Wednesday, November 1, 2017
Time: 10:00 am-11:00 am
Speaker: Tobias Grossmann, Ph.D.
Affiliation: Associate Professor, Department of Psychology, University of Virginia and Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences
Host: Rebecca Saxe, Ph.D., Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, MIT
Talk title: The cradle of human sociality
Abstract: Sensitive responding to others’ emotional states is a hallmark feature of human social functioning. How this essential social ability develops during infancy will be the main question addressed in my talk. In particular, I will present recent neuroscience work to argue that emotion processing: (1) undergoes critical development during the first year of life, (2) is multifaceted in response to facial, vocal, and bodily cues, (3) can operate independently of conscious awareness, and (4) varies as a function of epigenetic modifications in the oxytocin system. I will also present longitudinal work showing that variability in infants’ responses to fear (distress) in others selectively predicts their altruistic helping behavior as toddlers. Taken together, the research program summarized in this talk will paint a rich picture of when and how emotion processing skills emerge in the developing brain and what cooperative functions they serve. This offers a fresh look at the developmental and brain origins of human (pro)sociality.