How Conversation Changes Minds and Aligns Brains

May 09, 2024
Psychology 1312
Thalia Wheatley, Dartmouth College


Thalia Wheatley is Lincoln Filene Professor in Human Relations; External Faculty, Santa Fe Institute; Director, Consortium for the Study of Interacting Minds; and Director, Dartmouth Social Systems Laboratory in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at Dartmouth College. After completing her PhD in Psychology at the University of Virginia, Dr. Wheatley worked as a postdoctoral and research fellow at the National Institute of Mental Health. Dr. Wheatley's research strives to better understand how minds align to transfer, share and create information and how this alignment scaffolds social connectivity. She and her team study interacting brains and interacting communities using a multi-disciplinary approach that draws from neuroimaging, natural language processing, cross-cultural behavior and social network analyses. Specific topics include: the neural basis of social networks; how to win friends and influence people; measuring mental coupling in real time; why music moves us, literally and figuratively; how our brains detect and understand other minds; and how shapes, sounds, human speech and movement all convey emotional arousal. Dr. Wheatley is past President of the Social and Affective Neuroscience Society and has appeared in numerous media, including TimeRadiolabNew York TimesForbesDiscover MagazineWashington PostPsychology TodayScientific AmericanUS News and World ReportPBSToday ShowLA TimesNewsweek, Big Think, and others.


The game-changer that afforded human culture is widely considered to be language. But turning thoughts into vocalizations was only part of the story. The real innovation was the development of a common language – a shared meaning map that allows ideas to leap from one mind to the next through conversation. But how does conversation work? In this talk, I will highlight recent advances in psychology and neuroscience that are yielding new insights about this ancient technology: how conversation changes minds and aligns brains.

This lecture will take place at 4 pm in Psychology 1312 on the UCSB campus and is free and open to the public.