of intrinsic interest. But now we have to steer our grant applications towards potential application, and certainly we have to write a substantial proportion of the proposal to deal with impact, public engagement. And that's across the board. As I said, this had been five, ten years ago, there would have been some resistance to that, but increasingly now the research councils feel that we, as a public body funded by taxation, need to be called to account in terms of what we're doing with the money, the taxpayers' money. 

PONDERING HAIDT'S HYPOTHESIS

[3.30.12]

In July, 2010, Edge ran a seminar entitled  "A NEW SCIENCE OF MORALITY" which was introduced with the following paragraph:

Something radically new is in the air: new ways of understanding physical systems, new ways of thinking about thinking that call into question many of our basic assumptions. A realistic biology of the mind, advances in evolutionary biology, physics, information technology, genetics, neurobiology, psychology, engineering, the chemistry of materials: all are questions of critical importance with respect to what it means to be human. For the first time, we have the tools and the will to undertake the scientific study of human nature.

The driving force behind the conference was University of Virginia social psychologist Jonathan Haidt, author of The Happinesss Hypothesis and the recently-published The Righteous Mind, whose research indicates that morality is a social construction which has evolved out of raw materials provided by five (or more) innate "psychological" foundations: Harm, Fairness, Ingroup, Authority, and Purity. Highly educated liberals generally rely upon and endorse only the first two foundations, whereas people who are more conservative, more religious, or of lower social class usually rely upon and endorse all five foundations. 

In his talk at 'THE NEW SCIENCE OF MORALITY" , he said:

I've been arguing for the last few years that we've got to expand our conception of the moral domain, that it includes multiple moral foundations, not just sugar and salt, and not just harm and fairness, but a lot more as well. So, with Craig Joseph and Jesse Graham and Brian Nosek, I've developed a theory called Moral Foundations Theory, which draws heavily on the anthropological insights of Richard Shweder. 

Down here, I've just listed a very brief summary of it. That the five most important taste receptors of the moral mind are the following…care/harm, fairness/cheating, group loyalty and betrayal, authority and subversion, sanctity and degradation. And that moral systems are like cuisines that are constructed from local elements to please these receptors.

So, I'm proposing, we're proposing, that these are the five best candidates for being the taste receptors of the moral mind. They're not the only five. There's a lot more. So much of our evolutionary heritage, of our perceptual abilities, of our language ability, so much goes into giving us moral concerns, the moral judgments that we have. But I think this is a good starting point. I think it's one that Hume would approve of. It uses the same metaphor that he used, the metaphor of taste. 

Haidt, a frequent Edge contributor, has been developing ths set of ideas over the years. In September, 2007, in MORAL PSYCHOLOGY AND THE MISUNDERSTANDING OF RELIGION, he noted the following:

My conclusion is not that secular liberal societies should be made more religious and conservative in a utilitarian bid to increase happiness, charity, longevity, and social capital. Too many valuable rights would be at risk, too many people would be excluded, and societies are so complex that it's impossible to do such social engineering and get only what you bargained for. My point is just that every longstanding ideology and way of life contains some wisdom, some insights into ways of suppressing selfishness, enhancing cooperation, and ultimately enhancing human flourishing. 

But because of the four principles of moral psychology it is extremely difficult for people, even scientists, to find that wisdom once hostilities erupt. A militant form of atheism that claims the backing of science and encourages "brights" to take up arms may perhaps advance atheism. But it may also backfire, polluting the scientific study of religion with moralistic dogma and damaging the prestige of science in the process.

He presented the following conclusion in his widely read piece of September 2008,"WHAT MAKES PEOPLE VOTE REPUBLICAN":

What makes people vote Republican? Why in particular do working class and rural Americans usually vote for pro-business Republicans when their economic interests would seem better served by Democratic policies? We psychologists have been examining the origins of ideology ever since Hitler sent us Germany's best psychologists, and we long ago reported that strict parenting and a variety of personal insecurities work together to turn people against liberalism, diversity, and progress. But now that we can map the brains, genes, and unconscious attitudes of conservatives, we have refined our diagnosis: conservatism is a partially heritable personality trait that predisposes some people to be cognitively inflexible, fond of hierarchy, and inordinately afraid of uncertainty, change, and death. People vote Republican because Republicans offer "moral clarity"—a simple vision of good and evil that activates deep seated fears in much of the electorate. Democrats, in contrast, appeal to reason with their long-winded explorations of policy options for a complex world.

More recently, in February 2011, in THE BRIGHT FUTURE OF POST-PARTISAN SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY", he called attention to the fact that 99% of social psychologists on the psychology faculties of American universities are liberals. 

Has social psychology become a Tribal Moral Community since the 1960s? Are we a community that is bound together by liberal values and then blind to any ideas or findings that threaten our sacred values? I believe the answer is yes, and I'll make 3 points to support that claim.

The publication last week of his mangum opus, The Righteous Mind (already a NEW YORK TIMES hardcover bestseller), pulls together Haidt's provocative ideas and focuses our attention on this innovative and original thinker. Today I noticed that various luminaries among the Edge crowd were quoting him, emailing each other and arguing about his ideas and conclusions. Edge has an editorial policy of staying away from books, and focusing instead on the questions people are asking themselves today, not several years ago when they were contemplating and writing their books. In this case, the explosion on interest in Haidt's work and the questioning being done by the Edgies who are now publicly airing their responses to his interesting and controversial ideas, is new, illuminating, and worth presenting as an Edge conversation.

John Brockman

Jonathan Haidt's Edge Bio Page

ADVENTURES IN BEHAVIORAL NEUROLOGY—OR—WHAT NEUROLOGY CAN TELL US ABOUT HUMAN NATURE

Topic: 

  • MIND
http://vimeo.com/79409201

"So here is something staring you in the face, an extraordinary syndrome, utterly mysterious, where a person wants his normal limb removed. Why does this happen? There are all kinds of crazy theories about it including Freudian theories. One theory asserts, for example, that it's an attention seeking behavior. This chap wants attention so he asks you to remove his arm. It doesn't make any sense. Why does he not want his nose removed or ear removed or something less drastic? Why an arm? It seems a little bit too drastic for seeking attention."

ADVENTURES IN BEHAVIORAL NEUROLOGY — OR — WHAT NEUROLOGY CAN TELL US ABOUT HUMAN NATURE

[2.21.12]

So here is something staring you in the face, an extraordinary syndrome, utterly mysterious, where a person wants his normal limb removed. Why does this happen? There are all kinds of crazy theories about it including Freudian theories. One theory asserts, for example, that it's an attention seeking behavior. This chap wants attention so he asks you to remove his arm. It doesn't make any sense. Why does he not want his nose removed or ear removed or something less drastic? Why an arm? It seems a little bit too drastic for seeking attention.

V.S. RAMACHANDRAN, M.D., PH.D., Is Director of the Center for Brain and Cognition and distinguished professor with the Psychology Department and the Neurosciences Program at the University of California, San Diego, and Adjunct Professor of Biology at the Salk Institute. Ramachandran's early research was on visual perception but he is best known for his work in Neurology. His most recent book is The Tell-Tale Brain. 

V.S. Ramachandran's Edge Bio Page


Adventures In Behavioral Neurology—Or—What Neurology Can Tell Us About Human Nature

[V.S. RAMACHANDRAN:] I'm interested in all aspects of the human mind, including aspects of the mind that have been regarded as ineffable or mysterious. The way I approach these problems is to look at patients who have sustained injury to a small region in the brain, a discipline called Behavioral Neurology or Cognitive Neuroscience these days.

Let me tell you about the problem confronting us. The brain is a 1.5 kilogram mass of jelly, the consistency of tofu, you can hold it in the palm of your hand, yet it can contemplate the vastness of space and time, the meaning of infinity and the meaning of existence. It can ask questions about who am I, where do I come from, questions about love and beauty, aesthetics, and art, and all these questions arising from this lump of jelly. It is truly the greatest of mysteries. The question is how does it come about?

 

THE EVOLVED SELF-MANAGEMENT SYSTEM

[12.5.11]

I'm now thinking about a larger issue still. If placebo medicine can induce people to release hidden healing resources, are there other ways in which the cultural environment can "give permission" to people to come out of their shells and to do things they wouldn't have done in the past? Can cultural signals encourage people to reveal sides of their personality or faculties that they wouldn't have dared to reveal in the past? Or for that matter can culture block them? There's good reason to think this is in fact our history.

NICHOLAS HUMPHREY has held posts at Oxford and Cambridge Universities, and is now School Professor Emeritus at the LSE. He is a theoretical psychologist, internationally known for his work on the evolution of human intelligence and consciousness. His most recent book is Soul Dust.

Nicholas Humphrey's Edge Bio Page

THE REALITY CLUB: Geoffrey Miller


THE EVOLVED SELF-MANAGEMENT SYSTEM

[NICHOLAS HUMPHREY:] I was asked to write an essay recently for "Current Biology" on the evolution of human health. It's not really my subject, I should say, but it certainly got me thinking. One of the more provocative thoughts I had is about the role of medicine. If human health has changed for the better in the late stages of evolution, this has surely had a lot to do with the possibility of consulting doctors, and the use of drugs. But the surprising thing is that, until less than 100 years ago, there was hardly anything a doctor could do that would be effective in any physiological medicinal way—and still the doctor's ministrations often "worked". That's to say, under the influence of what we would today call placebo medicine people came to feel less pain, to experience less fever, their inflammations receded, and so on.

Now, when people are cured by placebo medicine, they are in reality curing themselves. But why should this have become an available option late in human evolution, when it wasn't in the past.

The Architecture of Motivation EdgeMaster Class 2011

[10.5.11]

 

Recent research concerning the welfare of others, etc. affects not only how to think about certain emotions, but also overturns how most models of reciprocity and exchange, with implications about how people think about modern markets, political systems, and societies. What are these new approaches to human motivation?

LEDA COSMIDES is a Professor of Psychology and Co-director (with John Tooby) of Center for Evolutionary Psychology at the University of California, Santa Barbara

Leda Cosmides's Edge Bio Page


In July, Edge held its annual Master Class in Napa, California on the theme: "The Science of Human Nature".  In the six week period that began September 12th, we are publishing the complete video, audio, and texts:  Princeton psychologist Daniel Kahneman on the marvels and the flaws of intuitive thinking; Harvard mathematical biologist Martin Nowak on the evolution of cooperation; Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker on the history of violence; UC-Santa Barbara evolutionary psychologist Leda Cosmides on the architecture of motivation; UC-Santa Barbara neuroscientist Michael Gazzaniga on neuroscience and the law; and Princeton religious historian Elaine Pagels on The Book of Revelation.

For publication schedule and details, go to Edge Master Class 2011: The Science of Human Nature.


THE ARCHITECTURE OF MOTIVATION

[LEDA COSMIDES:] Early on as undergraduates, and quite independently, John and I became besotted with two revolutions that were happening. One was the revolution in evolutionary biology, which was showing the sort of thing that Martin was talking about. It was showing us that you could actually have formal models of the evolution of behavior, which was just a marvelous thing. We learned about that. It was like the scales falling from your eyes, it was fantastic.

And then, the second revolution that we became both besotted with was the cognitive revolution, where it looked like you really could have this method of thinking about the mind that was rigorous and would allow you to really understand the connection between the informational environment people were in and what they actually did.

But there was a problem with the meeting of the two of them. One of the problems was that a lot of the most interesting theories in evolutionary biology were about motivation. But at the same time, when the cognitive revolution came along, the study of motivation almost disappeared. It had been a topic in behaviorism, actually, but then the cognitive revolution came and you just didn't hear much about motivation anymore.

We became very interested in the question of how can you think about motivation in a way that's both evolutionary—that takes advantage of these evolutionary theories about behavior—and that's at the same time computational? What would it mean to have a computational approach to motivation? To think about what kinds of computational elements are necessary to think about motivation.

 

Pages

Subscribe to RSS - MIND