Fred Kavli Keynote Address
Thursday, May 21
Ways to Think About the Brain and Cognition
New York University, School of Medicine
Current neuroscience is largely fueled by an empiricist philosophy that assumes the brain’s goal is to perceive, represent the world, and learn the truth. An inevitable consequence of this framework is the assumption of a decision-making homunculus wedged between our perception and actions. In contrast, I advocate that the brain’s fundamental function is to induce actions and predict the consequences of those actions to support the survival and prosperity of the brain’s host. Only actions can provide a second opinion about the relevance of the sensory inputs and provide meaning for and interpretation of those inputs. In this “inside-out” framework, the brain comes with a preconfigured and self-organized dynamic that constrains how it acts and views the world. In the brain’s nonegalitarian organization, preexisting nonsense brain patterns become meaningful through action-based experience.
Friday, May 22
Lisa Feldman Barrett (Chair)
In this APS presidential symposium, we’ll focus on various ways in which body regulation, and the subjective affective experience that results from it, are a constant and often unappreciated context for political decisions and behaviors. Every brain regulates the systems of its body in a constantly changing and only partly predictable social world, and our actions also impact the other brains and bodies around us. The symposium will consider the implications of these insights for the current political moment, including the highly polarized run-up to the U.S. presidential election. We’ll examine how the body, and the passions it helps create, dominates our polarized political landscape in an age of uncertainty. All politics are visceral—the wiring of your brain guarantees it.
The symposium will feature talks by:
Sinan K. Aral, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Sinan K. Aral, a professor of information technology and marketing, researches the relationship between social media, productivity, social influence, and consumer demand. His recent work has focused on the virality of “fake news,” including the mechanisms that allow rumors to spread faster than truths. Aral has applied his research on big data analytics and social media through work with Facebook, The New York Times R&D Lab, IBM, and numerous Fortune 500 companies. Aral co-leads MIT’s Initiative on the Digital Economy, which explores how technology continues to transform businesses and the people who work for them.
Eran Halperin, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel
Eran Halperin investigates inter-group conflict and violence, with an emphasis on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. His work shines a light on how bottom-up processes such as emotion regulation can shift public opinion toward peace and equality, while simultaneously aiming to increase psychological science’s understanding of the conditions that contribute to intolerance, exclusion, prejudice, and hatred. He aspires to uncover ways to inspire social change while overcoming the emotional barriers to conflict resolution. Halperin is a Professor of Psychology and Director of the Emotion in Conflict Lab at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Israel, which strives to understand the role of emotion in inter-group relations, democracy, and peace.
Jeanne L. Tsai, Stanford University
APS Fellow Jeanne Tsai is a Professor of Psychology and Director of the Stanford Culture and Emotion Lab, where she leads a team investigating how culture shapes affective processes such as moods and emotions. She approaches this question from multiple angles, conducting surveys, neuroimaging studies, and experiments to elucidate how affective processes differ within and across cultures. Tsai has found that cultural influences on emotions and feelings have implications for decision-making, health, and perceptions of ourselves and others. In her recent work, she has examined the connection between cultural values related to emotion and social judgments of others’ facial expressions.
Manos Tsakiris, Royal Holloway, University of London, United Kingdom
APS Fellow Manos Tsakiris studies how and why our bodily states are tied to our sense of self. His research applies an interdisciplinary approach combining neuroscientific, psychological, and neurophilosophical perspectives to the question of how the sensory and motor signals that accompany bodily activity become a part of us. Tsakiris aims to empirically identify the neurocognitive principles governing the sense of body-ownership that accompanies events such as touch, as well as the sense of agency characterizing actions generated by our bodies. Tsakiris leads the Body & Image in Arts & Science (BIAS) project at the University of London.
Discussion will be facilitated by:
Hanna Rosin, NPR
Hanna Rosin (@HannaRosin) is the co-host of NPR’s Invisibilia. Before radio she was a senior editor at The Atlantic, where she wrote many cover stories about American culture. She is also the author of the End of Men. Rosin has written for The New Yorker, The New York Times, and New York magazine. In 2010, she headlined the first TED women’s conference and won a National Magazine Award as part of a package of stories in New York magazine about circumcision.
Alix Spiegel, NPR
Alix Spiegel (@aspiegelnpr) co-hosts NPR’s Invisibilia, a podcast from NPR about the unseen forces that control human behavior – our ideas, beliefs, assumptions and thoughts. Invisibilia interweaves personal stories with fascinating psychological and brain science, in a way that ultimately makes you see your own life differently. Before launching Invisibilia with NPR Science Reporter Lulu Miller in 2015, Alix worked on NPR’s Science Desk for 10 years covering psychology and human behavior. She began her career in radio in 1995 as one of the founding producers of This American Life. Over the course of her career, Alix has won many awards including a George Foster Peabody Award, a Livingston Award, an Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award, a Scripps Howard National Journalism Award, and a Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award. Originally from Baltimore, Maryland, Alix graduated from Oberlin College. Her work on human behavior has also appeared in The New Yorker and The New York Times.
Bring the Family Address
Saturday, May 23
Becoming Human: How (and How Early) Do Infants Link Language and Cognition?
Sandra R. Waxman
Language is a signature of our species. It is the pathway through which we share the contents of our minds, imagine new ideas, and ignite them in others. But how, and how early, do infants link language and thought? In this talk, I will explore this question, showing that infants begin to forge this quintessentially human link in the first months of life. Even before infants utter their first words or roll over in their cribs, their cognition is boosted by listening to language. Moreover, in very young infants, listening to vocalizations of nonhuman primates provides the same cognitive boost. I will describe an exquisitely timed developmental cascade, fueled by both nature and nurture, leading infants to discover increasingly precise links between language and cognition and to use this link to learn about their world.
Saturday Keynote Address
Saturday, May 23
Biased: Uncovering the Hidden Prejudice That Shapes What We See, Think, and Do.
Jennifer L. Eberhardt
Jennifer Eberhardt conducts research on race and inequality. Her work has revealed the startling extent to which racial imagery and judgments shape actions and outcomes in our criminal-justice system, neighborhoods, schools, and workplaces. She highlights the negative impact of racial bias and provides clear direction on what we can do about it. She received her Ph.D. from Harvard and then joined the faculty at Yale. She joined the Stanford faculty in 1998. In 2014, Eberhardt was named a MacArthur Fellow and a Leading Global Thinker by Foreign Policy. In 2016, she was elected to the AAAS and the NAS. Eberhardt is the author of Biased: Uncovering the Hidden Prejudice That Shapes What We, See, Think, and Do and will be signing her book during the Saturday Night Reception.