CIMeC Colloquium Series: Patricia S Churchland

Final Colloquium of the 2020-2021 academic year
7 October 2021
Start time 
5:00 pm
Zoom platform
Doctorate in Cognitive and Brain Sciences
Target audience: 
UniTrento alumni
UniTrento staff
UniTrento students
Online – Registration required
Registration email: 
Registration deadline: 
6 October 2021, 23:59
Contact person: 
Shahryar Noei
Patricia S Churchland, UC-San Diego & Salk Institute

Title: Social Conscience: Evolutionary Origins and Brain Mechanisms

Abstract: One tradition in moral philosophy depicts human moral behavior as unrelated to social behavior in nonhuman animals. Morality, on this view, emerges from a uniquely human capacity to reason. By contrast, recent developments in the neuroscience of social bonding suggest instead an approach to morality that meshes with ethology and evolutionary biology. According to the hypothesis on offer, the basic platform for morality is attachment and bonding, and the caring behavior motivated by such attachment. Oxytocin, a neurohormone, is at the hub of attachment behavior in social mammals and birds. Although all social mammals learn local conventions, humans are particularly adept social learners and imitators. Learning local social practices depends on the reward system because in social animals, approval brings pleasure and disapproval brings pain. Problem-solving in the social domain gives rise to ecologically relevant practices for resolving conflicts and restricting within-group competition. Contrary to the conventional wisdom that explicit rules are essential to moral behavior, norms are often implicit and picked up by imitation.