The PrimateCast interviews Dr. Ralph Adolphs about emotion, the social brain, and the approaches he and his lab are using to understand these phenomena.
Dr. Ralph Adolphs is Bren Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience and Professor of Biology at the California Institute of Technology. The Adolphs Lab researches various topics related to emotion and social decision making in normal functioning as well as certain clinical populations such as people with autism spectrum disorder or certain brain lesions, using advanced techniques including brain imaging, eye-tracking and advanced computational methods such as machine learning. Dr. Adolphs is also Director of the Conte Center for Neurobiology of Decision Making where much of this work takes place. We sat down with him over breakfast on Saturday, June 4, 2016 in Inuyama, Japan.
Dr. Adolphs was in Japan on sabbatical from March until June 2016 to work on a book he is co-authoring that focuses on emotion. In the interview, Dr. Adolphs talks about the need to redefine how we think about emotion and in particular how we define it as an area of scientific investigation. He also talks at length about some of the approaches he and his colleagues are using to better understand the social brain, and how being at Caltech has facilitated this research. An especially important point that comes up is the idea of ecological validity in modern psychological research. Some of Dr. Adolph's own work uses videos shown to study subjects, including clips from the famous British and American sitcom "The Office", which allows his team to understand what's going on in the brain when people are exposed to socially awkward situations, which often come up in that series.
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