Lecture Series in 2015-2016

Unless otherwise noted all lectures will be in Psychology 1312 on Thursdays at 4:00 p.m.


Oct 29, 2015
The Fourth Law of Behavior Genetics

Daniel Benjamin is an Associate Professor (Research) of Economics at the Center for Economics and Social Research, University of Southern California; previously he was an Associate Professor in the Economics Department at Cornell University. Dr. Benjamin's research is in behavioral economics (which incorporates ideas and methods from psychology into economic analysis) and genoeconomics (which incorporates genetic data into economics). Dr. Benjamin received his Ph.D. in Economics from Harvard University and is a Research Fellow at the Research Center for Group Dynamics, Institute for Social Research as well as a Research Associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research. Some current research topics include understanding errors people make in statistical reasoning; exploring how best to use survey measures of subjective well-being (such as happiness and life satisfaction) to track national well-being and evaluate policies; and identifying genetic variants associated with outcomes such as educational attainment and subjective well-being. Other ongoing work addresses how economic behavior relates to cognitive ability and social identity (ethnicity, race, gender, and religion). In 2013 he won the Norwegian School of Economics Sandmo Junior Fellowship, a prize for a “promising young economist.”

Nov 19, 2015
Synapses Lost and Found: Developmental Critical Periods and Alzheimer’s Disease

Carla Shatz is the Sapp Family Provostial Professor in Neurobiology at Stanford University. Dr. Shatz is also director of Bio-X, Stanford University’s pioneering interdisciplinary biosciences program that brings together faculty from across the entire university—clinicians, biologists, engineers, physicists, and computer scientists—to unlock the secrets of the human body in health and disease. In 1976, Dr. Shatz was the first woman to earn a PhD in neurobiology at Harvard Medical School, where she studied with Nobel laureates David Hubel and Torsten Wiesel. In 1978, she joined the faculty as assistant professor of neurobiology at Stanford, where she was the first woman to receive tenure in the basic sciences. Dr. Shatz’s work has advanced understanding of fundamental principles of early brain development with the discovery that neuronal activity prior to birth is essential for later formation and refinement of connections in the visual system. Her work has important implications for understanding how the visual system refines its connections—work that has contributed to our understanding of critical periods of brain wiring in developmental disorders such as autism and schizophrenia.


Dec 03, 2015
Maladies of the Self: What Our Fault-lines Are Telling Us about Who We Are

Anil Ananthaswamy, a former Silicon Valley software engineer, is a consultant for New Scientist magazine and author of The Man Who Wasn't There (Dutton, Penguin Random House, USA) and The Edge of Physics (Houghton Mifflin-Harcourt, 2010). He is a guest editor at UC Santa Cruz’s renowned science-writing program and teaches an annual science journalism workshop at the National Centre for Biological Sciences in Bangalore, India. He is a freelance feature editor for the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science’s “Front Matter” and has written for National Geographic News, Discover, and Matter. He has been a columnist for PBS NOVA’s The Nature of Reality blog. He won the UK Institute of Physics’ Physics Journalism award and the British Association of Science Writers’ award for Best Investigative Journalism. His first book, The Edge of Physics, was voted book of the year in 2010 by Physics World.


Feb 03, 2016
The Price of Principles: Experiments in Moral Decision-Making

Molly Crockett is an Associate Professor of Experimental Psychology at the University of Oxford. Previously she was a fellow at University College London and University of Zürich, funded by the Sir Henry Wellcome Postdoctoral Fellowship from the Wellcome Trust, awarded in 2010. She completed her PhD at the University of Cambridge (King's College, Cambridge) under a Gates Cambridge Scholarship. Dr. Crockett is noted for her work on human morality, altruism and decision making. She has published in several eminent journals including Science, PNAS, Neuron, and The Journal of Neuroscience. Her work extends to Neuroeconomics, with the publication of Pharmacology of Economic and Social Decision-Making in Neuroeconomics: Decision-Making and the Brain (2nd ed., 2013). Media appearances include TED talks on Drugs and Morals in 2011 and Beware Neuro Bunk in 2012 along with interviews on BBC radio 4 and BBC world service. Dr. Crockett has been featured in The New York Times, Wired, The Financial Times and New Scientist.


Mar 09, 2016
From the Neuroscience of Ghosts to Bodily Self-consciousness and Robotic Psychiatry

Olaf Blanke is the founding director of the Center for Neuroprosthetics, Bertarelli Foundation Chair in Cognitive Neuroprosthetics at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (EPFL). He also directs the Laboratory of Cognitive Neuroscience at EPFL and is a Professor of Neurology at the University Hospital of Geneva. Previously, he was a Chef de Clinique Scientifique and Consultant Neurologist in the Department of Neurology at University of Geneva. At Free University in Berlin, he received his M.D. degree in 1996, and then completed his Ph.D. in Neurophysiology in 1999. His research is dedicated to the neuroscientific study of multisensory body perception and its relevance for self-consciousness by using a broad range of methods such as the neuropsychology, invasive and non-invasive electrophysiology, and brain imaging in healthy subjects, neurological and psychiatric patients. Recently, he started the joint use of engineering techniques (robotics, virtual reality) with techniques from cognitive neuroscience and their application to cognitive neuroprosthetics and neuro-rehabilitation. Dr. Blanke has received numerous honors and awards, including the Leenaards Prize (2003), the Pfizer Prize (2004), and the prestigious Cloëtta Foundation Prize (2012).


Apr 13, 2016
Memory, Mental Time Travel and The Moustachio Quartet

Nicola Clayton is Professor of Comparative Cognition in the Department of Psychology at the University of Cambridge. Nicky is psychologist, ornithologist and dancer. She has written numerous publications on cognition in crows and children. She was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 2010 and she is Scientist-in-Residence at Rambert (formerly Ballet Rambert).

Clive Wilkins is Artist-in-Residence in the Department of Psychology at the University of Cambridge. Clive is a writer, fine art painter, and dancer. His paintings have been frequently seen in London Mayfair art galleries. His current novel ‘The Moustachio Quartet’ has just been published and will appear at the UK’s leading literary festival at Hay on Wye this year.

They met on a dance floor… They are co-founders of The Captured Thought, which is an arts and science collaboration that explores mental time travel and the subjective experience of thinking.


Apr 14, 2016
Ways of Thinking: From Crows to Children and Back Again

Nicola Clayton is a Professor of Comparative Cognition in the Department of Psychology at the University of Cambridge, as well as a Fellow of Clare College and a Scientist in Residence at Rambert Dance Company. Previously, she was a Professor and the Chair of the Animal Behavior Graduate Group at the University of California, Davis. She received her B.A. in Zoology then completed her Ph.D. at the University of St. Andrews in 1987. Her research involves the contemporary study of comparative cognition, integrating biology and psychology to introduce new ways of thinking about the evolution and development of intelligence in non-verbal animals and pre-verbal children. Clayton’s more recent collaborations with Clive Wilkins explores the subjective experience of thinking, by drawing evidence from both science and the arts to examine the nature of mental time travel and mechanisms we use to think about the future and reminisce about the past. The goal of this project was to illuminate ideas concerning memories and question the power of analysis. She has received the American Psychological Association’s Frank Beach Award, the Klaus Immelmann Award in Animal Behavior, and Jean-Marie Delwart Award in Comparative and Evolutionary Neuroscience. She was also elected as Fellow of the Royal Society in 2010.


May 18, 2016
Bitcoin and the Promise, the Limits, and the Future of Electronic Money

Emin Gün Sirer is a hacker and Associate Professor in the Computer Science Department at Cornell University. He received his Ph.D. in Computer and Information Science from the University of Washington, and has worked for years on peer-to-peer systems, including Karma, the first peer-to-peer currency with a distributed mint. His group also built Credence, a peer-to-peer reputation scheme that counteracted spam and mislabeled files. Dr. Sirer, a self-proclaimed “Bitcoin fan,” has worked to improve Bitcoin in a variety of ways. With Ittay Eyal, in 2013 he co-authored a widely read “selfish mining” paper, which showed that some commonly held folk theorems about Bitcoin were false, and that the network needed at least two-thirds of the participants to be honest miners in order for Bitcoin to be a viable decentralized currency.  Dr. Sirer runs the Hacking, Distributed blog, which offers informed, specialist commentary on a number of socially critical computing topics, such as Bitcoin.

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