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Regular version of the site

HSE Hosting Workshop on the Neurobiology of Social Influence

On August 30th and 31st, the Higher School of Economics is hosting the first international workshop on the neurobiology of social influence. The event is being organised by the HSE Centre for Cognition & Decision Making.

Is it possible to turn a person of principle into a conformist? Are we sure that our memories are accurate? What is neuromarketing, and how does the brain affect the spread of new ideas in society? These are just some of the questions leading specialists in neurobiology and social influence will discuss at the workshop.

‘For a long time cognitive neuroscience primarily investigated single individuals in order to uncover neuronal mechanisms of individual decision-making. Importantly, our decisions are often affected by decisions of others. For example, humans demonstrate various forms of herding—alignments of the thoughts or behaviours of individuals in a group (herd) without centralized coordination,’ says Vasily Klucharev, Leading Research Fellowwith the Centre for Cognition & Decision Making. ‘It is only relatively lately that the profound role of social influence was acknowledged by new fields of neuroscience social neuroscience and neuroeconomics. Our research centre was one of the first in the world to combine approaches to the social sciences and neuroeconomics. We are hoping that the upcoming seminar becomes a traditional platform to share opinions and experiences for Russian and international researchers who study various fields – from the societal influences on our memory to attitudes towards various forms of persuasion. 

Key paper topics:

  • The neurobiology of belief
  • The nature of memory in social groups
  • The psychopharmacology of social learning
  • The neurobiology of cognitive dissonance
  • Brain activity as a predictor of the spread of new ideas

Key participants:

Emily Falk (University of Michigan) — the world's leading expert on the neurobiology of social influence. Emily studies the neural predictors of behavior change and idea propagation in various societies and cultures, as well as brain activity metrics that allow us to study the effectiveness of different messages (advertisements, advice, etc.). In addition, her research focuses on the reasons people have for quitting smoking or using sunscreen, and she also studies ways of convincing a person to worry about his or her health.

Date and Time: August 30, 2:00 p.m.

Daniel Campbell-Meiklejohn (University of Sussex) — a pharmacologist who researchers the influence that methylphenidate, a central nervous system stimulant, has on conformism. Fans of Chris Frith’s book Making up the Mind will find it interesting that part of Daniel’s research was carried out at Frith’s lab in Cambridge.

Date and Time: August 30, 3:00 p.m.

Keise Izuma (University of York) — a renowned specialist in cognitive dissonance and its impact on the process by which an individual’s opinion changes when influenced by a social surrounding. Leon Festinger was the first to suggest one of the most important theories in modern psychology –the theory of cognitive dissonance – in 1957. Several years ago Keise Izuma made a revolutionary hypothesis on the role of the frontal cortex on the development of cognitive dissonance. This hypothesis was confirmed in Izuma’s research, which was published in leading journals such as PNAS, Neuron, Current Opinion in Neurobiology, and others.

Date and Time: August 30, 4:20 p.m.

Micah Edelson (University of Zurich) — the author of the groundbreaking article ‘Following the Crowd: Brain Substrates of Long-Term Memory Conformity’, published in Science in 2011. In his article, the researcher discussed the process of how false memories form in a person’s brain. It became clear that even people with a good memory are quick to ‘exchange’ their memories under the influence of another opinion. Under this memory conformism, a particularly important role is played by various parts of the brain, specifically the amygdalae and hippocampus, as their activity can seriously distort memory.

Date and Time: August 31, 10:00 a.m.

Ale Smidts (Erasmus University Rotterdam) — the author of numerous studies in the field of neuromarketing. Ale studies the ways experts, celebrities, and effective advertising affect audiences. He is also thought to have coined the term ‘neuromarketing.’ In one of his latest works, Ale discusses the possibility of predicting a film’s commercial success by looking at electroencephalography (EEG) signals. His work has been published in countless economic and psychological journals, including Marketing Research, Psychological Science, Journal of Economic Psychology, Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization, Marketing Letters, as well as neurobiological journals such as Social Cognitive & Affective Neuroscience, the Journal of Neuroscience, Nature Reviews Neuroscience, and Neuron.

Date and Time: August 31, 12:00 p.m.

Working language: English (possible translation into Russian)

Location: Moscow, 9/11 Myasnitskaya St., Auditorium 330

Start time: August 30 — 2:00 p.m., August 31 — 10:00 a.m.

You must add your name to the guest list to attend. To do so, please contact the event's coordinator Anna Shpektor by email at anna_shpektor@mail.ru or by phone at + 7 (916) 552 68 13.

There is also a guest list for HSE staff members who want to attend the event on Sunday, August 31.

You can find more information about the seminar's programme here.


August 20, 2015