MIND

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

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

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