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Events & Programs


Friday, September 23, 2016
4:00 pm
PAIS 290

Comparative Decision-Making in Non-Human Primates

Sarah Brosnan
Department of Psychology and Neuroscience Institute, Georgia State University
Michael E. Keeling Center for Comparative Medicine and Research, UT MD Anderson Cancer Center

Humans routinely confront situations that require coordination between individuals, from mundane activities such as planning where to go for dinner to incredibly complicated activities, such as multi-national agreements. How did this ability arise, and what prevents success in those situations in which it breaks down? To understand how this capability evolved across the primates, my lab uses the methodology of experimental economics. This is an ideal mechanism for the comparative approach as it is a well-developed methodology for distilling complex decision-making in to a series of simple choices, allowing these decisions to be com-pared across species and contexts using identical methodologies. We have investigated coordination in New World monkeys, Old World monkeys, and great apes, including both chimpanzees and humans. We find that there are remarkable continuities of out-come across the primates, including humans, however there are also important differences in how each species reaches these outcomes. For example, while humans and other primates can find the same coordinated outcome, our research indicates that they are using different cognitive mechanisms to do so. Additionally, in many primates, including humans, cooperation breaks down under conditions of inequity. However, only humans and chimpanzees seem to be able to rectify inequity, presumably avoiding this breakdown and thereby maintaining a successful cooperative partnership. This ability is undoubtedly the foundation of the much more complex sense of fairness that evolved uniquely in humans. By carefully considering both the similarities and differences among species, we can better understand how cooperative decision-making emerged in the primates, and how each species relates to the others.


Thursday, October 13, 2016
4:00 pm
PAIS 290

The Continuing Significance of Race in American Politics:  Racial Resentment and the Pain of Progress

David C. Wilson
Departments of Political Science, Psychological & Brain Sciences, and Black American Studies
University of Delaware

Why does race serve as the most polarizing feature of American politics? Presumably, Americans have a stake in proclaiming America’s greatness, particularly touting pride in democratic governance, protecting civil rights and liberties, and making progress in areas that serve as ugly scars in its history. Yet, research suggests the effects of racial bias now surpass the typical partisan and ideological predispositions that drive political decision making and judgments. This phenomenon is highlighted by public opinion data col-lected over the past 10 years covering Barack Obama’s presidential candidacy and subsequent admin-istrations. As the prototypically racially neutral African American politician, Barack Obama was expected to inhibit the activation of negative racial appraisals and threat. Contrary to such expectations a number of studies show this did not happen, as perceptions of Obama and his policies are linked strongly to negative racial attitudes. But, negative racial attitudes are not limited to Obama, they also continue to have signifi-cant effects on ostensibly non-racial issues like voting rights and even the purity of election process itself. Most surprisingly, some of the strongest effects of racial attitudes are found among Democrats and liber-als. Essentially, Obama’s ascendancy created a space for political discourse about the relevance of, and resentment toward, race in nearly every aspect of American politics. As a result explicit and implicit racial information cues promote ideas and emotions that make racialization both easy and effective. Summarily, scholars, and the public alike, are left with questions about the permanency of racial thinking (and racism) in America.


Thursday, October 20, 2016
4:00 pm
PAIS 290

How Metacognitive States like Tip-of-the-Tongue and Deja Vu Can Be Biasing

Anne Cleary
Department of Psychology
Colorado State University

In my lab, we recently discovered a new type of cognitive bias brought on by the presence of a tip-of-the-tongue (TOT) state for a currently inaccessible word. When in a TOT state, participants think it more likely that a currently unretrieva-ble word was presented in a darker, clearer font upon last seeing it, a larger font upon last seeing it, that it is of higher frequency in the language, and that it starts with a more common first letter in the language. This pattern suggests that TOT states bias people to infer that the unretrieved target information has qualities that tend to characterize fluency or accessibility, even when that is not the case. In further studies, we have found that the TOT’s biasing effects also ex-tend to the immediately surrounding circumstances during the TOT as well. For example, people judge celebrity faces as belonging to more ethical people when in a TOT state for the name than when not, and rate their inclination to take an unrelated gamble as being higher when in a TOT state than when not. Other findings from our lab suggest that TOT states bias people toward inferring positive qualities of the unretrieved information: When in TOT states, people infer a greater likelihood that the target is a positively-valenced word, and that it was associated with a higher value on an earlier study list. Taken together, results suggest that TOT states may involve a “warm glow” that extends to any deci-sions that are made during the state. Finally, this type of metacognitive bias is not limited to TOT states. Recent work from our lab suggests that déjà vu states can also be biasing. Participants report a greater feeling of knowing what will happen next as an event unfolds when in a déjà vu state than when not, even though no such predictive ability is ex-hibited. This déjà vu bias may explain the often-reported link between reported déjà vu states and feelings of knowing what will happen next.


Tuesday, November 15, 2016
4:00 pm
PAIS 290

Disciplinary Disharmonies:  Can There Be a Shared Vision for Global Neuroscience Ethics?

Ilina Singh
Departments of Psychiatry and Philosophy, and Centre for Neuroethics
University of Oxford

In June 2016, a small group of world-leading neuroscientists, ethicists, social scientists and clinical researchers came together with two goals: to initiate a global research consortium in neuroscience ethics; and to come up with a research agenda for that consortium. Were the goals met? Yes and no. In this talk I identify some of the key clashes, the strange alliances, and the isolation tactics that collectively enabled the consortium to establish an identity and a mission, at a cost. I will draw on some recent theories of disciplinarity to understand what happened in the meeting; but I will also suggest that a key problematic, that between ‘ethics’ and ‘values’ , has not been taken sufficiently seriously by those who endeavour to construct multi- and inter-disciplinary research initiatives in neuroscience ethics.




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