Emory Report
September 22, 2008
Volume 61, Number 5



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22, 2008
Mind, brain, culture mingle at Center

By Carol Clark

Robert McCauley likes to tell the story of when he attended a major conference in Denmark on cognition and culture. “In the course of the keynote address, the speaker made mention of seven different Emory College faculty members’ work,” he recalled.

“Our stock keeps rising, and I think sometimes even some of the people at Emory don’t realize how good Emory is,” said McCauley, the William Rand Kenan Jr. University Professor, who is a philosopher of science and the newly appointed director of the Center for Mind, Brain and Culture.

The CMBC recently held a reception to celebrate its emergence as a vibrant and active player on campus, and aims to spark even more connections and collaborations among faculty and students working at the nexus of mind, brain and culture. From neuroscience to psychology, anthropology to theater, literature and philosophy to computer science, Emory abounds with renowned scholars exploring the intricacies of what makes us human.

“What could be more important than the study of our selves?” said Bobby Paul, dean of Emory College of Arts and Sciences, who backed the formation of the CMBC. The Center’s activities will be particularly beneficial for graduate students, Paul said. “You will have more opportunities to absorb and synthesize knowledge from faculty in all of these different areas, to develop cutting-edge research. I wish you all an exciting ride.”

The Center has existed for about a year, but with the appointment of McCauley as director and Associate Professor of Psychology Laura Namy as associate director, the CMBC is rolling out a comprehensive series of lunch-time discussions, graduate seminars, lectures and workshops that bridge the arts and sciences.

Two lunch events are set for October: On Thursday, Oct. 2, Larry Barsalou from psychology and Tim McDonough from theater studies will lead a discussion on embodied cognition.

Tuesday, Oct. 21, Jim Rilling from anthropology and Monica Capra from economics will lead a talk on social decision-making. For more details about these and other upcoming events, visit http://cmbc.emory.edu/.

“We want to support grassroots initiatives,” said Namy, encouraging students and faculty to submit ideas for seminars and other activities. “Our role is to help strengthen and enhance the community.”

Theodore Waters, a graduate student from Toronto who came to Emory to work with Robyn Fivush, Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor of Psychology, is among those looking forward to the CMBC events.

“Psychology has always been close to philosophy and, more recently, it has been borrowing a lot from biology,” Waters said. “I’m working on autographical memory, so that, of course, is closely linked to narrative forms and literature.”

“I don’t think you can come up with really good research questions if you just focus on one particular field,” added Widaad Zaman, another graduate student working with Fivush.