May 20, 2022
In this episode, Wendy speaks with social neuroscientist Lasana Harris about his work on flexible social cognition—the variable ways that we perceive others. This conversation covers many topics, including:
- his accidental entry into psychology;
- what flexible social cognition is;
- schemas and predictions about others’ minds;
- dehumanization and why we do it;
- the role of propaganda and implications for the war in Ukraine;
- how these processes scale up from individuals to societies;
- bias and prejudice, and the key roles of threat and safety;
- the inseparability of cognition and emotion;
- how contemplative practice might help reduce dehumanization;
- information overload and echo chambers, and what to do about them;
- and looking at the concept of self to change social bias.
Lasana Harris, PhD, is appointed in the Experimental Psychology Department in Psychology and Language Sciences at University College London, where is the Vice Dean for Global Engagement in the Faculty of Brain Sciences. He also leads the Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion for Post-Graduate Taught Academic and Workforce Programmes at the Anna Freud Centre, and is a Fellow at the Turing Institute, and a Visiting Professor at the Institute of Philosophy, School of Advances Studies. He completed his undergraduate education at Howard University, and received post-graduate training at Princeton University. He has held positions at New York University, Duke University, and Leiden University, the Netherlands.
Lasana is a social neuroscientist who takes an interdisciplinary approach to understand human behaviour. His research explores the brain and physiological correlates of person perception, prejudice, dehumanization, anthropomorphism, social learning, social emotions, empathy, punishment, and decision-making. This research addresses questions such as: How do we see people as less than human, and non-human objects as human beings? How do we modulate affective responses to people? How do we make social, legal, ethical, and economic decisions?
- Paper: Evidence of shifting racial biases? NeuroImage, 2022
- Paper: What Can Affective Science Contribute to Eradicating Structural Racism? Affective Science, 2022
- Book: Invisible Mind: Flexible Social Cognition and Dehumanization, 2017
- Interview: UCL Spotlight
Podcast extra: Lasana and Wendy chat about introversion/extroversion as relates to social cognition