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May 07, 2011, 2:30 PM

Theories of Meaning and Motivation

Participants: Emily Balcetis, Ned Block, Lawrence Friedman, Edward Smith

This roundtable will address the forces that motivate behavior. To what extent does behavior derive from hormonal, biochemical forces that fulfill evolutionary dictates, and to what extent do other factors transcend these mandates? How does the psychoanalytic perspective, which holds that behavior is motivated by unconscious fantasies specific to each individual, fit in? Panelists will approach questions of meaning and motivation from philosophical, biological, theological, and psychological perspectives, highlighting areas of convergence and points of departure among their diverse theories.

Emily Balcetis is an Assistant Professor of Psychology at New York University. Her research interests include the effects of motivation on visual perception and social judgment. Along with her colleagues, she has developed an interdisciplinary theory of goal pursuit that incorporates physiology, psychobiology, social cognition, culture, and vision science. She served as an editor of a volume entitled The Social Psychology of Visual Perception, and has published widely and often on these topics. Implications of her research extend to political and legal decision-making, intergroup conflict, dieting and exercise difficulties, and other domains.

Ned Block is Silver Professor in the Departments of Philosophy and Psychology and Center for Neural Science at NYU. He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a former Guggenheim Fellow. The first of two volumes of his collected papers, Functionalism, Consciousness and Representation, was published by MIT Press.

Lawrence Friedman is Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the Weill Cornell Medical College, and is on the Faculty of the NYU Psychoanalytic Institute. He is the author of The Anatomy of Psychotherapy and Associate Editor of the Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association.

Edward Smith is Director of the Division of Cognitive Neuroscience at the New York State Psychiatric Institute and the William B. Ransford Professor of Psychology (in Psychiatry) at Columbia University. His research interests include learning, memory and motivation, and disruptions of these systems in psychiatric disorders, particularly schizophrenia. Along with his colleagues, he has developed novel tasks to assess these cognitive and motivational functions, and to examine their neural circuitry using functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) techniques.

This program is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, in partnership with the City Council.


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