“A History of Cognitive Neuroscience…in Three Minutes.” Set to the melody of Billy Joel’s classic song “We Didn’t Start the Fire,” new lyrics highlight significant scientists and advances in the field over the years, interspersed with comedy bits reminiscent of silent films. A lively and fun history lesson, this student video won the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience Brains on Film Competition 2012 at University College London. Full lyrics are available here in the video’s description.
Situationist friend Sheena Iyengar studies how we make choices — and how we feel about the choices we make. At TEDGlobal, she talks about both trivial choices (Coke v. Pepsi) and profound ones, and shares her groundbreaking research that has uncovered some surprising attitudes about our decisions.
Joseph LeDoux is a professor and a member of the Center for Neural Science and Department of Psychology at NYU. His work is focused on the brain mechanisms of emotion and memory. In addition to articles in scholarly journals, he is author of “The Emotional Brain: The Mysterious Underpinnings of Emotional Life” and “Synaptic Self: How Our Brains Become Who We Are.” He is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, a fellow of the New York Academy of Science, a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Science, and the recipient of the 2005 Fyssen International Prize in Cognitive Science. LeDoux is also a singer and songwriter in the rock band, The Amygdaloids.
In case you missed it, here is a worthwhile CNN International interview of Thierry Devos and Debbie Ma about their study, titled “Is Barack Obama American Enough to Be the Next President?: The Role of Ethnicity and National Identity in American Politics” (pdf here). The study’s introduction is as follows.
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Recent research has demonstrated a tenacious propensity to more readily ascribe the American identity to Whites than to ethnic minorities . . . . Interest in this American = White effect is timely given that a front runner in the 2008 presidential election is African American. The aim of the present research was to determine the role of ethnicity and national identity in the perception of political candidates, as well as identify correlates (behavioral, attitudinal, individual differences) of the American = White effect.
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Roughly, the study found, among other things, that a black candidate may be implicitly conceived of as less American than a white candidate and that the more American a candidate is construed as being the more support that candidate receives. Here’s the video.
Situationist Contributor Dan Kahan was recently interviewed for the National Science Foundation website. In the interview, which you can watch the on the video below, Kahan discusses how people’s values shape perceptions of the HPV vaccine. Here’s the abstract.
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The “cultural cognition thesis” argues that individuals form risk perceptions based on often-contested personal views about what makes a good society. Now, Yale University Law professor Dr. Dan Kahan and his colleagues reveals how people’s values shape their perceptions of one of the most hotly debated health care proposals in recent years: vaccinating elementary-school girls, ages 11-12, against human papillomavirus (HPV), a widespread sexually transmitted disease.
Situationist Contributor, Geoffrey Cohen spoke at the Second Project on Law and Mind Sciences (PLMS) Conference (in March of 2008). His talk, titled “Identity, Belief, and Bias” summarized research exploring the way in which motivations to protect long-held beliefs and identities contribute to bias, resistance to probative information, and ideological intransigence. You can watch Cohen’s outstanding presentation in the following videos (each roughly 9 minutes in length).
Last week Clark Davis had a piece titled “Ayn Rand Studies on Campus,” on NPR’s Morning Edition,May 6, 2008. The story illustrates one of the many ways in which dispositionism is promoted (and, by implication, situationism is undermined).
To listen to the story (roughly 4 minutes), click here. We have excerpted portions of the transcript below and added two videos (the first and second parts) of a remarkable Dan Rather interview of Ayn Rand.
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John Allison, CEO of banking giant BB&T, calls Ayn Rand’s novel Atlas Shrugged “the best defense of capitalism ever written.” He says that Rand changed his life, and he’s working to ensure that the deceased author isn’t left out of the nation’s college curricula.
Since 2005, the BB&T Charitable Foundation has given 25 colleges and universities several million dollars to start programs devoted to the study of Rand’s books and economic philosophy. In January, the company announced it was donating $1 million to Marshall University in West Virginia.
The money would establish a course dedicated to Rand’s Atlas Shrugged and Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations, and help create the BB&T Center for the Advancement of American Capitalism on campus.
But not everyone at the university is excited by the gift. Rick Wilson, a sociology instructor at Marshall and head of the West Virginia Economic Justice Project, says that Rand’s philosophy, objectivism, is based on the view that selfishness is the only moral value.
“[Objectivism] goes against the collective wisdom of the human race, I think, pretty much everywhere,” says Wilson. “I think it’s a curious interpretation of philanthropy to use corporate money to promote, really, an extreme philosophy.”
Two years ago, faculty at Meredith College in North Carolina rejected a $420,000 grant from BB&T, citing concerns about allowing a corporation to develop curricula.
But Marshall professor Cal Kent, who is slated to direct the center funded by the grant, says BB&T officials just want to give students an additional perspective on capitalism.
“In my experience you’re not able to propagandize students,” says Kent. “Certainly that’s not our intent in this course, and if it were our intent, we would be doomed for failure from the beginning.”
Kent adds that Rand’s philosophy isn’t as scary as some of her detractors insist.
“It’s based on the idea of individualism,” he says. “That means the freedom of individuals to contract with other people, the freedom to choose their occupation, the freedom to do what they see as being in their own best self interest with the resources they have.”
Neuroanatomist Jill Bolte Taylor had an opportunity few brain scientists would wish for: One morning, she realized she was having a massive stroke. As it happened — as she felt her brain functions slip away one by one, speech, movement, understanding — she studied and remembered every moment. This is a powerful story about how our brains define us and connect us to the world and to one another.