UCL Psychology and Language Sciences


Experimental Psychology Seminar - Invisible Mind: Flexible Social Cognition and Dehumanisation

15 November 2016, 4:00 pm–5:00 pm

Event Information


Room 305, 26 Bedford Way, WC1H 0AP

Speaker: Dr Lasana Harris, UCL Experimental Psychology

In this talk, I take a social neuroscience approach to social cognition engagement and disengagement. I focus on social cognition: the ability to infer the mental states (minds) of another agent. I use the word agent because this ability is extended to nonhuman agents in addition to people. Moreover, the ability is not unique to human beings; other species also have social cognitive abilities, though not as extensive. People show social cognitive abilities from early infancy, suggesting that it is essential for survival among our highly social species. Here, I explore how the social context determines when this ability is employed towards another agent, and theorise as to why people may have required flexible social cognition.  As such I cover social psychological topics such as dehumanisation, anthropomorphism, trait inferences, person perception, stereotyping, and intergroup processes. I also cover cognitive and affective neuroscience topics including reward, learning, and cognitive control, as well as developmental psychology topics including agency detection. I integrate evolutionary anthropological theories and literature, as well as philosophical arguments regarding mind and science. Finally, I explore economic and legal implications of the theory above, describing social neuroscience studies in these domains that illustrate the phenomenon.

Time: 15 November 2016, 4pm
Venue: Room 305, 26 Bedford Way, WC1H 0AP