Participants: David Amodio, Joy Hirsch, John Neffinger (moderator), Alexander Todorov
The political mind—a central concern of philosophers, writers, artists, political scientists and, of course, politicians
and public officials—is now attracting closer scrutiny. A growing number of neuroscientists and cognitive psychologists have begun to investigate what we can now call the political brain. By analyzing the brain during the very instant of political thought, researchers can attain a more precise understanding of how people come to support causes, candidates, and the balance of concerns on the political spectrum. The first in a three-part series, The Art and Science of Politics, this discussion will examine the potential for neuroscience to inform political science and political practice.
David Amodio is Assistant Professor of Psychology at New York University, and the director of the NYU Social Neuroscience Laboratory. Dr. Amodio's research examines the roles of emotion and motivation in the regulation of social behavior, with a special emphasis on intergroup relations. His research has illuminated the neural and psychological mechanisms that lead to prejudiced emotions, beliefs, and behaviors. In his recent work, Dr. Amodio investigated the neural underpinnings of political ideology, in an effort to understand the links between the brain, the mind, and political behavior.
Joy Hirsch is a Professor of Neuroscience, Psychology and Functional Neuroradiology at Columbia University. She is also Director of the Program for Imaging and Cognitive Sciences (PICS), which includes an imaging center devoted to the multidisciplinary investigation of mind, brain, and behavior. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), Professor Hirsch and her students and colleagues have investigated the neural mechanisms that regulate emotion, cognition, perception, and decision-making. These, along with ongoing investigations at PICS, have led to the discovery of a class of neural circuits that modulate and regulate emotional and strategic decisions. Applications of these findings to topics such as neuromarketing, neuropolitics, neurolaw, and neuroeconomics are topics of active and current interest.
John Neffinger is a partner at KNP Communications, which specializes in preparing speakers and speeches for public audiences. He previously served as Communications Director for both the Truman National Security Project and Harvard's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, and has also worked as a management consultant and attorney. He is a contributor at the Huffington Post, and has appeared in national print and broadcast media discussing voter psychology, charisma and non-verbal communication.
Alexander Todorov is Assistant Professor of Psychology and Public Affairs at Princeton University. His primary research focus is on the cognitive and neural mechanisms underlying social cognition. His research on the neural basis of face evaluation has been funded by the National Science Foundation. His work has appeared in multiple journals including Science, PNAS, Psychological Science, The Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, and The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.