Monthly Archives: October 2009

Motivation and dopamine

Dopamine_chemical_structureWhile we might be able to explain some human behavior with intrinsic motivation, the source of this motivation is difficult to pinpoint. The New York Times reported several studies focusing on the effects of dopamine, revealing that dopamine should no longer be thought of “as our little Bacchus in the brain.” Until recently, dopamine was thought of as a provider of “pleasure and reward.”

In one study, mice with significantly less dopamine seemed satisfied to lounge around as their bodies withered away, choosing death over the hardship of staggering a few inches to the food dish. These same mice acted normal when nibbles of food were brought to them—chewing, swallowing, even “wriggling [their] nose in apparent rodent satisfaction.”

These new studies on dopamine suggest it’s more about survival—“drive and motivation” as the New York Times writes—than some kind of adrenaline counterpart. If this is the case, then social psychologists can join up with behavioral geneticists to talk about motivation. We know, for example, of the social origins of motivation, but it’s quite another approach to suggest that even the motivation for getting out of bed has origins in the brain. The next step is to determine how dopamine is affected by social life.

Keynote Lecture – ‘What is the Human Mind Designed for?’ By Roy F. Baumeister

Baumeister Polaroid

Professor Roy F. Baumeister

Professor Baumeister’s Keynote lecture ‘ What is the Human Mind Designed for?’ is now live

Roy F. Baumeister is currently the Eppes Eminent Professor of Psychology and head of the social psychology graduate program at Florida State University. He grew up in Cleveland, the oldest child of a schoolteacher and an immigrant businessman. He received his Ph.D. in social psychology from Princeton in 1978 and did a postdoctoral fellowship in sociology at the University of California at Berkeley. He spent over two decades at Case Western Reserve University, where he eventually was the first to hold the Elsie Smith professorship. He has also worked at the University of Texas, the University of Virginia, the Max-Planck-Institute, and the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences. Baumeister’s research spans multiple topics, including self and identity, self-regulation, interpersonal rejection and the need to belong, sexuality and gender, aggression, self-esteem, meaning, and self-presentation. He has received research grants from the National Institutes of Health and from the Templeton Foundation. He has over 400 publications, and his books include Evil: Inside Human Violence and Cruelty, The Cultural Animal, and Meanings of Life. The Institute for Scientific Information lists him among the handful of most cited (most influential) psychologists in the world. He lives by a small lake in Florida with his beloved family. In his rare spare time, he enjoys windsurfing, skiing, and jazz guitar.

You can view his keynote at http://compassconference.wordpress.com/2009/10/27/baumeister/

Virtual Conference Report: Day Five (23 Oct, 2009)

800px-L-Assemblee-Nationale-Gillrayby paulabowles

The first week of the conference has come to an end, and the final day has included two exciting papers, as well as a publishing workshop. The first paper entitled ‘Full Disclosure of the “Raw Data” of Research on Humans: Citizens’ Rights, Product Manufacturer’s Obligations and the Quality of the Scientific Database’ was presented by Dennis Mazur (Oregon Health and Sciences University). In his lecture, Mazur highlights the difficult and contentious issues involved in human testing, particularly the tensions between participants and drug manufacturers.

The second paper also takes an interdisciplinary approach to medical matters. Eileen Smith‐Cavros (Nova Southeastern University) lecture entitled ‘Fertility and Inequality Across Borders: Assisted Reproductive Technology and Globalization’ looks at the emotive issue of assisted reproduction. By surveying existing literature, Smith Cavros is able to look in detail at some of the many issues which impact upon reproduction.

Together with these two papers, Duane Wegener’s (Purdue University) publishing workshop: ‘Top 10 mistakes New Scholars Make When Trying to Get Published’ marked the end of the first week.

Enjoy the weekend and we look forward to seeing you next week.

Virtual Conference Report: Day Four (22 Oct, 2009)

800px-COP14_11by paulabowles The conference today has taken on a distinctly environmental feel. First up was Mark Macklin’s (University of Wales, Aberystwyth) keynote address entitled ‘Floodplain Catastrophes and Climate Change: Lessons from the Rise and Fall of Riverine Societies.’ In his paper, Macklin observes that ‘[w]e are not the first society to face the threat of environmental catastrophe,’ although he stresses that the current threat has unique features. Susan Morrison (Texas State University – San Marcos) has taken a highly interdisciplinary approach to her paper ‘Waste Studies ‐ A New Paradigm for Literary Analysis, Something is Rotten in the Denmark of Beowulf and Hamlet’. By combining the disciplines of literature and waste studies, Morrison offers a reminder ‘that the origins of the Anglophone literary canon are sedimented in waste’. Tim Cooper (University of Exeter, Cornwall Campus) continued this theme of waste with his paper ‘Recycling Modernity: Towards an Environmental History of Waste.’ By taking as a starting point the belief that ‘waste was one of the characteristic products of modernity’ Cooper is able to consider why this subject is so fascinating to historians and other social scientists. Before, we head into the fifth day of the conference, just a quick reminder to visit the virtual book exhibit. As a delegate, you are invited to take 20% off the price of any Wiley Book.

Virtual Conference Report: Day Three (21 Oct, 2009)

by paulabowles UBoulderLibrary_spittoonToday’s papers have focused once more on the key motifs of the conference, that of breaking down borders and indisciplinarity. Nancy Naples (University of Connecticut) uses her paper: ‘Borderlands Studies and Border Theory: Linking Activism and Scholarship for Social Justice’ to highlight just some of the difficulties faced when ‘negotiate[ing] different disciplinary frames, methods, and theoretical assumptions in order to move forward toward collaborative problem solving’. The second paper today entitled ‘Theorizing Borders in a ‘Borderless World’: Globalization, Territory and Identity’ was presented by Alexander Diener (Pepperdine University) and Joshua Hagen (Marshall University). The authors question the assumption that world is becoming increasingly borderless, instead suggesting that state borders continue to ‘remain one of the most basic and visible features of the international system.’ Finally, on the third day of the conference Kivmars Bowling (Wiley-Blackwell) has presented a particularly relevant publishing workshop entitled ‘The Online Author’s Survival Guide’. The daily book prize was awarded to Maeve O’Donovan for her comment on David Crystal’s keynote lecture and the conference day ended in the Second Life cocktail bar.