‘Judging, Feeling, Thinking: What makes us special?’ by Joshua Greene

Date & Time: Thursday November 5, 2015, 4.00 pm
Location: University Leiden, Lipsiusgebouw, Cleveringaplaats 1, room 011

Human brains closely resemble those of other primates, yet we do many nifty things that they do not. It’s often said that we humans are distinguished by our “humanity”, by our moral sensibilities. But research on moral cognition says that human morality is not the product of a distinctive moral faculty. Instead, moral judgment and behavior depend on the coordinated interaction of multiple neural systems, none of which appears to be specifically dedicated to moral cognition and all (or nearly all?) of which appear to be shared with other animals. What, then, makes us special? I’ll provide a selective overview of research on moral cognition, with an emphasis on the roles played by domain-general cognitive systems. I’ll then discuss some new research investigating what I take to be an essential ingredient—if not the essential ingredient—for uniquely human intelligence: the ability to rapidly and flexibly combine multi-modal concepts to form complex thoughts.

Joshua Greene – Harvard, director of the Moral Cognition Lab and author of the popular science book ‘Moral Tribes: Emotion, Reason, and the Gap Between Us and Them.’ Joshua studies moral judgment and decision-making, combining behavioral experiments and functional neuroimaging (fMRI), but is also interested in many other topics such as cooperation and conflict, religion, and intergroup behavior. Please check out his website for more info: http://www.joshua-greene.net/research/moral-cognition/