Lectures and seminars Brain and Culture Lecture: Embodied brains, social minds, cultural meaning: Interdisciplinary, developmental and cross-cultural studies of complex and moral social emotions
Speaker: Mary Helen Immordino-Yang, Brain & Creativity Institute, University of Southern California
Organisation: The Brain and Culture seminar series is organised by the Centre for Culture, Cognition and Health at Karolinska Institutet
The functional confluence of visceral somatosensation and emotional feelings is central to modern theories of emotion, which posit that emotion evolved to promote physical survival and wellness. Among humans, however, emotions pertain not simply to short-term physical wellness but also to longer-term cultural meaning-making. We can feel inspired by another’s amazing accomplishments and virtue, for example, and our findings suggest that, among young people, such feelings are associated with broader psychological changes that promote abstract, values-oriented thought and flourishing. How does the processing of social emotions recruit and influence the neural systems involved in other dimensions of psychological functioning? How might culture and social experience organize these patterns of influence? Somatosensory regions do not work in isolation; they are part of broader functional networks known to support a wide range of psychological capacities, from abstract thought to executive control, attention and memory. In this talk, I will discuss our cross-cultural research with young adults in Beijing and Los Angeles, and longitudinal studies with Los Angeles-area adolescents from East-Asian and Latino immigrant families. The findings reveal basic psychological processes by which individuals transcend the current physical context to experience value-driven emotions reliant on abstract thought. They also reveal cultural effects, and among adolescents, emotional styles that predict subsequent brain network development and young adult outcomes. The work has implications for our understanding of sociality and cultural development.
Mary Helen Immordino-Yang Biography
Mary Helen Immordino-Yang is Professor of Education, Psychology and Neuroscience at University of Southern California. She studies the neuropsychological development of emotion and self-awareness, and connections to social, cognitive and moral development. She uses interdisciplinary studies of narratives and feelings to uncover experience-dependent neural mechanisms contributing to identity, intrinsic motivation, deep learning, and abstract thought. Her work has a special focus on adolescents from low-SES communities, and she involves youths from these communities as junior scientists in her work. A former teacher, she has received numerous awards for her research and impact on society and education.