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How is Human Social Cognition Special?

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  • UserProfessor Lasana Harris, Associate Professor, Experimental Psychology, University College London World_link
  • ClockWednesday 21 October 2020, 16:00-17:30
  • HouseZoom meeting.

If you have a question about this talk, please contact Louise White.

Please note, this talk is combined with the Social Psychology Seminar Series (SPSS)

Abstract: Humans cannot claim to be the only social animal. But is there something special about human social cognition? Here we argue that it distinguishes itself by its unique flexibility: In scope, as it can be extended beyond fellow living humans and withheld from them; in content, as it is revised over time, and in certainty; in process, as it follows bayesian inferences based on probability. Further, we posit that both the hyper-sociality of humans and some of its distinctive anthropological manifestations derive from this flexibility. This theoretical approach provides an alternative to content-based accounts of superior and distinctive human social cognition, and challenges the static ‘social-wiring’ hypothesis. Here, I present social neuroscience data consistent with this alternative hypothesis.


Dr. Harris completed his undergraduate education at Howard University, USA , and received post-graduate training at Princeton University, USA . He has held positions at New York University, USA , Duke University, USA , and Leiden University, the Netherlands, before coming to UCL . Dr. Harris’ research explores the neural correlates of person perception, prejudice, dehumanization, anthropomorphism, social learning, social emotions, empathy, and punishment. This research addresses questions such as: How do we see people as less than human, and non-human objects as human beings? How do we modulate affective responses to people? How do we decide right from wrong?

This talk is part of the Zangwill Club series.

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