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Psychology Colloquium with Joseph LeDoux, PhD
WhenWednesday, Oct 16, 2019, 3:30 – 4:30 p.m.
Campus locationPhysics / Astronomy Auditorium (PAA)
Campus roomA114
Event typesLectures/Seminars
Event sponsorsDepartment of Psychology……

Joseph LeDoux, PhD
University Professor, Professor of Neural Science, Psychology, Psychiatry, and Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, New York University

The Deep History of Ourselves: The Four-Billion-Year Story of How We Got Conscious Brains

Organisms face challenges to survival from the moment their life begins. Often research on how organisms respond to danger focuses on predatory threats. When an animal freezes or flees in the face such dangers, we say it is afraid, since when we freeze or flee we often feel afraid. Darwin’s adoption of this common sense approach still influences the way scientific explorations of defensive behavior are interpreted. But if we trace the deep history of threat processing we get a different perspective, one that gets to the actual meaning of the title of this talk. The first cells living billions of years ago had to identify and respond to danger in order to survive—as soon as there was life, there was danger. From this perspective, behavior does not require a nervous system, much less a mind, and fear is not the explanation for why organisms respond in protective ways when in danger. Fear is a human invention, a construct we use to account for what happens in our minds when we determine that we are in harm’s way. This requires a brain that can personally know that it exists, but will also someday cease to exist, and that it’s body is the entity that might be harmed and might cease. Once we understand self-consciousness, we will get emotions for free. Fortunately, the science of consciousness is currently a thriving area of research. These and other ideas about who we are, and why we are that way, are based on The Deep History of Ourselves: The Four-Billion Year Story of How We Got Our Conscious Brains (Viking), published August 29, 2019.

This free lecture is made possible by generous endowments by Professors Allen L. Edwards and Roger B. Loucks.

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