Behavioral Social Neuroscience Seminar
For centuries, artists, philosophers, and scientists have inquired about the nature of human beliefs. Recent advances in neureconomics, social neuroscience, and computational psychiatry have started to shed light on the biological underpinnings of the human belief system. In this talk, I will present work from my lab that addresses three major questions related to beliefs. First, do beliefs leave 'traces' in the human brain? I will present data collected from participants with certain religious or political beliefs that demonstrates that beliefs modulate context-dependent cognitive and affective processes in the brain. Second, are our beliefs always accurate representations of the world? I will present a recent neuroeconomics study that demonstrates how humans' beliefs systematically deviate from reality and how people form illusions about themselves and the world. Third, how can our understanding of beliefs improve mental health? I will present evidence suggesting that managing and changing patients' beliefs could directly impact their brain responses to drugs and clinical outcomes. Lastly, I will use a Bayesian framework to illustrate how short-term episodic beliefs may lead to long-term, stable, and ideological beliefs. Taken together, these findings suggest that studying beliefs is central to our understanding of the human mind and can provide insight into how to improve the human condition.