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Guest Introduction: Dr. Mary Helen Immordino-Yang
Dr. Mary Helen Immordino-Yang (00:00)
Welcome to the Huberman Lab Podcast where we discuss science and science-based tools for everyday life. I'm Andrew Huberman and I'm a professor of neurobiology and ophthalmology at Stanford School of Medicine. Today my guest is Dr. Mary Helen Imordino Yang. Dr. Imordino Yang is a professor of education, psychology and neuroscience at the University of Southern California. Her laboratory focuses on emotions and the role of emotions in learning as well as how social interactions impact how we learn. Today's discussion is one that I found absolutely fascinating because it will reveal to you, in fact to all of us, how our temperament, that is our emotionality, combined with our home environment and the school environments that we were raised in shape what we know about the world and our concepts of self. In thinking about that, we also discuss the education system and how different aspects of rules and how we are told to behave and what actually constitutes good behavior or bad behavior shape how we learn information and develop a sense of meaning in life. If any of that sounds abstract, I promise you that today's discussion is incredibly practical. You will learn, for instance, how different styles of learning are going to favor different people from children into adulthood and how we ought to think about learning in terms of our emotional systems being our guide for what we learn and the information that we retain and how we apply that information throughout life. For those of you that are parents or who are thinking of becoming parents or who were once children, so I believe that encompasses everybody out there. Today's discussion will arm you with an intellectual understanding of psychology and neuroscience as it relates to learning but also practical tools that you can apply in order to be able to learn more effectively. What I like so much about Dr. Imordino Yang's research and the discussion today is that she frames up beautifully how those who best learn from traditional forms of classroom learning as well as those who learn from non-traditional forms of learning either in or out of the classroom can best use that understanding of self in order to learn in the way that is best for them. Before we begin, I'd like to emphasize that this podcast is separate from my teaching and research roles at Stanford.
Podcast Sponsors And Discussion On Emotion, Narrative And Cognitive Development
Sponsors: Eight Sleep, HVMN, ROKA (02:11)
It is, however, part of my desire and effort to bring zero cost to consumer information about science and science-related tools to the general public. In keeping with that theme, I'd like to thank the sponsors of today's podcast. Our first sponsor is Eight Sleep. Eight Sleep makes smart mattress covers with cooling, heating, and sleep tracking capacity. I've talked many times before on this podcast about the fact that sleep is the foundation of mental health, physical health, and performance of all kinds. One of the key things to getting a great night's sleep is the temperature of your sleeping environment. And that's because your core body temperature actually has to drop by about one to three degrees in order for you to get into and stay deeply asleep. And conversely, your core body temperature increases by about one to three degrees in order for you to wake up and feel refreshed. With Eight Sleep, you can control the temperature of your sleeping environment very easily because of the way that the mattress cover communicates with an app where you can dial in the temperature of your sleep environment at the beginning, middle, and end of your night as you arrive toward morning. Sleeping on an Eight Sleep mattress cover has greatly enhanced the quality of my sleep. I know that because it also includes a sleep tracker, which will tell you how much slow wave sleep and rapid eye movement sleep you're getting, and it gives you a sleep score. If you'd like to try Eight Sleep, go to eightsleep.com/huberman and get up to $150 off. Eight Sleep currently ships in the USA, Canada, UK, select countries in the EU and Australia. Again, that's eightsleep.com/huberman. Today's episode is also brought to us by HVMN Ketone IQ. Ketone IQ is a ketone supplement that increases blood ketones. I know most people are familiar with or at least have heard of the so-called ketogenic diet. It's used for weight loss, it's used to control epilepsy, it's used for mental health reasons. However, most people, including myself, do not follow a ketogenic diet. Nonetheless, increasing your blood ketones can improve the function of your brain and the function of your body, and that's because ketones are preferred use of fuel for the brain and body. So even though I follow an omnivore diet, that is, I'm not in a ketogenic state, I use ketone IQ to increase my blood ketones prior to doing preparation for podcasts or writing grants or doing research, as well as prior to workouts, especially if I want to work out fasted. I'll take some ketone IQ to increase my blood ketones, which gives me a lot of energy during workouts or during bouts of cognitive work, even if I haven't eaten in the preceding hours. It really increases my focus and my energy levels. If you'd like to try ketone IQ, you can go to hvmn.com/huberman to save 20% off. Again, that's hvmn.com/huberman to save 20%. Today's episode is also brought to us by ROCA. ROCA makes eyeglasses and sunglasses that are the absolute highest quality. The company was founded by two all-American swimmers from Stanford, and everything about ROCA eyeglasses and sunglasses were designed with performance in mind. I've spent a lifetime working on the biology, the visual system, and I can tell you that your visual system has to contend with an enormous number of different challenges in order for you to be able to see clearly. ROCA understands those challenges and has designed their eyeglasses and sunglasses accordingly so that you always see with perfect clarity. Their eyeglasses and sunglasses were initially designed for sports performance, and as a consequence, they are very lightweight, which is great. They also won't slip off your face if you get sweaty. However, even though they were designed for sports performance, they now also include a lot of styles that are designed to be worn to work, out to dinner, essentially recreationally so that you could wear anywhere. If you'd like to try ROCA eyeglasses or sunglasses, go to roca. That's ROKA.com and enter the code Huberman to save 20% off your order. Again, that's roca.ROKA.com and enter the code Huberman at checkout. And now for my discussion with Dr. Mary Helen Imordino Yang.
Inspiration, Awe & Story (05:54)
Dr. Imordino Yang. Good to be here. Great to have you. I'd like to start off talking about something that to me seems a little bit high level, but I think is the perfect jumping off point. I've heard you talk before about inspiration and awe. And as somebody who's interested in the brain, and as somebody who's interested in the role of emotions and learning and life experience, inspiration and awe seem to me rather high level emotional experiences compared to say fear or happiness. And yet inspiration and awe just seem so fundamental to how we learn and navigate life. And before we started recording, we were talking about David Goggins of all people. And we'll get back to that. But if you could just share with us what is the role of inspiration and awe and story in how we learn and experience life starting at a young age. And then maybe we can transition to older ages. Yeah, I mean, I think what you've noticed is actually fundamental to the conundrum of being a human is that our most high level complex brain states, mind states are also fundamentally hooking themselves into the most basic biological machinery that literally we share with alligators that keeps us alive. And that is both the power and the potential of being a human and the danger of it. So our beliefs, our experiences, our interpretations of the meaning of things, which that's where the story comes in, the stories that we conjure about collectively with other people, culturally and spaces inside our own selves. Also, those stories become kind of the through line that organizes the way in which we construct our own experience consciousness, even I would say. So when we hook into those very basic survival systems by recruiting them into these narratives about the nature of reality, the power of the meaning we make, what happens is we get this amazingly, both fundamental and high level state simultaneously where we feel expansive, we feel like it's all so incredibly beautiful. And we are, I would argue, actually ramping into or catching into the very basic survival mechanisms that make us conscious, that make us alive. And that's in essence the power of being a human. That's the power of our intelligence at this late stage in our evolution. So when I was a kid, I loved stories of all kinds. I think like most kids. I loved my Curious George books. I'm told I liked the Babar books, but then quickly didn't like the Babar books. I liked the book Where the Red Fern Grows. I liked books and stories about, generally was boys for me, for whatever reason, that had some idea in mind or some ongoing challenge and that played out over time and the character evolves across the story. And of course, many, many, many excellent stories have all those features. I can recall specific passages in those books to this day that made me feel something in my body. I actually am very familiar with the sensation of having chills go up my spine as opposed to down my spine. Early on I realized, oh, they're sort of a different, sometimes it travels up my spine, sometimes I still haven't distinguished what that orients me to or away from. But it's a very salient memory and experience for me to this day. So much so that as I'm describing the book Where the Red Fern Grows Right Now, I can kind of feel it starting. Yeah. I've heard you say before, and I love this quote, and I want to make sure that you get attribution for this, not me, that we basically have a brain to control our body.
Brain-Body, Narratives (09:59)
What is the role of the brain in controlling the body? And do you think that there are an infinite number of ways in which our brain does that? Or are we really talking about a language between brain and body of, you know, tingles on the back of our neck to go up, tingles on the back of our neck to go down, stomach feeling kind of tight and making us cringe away or kind of warm and wanting to approach? In other words, do you think that the conversation between the brain and body is primitive, sophisticated? How nuanced is it? Because the language is very nuanced. We could probably come up with 50 words just in English for the state of being happy. Yeah. But the feeling of being happy, I experience along a continuum of a little bit happy to elated, but it's kind of one thing, really. So if you would, could you comment on this notion of the brain being the organ that's responsible for controlling the body and what that dialogue is like, what the syllables and consonants of it are like, perhaps not at the level of biology, but at the level of psychology and how we subjectively experience that. Sure. So the first thing I'll say is that I learned that idea from working with Antonio de Blasio. So he was my postdoctoral mentor and he taught me first that this notion that it's the feeling of the body. It's an organism's ability to represent or map the state of the interior and exterior of the body that becomes the substrate for consciousness and for the mind. So I would just want to give him credit because I didn't think of that first, but the work that I've been doing is an elaboration of that. It's basically addressing exactly the question that you're asking, which is how is it that we construct the narrative, construct a conscious feeling, which that word I take from Antonio and Hannah, right, de Blasio. How is it that we construct a feeling and sort of narratize that feeling, elaborate that feeling into something that feels like a narrative that feels like a belief state or an emotion state or an experience. I mean, that in a very verb-like way. And what is the role of embodiment in that? What is the role of the brain in that? And what also is the role of the culture and the cultural context and other people in that, because what we're really learning across the sciences right now is just how incredibly social and interdependent our species is. I mean, our biology is inherently a social one. We are directly dependent on other people for the formulation of our own sense of self, and we interact with them on another and construct and co-construct a sense of self and a sense of meaning. Via those cultural spaces and those sort of nuanced ways of accommodating each other mentally and physically that lead to the feeling of us. So, you know, back to your original question, there's a lot we don't know there. But I think what's very clear is that the kind of background sense of the body, the mapping and the regulation of the body is a basic substrate, a kind of trampoline for the mind. And so we are managing our survival. You know, we now have lots of evidence from across many kinds of science about the interdependence of our stress and social relationships and our immunity and our ability to digest food. And it's even now very clear that it's not even just us. There's a whole microbiome and all kinds of other organisms that are assisting us in that and that are collaborating with us in that. And then the brain is a specialized organ of the body. In fact, it's not a separate thing. It's an outgrowth or an elaboration of that process. It's a specialization of that process, a localization of it in a way that provides enough processing power to be able to really construct all kinds of feelings and mental states and beliefs and imaginings. So, out of basically just the feeling of being here. And then the amazing part is that our brain is also imposing those back down onto our bodies. So the way in which our body reacts and is modulated in response to mental states is also very real. We have a kind of like a dynamic conversation happening that's happening in very raw and direct ways, neurochemically and others, and also in broader, longer term, slower fluctuating patterns around, you know, other kinds of hormonal changes and things like that. So along multiple timescale simultaneously, we have a kind of whole, right, a humanistic whole of brain and body and mind that are kind of co-conjuring one another in real time. And that leads to all kinds of dynamic possibility spaces for how we are and how we feel as we grow through time. And I think as humans, the legacy of our intelligence is to tap into those possibility spaces and start to construct them into meaningful, meaningful sort of chains of ideas, chains of experiences over time that we call story. And that I think is what you were tapping into as a little boy. You were hungry for fodder for a kind of structure for those feelings that you could start to help them evolve from one into the other and chain them together in ways that produce meaning.
Emotions, Durability & Lifespan (15:58)
Yeah, I'm fascinated by the idea that early in life, we experience some interaction with the world. It could be with other people, could be with an object in the world, and it makes us feel something powerful. Yeah. And that lays a template of recognition, meaning that later in life and perhaps throughout life, we're always consciously or subconsciously going back to trying to experience that same kind of awe or inspiration. Because again, the circumstances almost certainly vary from being a five-year-old to being an adolescent and into adulthood and into the, I guess, geriatric years, do they still call it that? Probably used to politically incorrect term, but forgive me. It's 75 to 125. And yet the feeling is the same, right? The feeling? And so it's as if a word can mean the same thing, but be used 50 different ways, maybe 5,000 different ways. And in this analogy, I'm saying that the word is the feeling and, you know, and it's used so many different ways because occasionally I'll read a scientific manuscript. That is so cool. It's the same way that I feel when I was nine years old, and I spent all my time in the pet store looking at tropical fish and tropical birds and thinking, "Oh my God, that freshwater discus fish is the coolest thing I've ever seen." And again, I think I must have a strong memory for these kinds of things because I still feel it right now in my body. So it's as if the same thing maps to so many different circumstances. So is what we're learning across the lifespan a recognition of feelings in our body as, "Ah, this is something I like because of the way it makes my body feel?" Or is it cognitive or both? From your answer a moment ago, it seems like it's so interconnected and bidirectional and fast that it's impossible to really say that feelings are in the body or in the brain. It's a dynamic emergent state. Let me give you an example that I use sometimes to help myself understand the notion. So, you know, my little daughter, okay, Nora, when she was two, two in some months, two in four months, she was a very verbal kid. And I was sitting in the kitchen one day drinking a cup of tea. I was sad about something that happened in my life. But I wasn't weeping or anything. I was just sitting there. I must have looked kind of lost in my own thoughts. She's playing around on the floor. She came over to me. I'll never forget it, this tiny little person. She comes over to me and noticed I wasn't really there with her, you know what I mean? And my arm was hanging down. She picked up my arm and she held it against her face like that. And she said, I won't say I'm baby talk because you won't understand me. She said, "Don't worry, mama. I'll take care of you." And I said, yeah, and I said, "Oh, Nora, that's so sweet, sweetie. I'll take care of you too." And she said, "And mama, I will love you. I really love you." And then she said, "I mean, I really love you all. I really love your arm." Fast forward two years later, almost exactly two years. She's four in a couple months. And she was in bed one night, laying in her bed in the dark. And I walked by and I listened at the door to see if she was sleeping there. And I hear this little whisper comes out. And she says, "Mama, I love you more than I'm glad that there's daytime." Right? What's changed developmentally from her at age two to her at age four, right? I would argue that the physiological substrate of her attachment to her mother is probably quite similar. She had this sort of visceral automatic biological, you might say, attachment, connection to me emotionally, that she was trying to leverage in the service of making sense of being active in that world and adapting herself to the situation, helping me in the first case, right? But what's changed remarkably is not the substrate of that attachment. It's her ability to conceptualize it, right? When she's two, her love is experienced as this incredibly concrete embodied, real physical thing. Like, "I love you. I mean, I really love the body part. I am currently smooshing against my face." Right? Whereas two years later, she can conceptualize that love in terms of an idea, which is, you know, wouldn't it be awful if there was nighttime all the time, and there was no sunshine and daylight, and I couldn't go out to play, and I couldn't, right? You're describing my biggest fear. People, listeners of this podcast will know that I'm going to go into the grave, hopefully a long time from now, telling people to get morning sunlight in their eyes. No, I still do it to us of you. But please continue. No, but that's right. So she's thinking about how much she is grateful for there to be sunlight, and in her little mind, she connected that to the feeling of being attached to me and used one to explain the other, right? So that both things now have meaning. And that is the way. That is the way, I think, that we start to elaborate these very basic physiological attachment states, aversion states, right? Motivational states of various sorts into mental states, beliefs, poems, you know, love songs, all the things that she does, right? Even between age two and age four, that really are mental elaborations, meaning making, of that very physiologically basic sensation. Does that answer your question? It answers it incredibly clearly, and so much so that I'd like to continue to build on that example, because I think it's very relatable for people, and it's the first time that I've ever heard the embodiment of emotions.
Conjuring Stories, Historical Context & Emotion (21:47)
Described in a developmental framework, that truly makes sense. Okay. So thank you. So the contact with your arm or your arm or both was the life example that she was using it as a two year old that maps to an internal feeling. And we're going to assume she's not here. We don't have her in a brain scanner. We can't ask her. But we're going to assume that her experience of being put to bed at night and feeling so, so much love from and for you map to her, then growing understanding of the world around her, the fact that there's day and night and sunshine. So as her knowledge base grows, she can add examples to the feeling. And I'm assuming that doesn't matter how old she is now, but I'm assuming that as a 14 year old, the knowledge base is going to be different, and is going to map to that feeling again and again. So the question is, is what we are doing across the lifespan is recognizing sort of, I don't want to call them primitives, but basic emotional states, which are not infinite, but can be along each one along a continuum. So a little bit of love, completely in love, you know, along a continuum, everything in between. A little angry and annoyed to completely furious. Are we talking about maybe 10 to 30 core emotions that then we are just simply bending our experiences into and onto and mapping onto and then that's our life story. And I'm not trying to oversimplify things, but that seems to me like a pretty great way for a nervous system to navigate a world that is infinitely complex and has a lot of surprise, both positive and negative. And in which, like every organism, our main goal is to survive as long as possible, and not for everybody, but in many cases to try and make more of ourselves. I mean, those something to be the basic drive survive and make more of one's self as to be the two basic functions of every species. In some way, it could be more of your ideas or more of your work or of your art. Exactly. So is that an overly simplistic way to think about it or does it work, even if there's more that needs to be added, does that work? As a 20 year old, I learned things in college and I'm like, this is awesome. The first time I learned about the hypothalamus, this little marble sized structure and the fact that different neurons sitting right next to each other can put us into a rage, or will make us want to mate, or will make us thirsty or hungry or tired. I mean, it just blew me away. It still blows me away. But the feeling is the same as looking at the discus fission in Monet's Pet Shop in California Avenue when I'm nine years old. So is that the way to think about it? I mean, I think, yes, I think there's an awful lot of basic physiological mechanisms that become motivational mechanisms, right, in all the senses, adaptive mechanisms that we share with all life forms. Not even just all animals, but all life forms. But they look different in different life forms for sure because the adaptive functions, the time scales, and everything are different. If you're a tree, then if you're a fish, then if you're a slime mold, or you're me, right? But I think you're right that what we basically are doing is taking these very primitive physiological regulatory capacities that are essentially there to keep you alive. And that's a very dynamic thing to keep you alive. You have to constantly adjust for the needs of the internal organism, the needs of the external, you know, the demands of the external environment on that organism and being able to manage in that space over time is a very complex dynamic, kind of iterative process. And we take those processes and we conjure out of them a form of consciousness, an awareness of those processes that becomes something that feels mentally powerful to us. And I think one of the ways that we can know that what you're saying is right, is that, you know, this is just our first experiment on this, but I think it's really poignant. We first started to study the ways people would react to social stimuli, right, to have emotions like compassion or admiration in the MRI scanner by telling people stories of true people's situations that invoked these emotions in all kinds of piloting. And then we ask people, how does it make you feel? And then we can see whether they actually feel that way. And then we move them into the MRI scanner and ask them again to watch the story and feel it. And what we expected, we had some very basic hypotheses that things like watching somebody else under physical pain would activate the same systems in your brain that allow you to feel physical pain. And the same with pleasure around admiration for skill, watching somebody do flips on their bike on a railroad tie or whatever it is, right, or virtue, right, watching a civil rights leader or somebody who does something that's incredibly virtuously powerful but not physically skilled. And we had a real surprise in those findings, which I think really went against the prevailing notion of how emotion works and which is still something which I wrestle with trying to understand. So we hypothesized that feeling emotions about very physical direct things and feeling emotions about, you know, I'm like drawing them in space, but feeling emotions about complex elaborated things like compassion for someone having lost a mouse or something where you don't see any real physical pain, but you can imagine how they're feeling based on your shared experience of loss, right, or admiration for virtue, that those things would build neuro biologically the way that they build developmentally the way that they build evolutionarily. And we did find that to be the case and many other groups and experiments have found that too, but what was a real surprise to us is that emotions based in pain and emotions based in something rewarding or pleasurable like virtue, which is really inspiring as people describe it. We're actually recruiting the same brain systems, including the hypothalamus, right, and other systems like the anterior insula, which is basically visceral somatomotor cortex it's cortex that feels the state of how you're digesting your lunch whether your heart's pounding all these kinds of things, right. What we found is that these emotions, when they get complex, when they're about stories, the valence is no longer the defining feature. The valence doesn't even matter that much. Instead, what matters is does the emotion pertain to a story that is conjured in our minds, or does it mainly pertain to what you can directly witness by looking at the person. So they step off a curb, they break their ankle and you go, oh, that looks like it really hurt, right. Versus they're eating dinner alone in a restaurant and somebody tells you his spouse died just a month ago, right. Where you have to tell yourself an entire story about how he must be feeling in that situation as compared to just looking at him and seeing the ankle and going, oh, you know, and it was that leap, which is really uniquely human, which is fully developed really throughout a very protracted period, right. Little children do not fully appreciate those kinds of mental states yet, right. And in adolescence, kids are all about trying to conjure and simulate these things and they do it very, you know, they overdo it and they do it in these very sort of awkward ways that adults recognize as, you know, not likely to correspond fully to reality, right, many times. And then we start to build more and more facility, more and more sort of wisdom around conjuring the story that makes the most direct parsimonious sense out of the things that you imagine somebody else may have experienced given the complexities of the context in which they find themselves. It becomes more and more dynamic, more and more sort of inferential. And so this also goes back to what you were saying about development. This is actually how I see development across the lifespan. My little two year old loves the arm. Then she loves me as much as something else that she really appreciates like daylight. And then she goes on from there. And when she's 80, God willing someday, right, she'll be making a different kind of story, picking out things that matter in more subtle ways that other people may not notice because of the historical context because of her, her more lived experience that she brings to that story, right. So the things that become salient, the things you learn how to notice and build a story out of are developmental and they're learned across time. But the basic fundamental processes around the emotions are always driving the need to make the story. And so just to come back answering what you said before, I think we have this incredibly complex dynamic set of basic emotions or whatever you want to call them. Physiological states that we share with other organisms that are basically action programs that teach you run away from this, right, move toward that. Eat this, don't eat that, right. But those things in humans and to a lesser degree in other animals become the fodder for not just action programs in the moment, but ideas that transcend time. Ideas that become the narratives of the stuff of beliefs, of values, of identities, those more ethereal essences of us that are conjured entirely by us in cultural spaces are fundamentally grounded into our ability to experience the world in a real physical embodied sense, but elaborated far beyond that. I'd like to take a quick break and acknowledge one of our sponsors, Athletic Greens. 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Sponsor: AG1 (32:16)
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Hierarchal Emotion Organization, Default Mode Network, Story & Emotion (33:30)
I started off studying the visual system, and I don't want this to turn into a discussion about the visual system, but in the visual system, we know that there's what's called a hierarchical organization where the eye encodes and can respond to edges and light versus dark and red, green, blue. And from that very basic set of building blocks, there's an elaboration or a build up of what's really called the iceberg model that was developed by my scientific great grandparents, David Hubel and Torcen Wiesel, who won the Nobel Prize for that work, where you can look at somebody's face and recognize it or see a profile moving in a particular direction and still recognize that person or see a word written and conceptualize in your mind's eye what that word like bird actually looks like, like parakeet, blue parakeet. In other words, there's a hierarchical build up. And what you're describing sounds somewhat similar, that there's a hierarchical organization whereby through development, we first learned, I guess earlier I called them primitives, but basic building blocks of, you know, when someone steps on my foot, it hurts. It can hurt a lot or a little bit, depending on who stepped on my foot. Whether or not I have a shoe on, so you start learning context, but there's a build up on top of the basic somatic experience of different examples that map to pain, including emotional pain and physical pain because we know those are interdigitated somewhat. And that over time, this builds up so that we have countless examples, but you said something else that goes beyond the hierarchical organization that we see in the visual system, which is that when there's a narrative or a story that we have to add, it changes something about the representation of emotion. I'm so struck by this comparison between seeing somebody step off a curb and break their ankle, like even as I'm describing, just like a folding ankle, like ouch, yeah, that really hurt. And just look at what you're doing with your face. I just got a hurry. Yeah, I mean, I broke my, I broke in my left foot five times growing up doing the same sport, and just I can still hear and feel the thing going. And that means six months in a cast or whatever it is, versus a story, you know, seeing somebody sitting alone in a cafe, writing in their journal, and then you learning that they just lost their spouse of 75 years. Right. Two fundamentally different visual images. Right. The emotion could perhaps be the same like, oh, yes, that is rough. And yet the need to impose story. Yes. Changes it. Do I understand that correctly that there's something not just more developmentally mature about adding in story and adding context, but that when we have to do that, that there's something that's fundamentally different about how the emotions are mapped in the brain. I guess the, perhaps the, the answer I'm looking for is what did you see in brain scanning experiments where somebody views a simply a physical break of somebody's limb versus somebody has to add story. Is there something that comes out in the subtraction of one from the other that tells us, oh, there's a whole set of brain networks that are not just about saying, ouch, but that have to do with the need to conjure up story and what are those brain areas and then perhaps we can, we can digest those a little bit. Yes. And actually that is exactly what we found a whole system of brain areas that did this, which now many people have described. And we're still trying to understand the full role of these networks, but, you know, these regions together are called in the literature, the so-called default mode network, right, because there were these, the co activation of these characteristic regions of the brain, which are in the back middle of the head and some characteristic regions on the lateral parietal and, you know, those were first described in neuroimaging experiments where people were asked to just rest, right, rest and relax, don't think about anything. Just clear your mind for a few minutes, right, this is Marcus Rakel and his colleagues back in 2001. And then, and then contrasting that with tasks where people have to do something very, you know, attention focus requiring where you really have to work hard and think and they found that these highly metabolic characteristic regions of the brain were coming online and activating themselves when the person was resting and deactivating and decoupling from one another, not talking back and forth and exchanging signal very much, when someone was doing a really effortful mental task and that was a real conundrum for a long time. And what we now know is, you know, when you ask somebody to think about nothing or rest, you know, for a few minutes you're laying in the skin and thinking about nothing, I'm thinking about nothing, and then you start daydreaming about all manner of stories, you start to imagine yourself into the future, here I am, winning the Olympics, you know, or, hey, it's my grandma's birthday next week, I wonder if she'd like to get a lunch or if she'd rather have flowers, you know, you're imagining other people's mind states, you're thinking it's like I'm mad at me at work, you know, or I wonder if I should, you know, change jobs, you know, you're thinking about all kinds of possible spaces that don't actually physically exist in the real here and now. And so what we found is that our findings were, I think some of the first, if not the first, to actively demonstrate an increase in activation in these default mode systems, not a decoupling of them, but an activation of them, when we ask somebody to do an activation of them, ask somebody to do an effortful mental task, and what was the task? Asking people, how do you feel about this? Story, which involves a lot of imposing of cultural and social and contextual knowledge to be able to appreciate, so the story of the guy sitting in the cafe writing in his journal, who lost his spouse of 75 years, you have to know a lot to be able to appreciate how he must be feeling. How does it make you feel? Let me pull up a lot of relevant knowledge, personal experiences and memories, and then hypothesize, generate some kind of narrative, some kind of story line that would accommodate his situation and allow me to infer those kinds of stories, which are very different from, here's somebody stepping off the curb, wow, look at that ankle, right? It's very obvious how that makes the person feel and how you should feel about that. You don't really need to bring a whole lot of cultural knowledge about their personal history with their spouse to be able to understand that breaking your ankle hurts, right? And what we found is that it was those kinds of stories where people had to bring a lot of contextual knowledge to fully appreciate that activated these default mode systems. The losing of the spouse. So what we later showed in a series of experiments contrasting true stories that are meant to induce admiration for skill, right? Like, something physically skillful, something that can, or cognitively skillful and memorize a Rubik's cube and solve it with your eyes closed, right? Or do flips on your bicycle and land on a railroad tie, right? Like these incredibly skillful things as compared to the same kind of basic emotion in the sense of feeling like inspired, like attracted to it, like it's pleasurable, like it's really cool, like you wish you could do that too. But now it's about a state of that person's mind or quality of character or disposition of self. So talking about the incredibly brave actions of Malala in Pakistan, standing up to the Taliban, right? Where it's not about how well she walks down the street holding her schoolbook, there's nothing really physically skillful to see there. It's about the conditions under which she's doing it and what you can infer about her state of mind and her quality of character to be engaging in these actions under those conditions. And those complex kinds of inferences we found activate these default mode systems uniquely. And in fact, we can in trial by trial experiments. So literally depending on what you say about a story, whether it inspires you that particular story out of 50, right? In a two hour interview beforehand, if you are inspired by a particular story as compared to another one which may not resonate with you, right? Then when we put you in the MRI scanner, we can predict that you will actually activate these neural systems differentially based on your psychological reaction in the interview. So we can actually show that there are systematic ways in which these large scale networks of the brain. So the way in which the brain's kind of balancing its activity and its cross talk around the different parts that are contributing different kinds of processing. Those dynamic balances are different when someone is what we're doing, what we're calling now, transcending the situation of that person, right? And starting to learn something bigger about what it all means or what the story is or the broader reason why this inspires me and not just is about her, right? So you can look at Malala and you can say, you know, oh, I hope she makes it. That's really unfair and like, right? Or you can look at her and say, and kids say this to us in experiments with teenagers. But wait a minute. And they actually wait. They cover their face, they close their eyes, they look away from the Malala video and they look at the plane ceiling and we can actually get coders with the volume off to identify these periods of time and say that when they come back from that pause, their speech slows, their posture closes, right? They put their hands down, that kind of thing, they don't gesture, right? And when they come back from that, they are talking about two things. They're talking about the broader inferential narrative around what all this means. Wait, I didn't know not everybody in the world doesn't get to go to school. That's not right, right? And these ethical interpretations, that's not right. And the third thing that comes up is a feeling of self and what it means for you because you're using your own self and consciousness as a kind of springboard, like a trampoline, like we said before, to try to appreciate what it must be like to be her. So the next thing people say to us, or kids say to us especially is, it makes me realize that I go to school all the time and I kind of take it for granted and maybe I should work harder to try to do something about that for other people. You know, so we have this incredible confluence in the brain and mind, this layering of real physical actions and things that happen that you can directly observe with the visual system, right? In the world, and then you impose upon those a desire to construct a story or meaning and you elaborate that meaning and in doing so, you also ramp up the internal sense of self awareness of me being me of conscious systems, systems that support consciousness in the brain and brain stem, very basic things we share with alligators, right? That become that kind of inspired state of, you know, like, wait, it makes me want to do more for the world or it makes me inspired to know there are people like her or she gives me hope for humanity, one kid told me, right? So we've got this incredible dynamic layering of the feeling of the body, the real physical body, the observation and sensation perception of the world around us in a physical, real or social, real sense, and then the elaboration of that into these cultural narratives that become feeling states and where valence kinds of disappears, right? It doesn't matter so much anymore, whether it's painful or pleasurable. It's more about, does it mean something? I'm suffering because it's helping someone else, right? And so it becomes something desirable even though it hurts me, right? Otherwise none of us would go through childbirth, right? And so it's that meaning process that makes us really uniquely human and that is the development of these emotions over time, I think. Incredible.
Emotional Development & Lifetime (46:24)
If I'm understanding correctly, there's a feeling state in our body when we experience or observe somebody in their own feeling state or experience. It may be the same as theirs, it might be different and frankly, as a neuroscientist, I'm going to say, we'll never know exactly. That's the age old philosophical debate. If I see blue and you see blue, is it the same experience, right? It's probably not based on, for my knowledge of color vision and the distribution of cones, to explain why I'm saying that, the distribution of cone photo pigments in your eye and my eye are extremely different to the point where we're not working with the same palette. Cool. And I think that makes life interesting. That makes life interesting. But assuming that neither of us is colorblind, red is similar enough to both of us that we both look at and say that's red. But one in 80 males is red, green colorblind, would look at it and would see what you and I call red and call it orange. In any event, let's say listen to or watch and listen to Martin Luther King's "The Classic, I Have a Dream" speech. Or when I hear certain music that I first heard when I was 14, it was particularly interesting for me time in my life in part because I was 14. And we'll get back to that. 14 is a thing. We'll talk about adolescence, right? I'll just say, I'll go on record by saying that I think that the music that we listen to in our adolescence and teen years is one of the main ways in which we come to recognize the extremes of these feelings. State templates that you're describing. One of the ways I prepare for podcasts is to walk and for my solo podcast is to walk and go through some of the narrative. My neighbors think I'm crazy. But that's okay. I think they're crazy too. Maybe the health right. That's right. Exactly. But I always know what music to listen to before I do a solo podcast depending on the state that I happen to be in driving into the studio versus the one I need to be in in order to deliver that particular material. And I know because it's almost like knowing what palette of colors, emotional colors I have in me at the moment and which ones are going to be required to deliver that material because it's different depending on the topic matter for that episode. What I'm referring to here is this idea that we come to understand emotions through our own experience and how observing other people and listening to certain music can influence that. And I realize that some people probably have more of a buffer between their experience of the outside world, so called "exteroception" seeing things outside us and their internal landscape. Some people, I realize, have very little narrative distancing. In fact, I live with someone who has very little narrative distancing. When she watches a movie, if the person gets punched, she ducks. She flinches. If it's a happy movie, she gets happy. If somebody in a movie is sad, she really feels it. And for a while, I thought, goodness, this really seems a little extreme, but I've talked to professionals about this and it's something called lack of narrative distancing. Transportation is another way to say it, being transported by a story. Right, and I think that it has its adaptive utility. I'm not being critical. I think that's an incredibly interesting aspect to ourselves. Some of us, I have a lot more narrative distancing, especially with violence. And I think that's because I grew up around a lot more violence than she did. And so I see somebody get beheaded in a film and I, unless it's something where I've really been built into the story of that person and it was a real world thing that I knew actually happened. Then I just kind of go, okay, well, it's a movie. There's a movie. It's not real. Even if it's a movie about something that was real, that might be a little bit more of an emotional impact. And of course, if it's a documentary and it's real footage, it's pretty rough. But I'm not horrified in the way that she's horrified. I'm horrified, but not to the same extent. So obviously, some of us have more of a buffer than others. And you can see this in a movie or in a classroom full of kids watching a speech like the "I Have a Dream" speech or hearing the Rosa Parks story, for instance, or listening to and watching a David Goggins social media post. Which I met David earlier because your son had a question for me about David Goggins. I happen to have the good fortune of having met and know a little bit. I don't know him very well, but I know him from some in-person interactions. And he is every bit as intense and every bit as serious about his ongoing progression as he appears to be. There's no falsehood there. It is 100% data fact. He does what he claims to do and more that we don't hear about. Super impressive human being. So when we see something like a David Goggins post or we watch and listen to the "I Have a Dream" speech and we start to feel something like "Whoa, we're feeling inspired to use the basic language." Are we mapping to some subconscious awareness of that in ourselves? Meaning are we mapping to some time when we felt inspired in another circumstance? Or is this merely a return to a feeling state that we have to recognize? I don't know if experiments have ever been done on this, but is there any way to determine whether or not we can truly have novel emotions past age 15? Or are we really just returning or are we really just doing a sort of template matching of "Wow, I'm feeling this again." And this makes me feel capable like I knew how to run today even though I was going to basically not run today. Or it's possible to have a fantasy view about how the world could be in terms of equality and opportunity. And you know what? That's subconsciously as my brain saying, "Yeah, I remember when I was six and I didn't know the difference between some people having opportunity and other people not having opportunity." Is that what's happening? Or do you think that we are more sophisticated than that? And we are actually really responding to what we think we're responding to. Okay, wow, there's a lot in there. A couple of things to start. So the first thing I was thinking before when you were talking about the visual system, which I think is relevant now, is that as humans, the more developed we get, the more experience we have, the more we've adapted to the context in which we live, you know, the real physical context, in this case the visual context included, but also the cultural values of that context, the things we've noticed other people notice, right? How do you learn when you're living in the jungle, that when you see eyeballs, you should, you know, go stand next to your mommy, right? So you learn what to notice, you learn what you need to attend to in the world, and you're, so when we are perceiving things, either very basic things like a visual scene or hugely complex elaborate things like Martin Luther King's speech, we are as much imposing onto the world our own expectations of what is there as we are perceiving what's actually there, right? So as we impose onto the world, we bring what you might call our cultural ways of seeing and knowing our values and beliefs, and we push them onto the experience of what we notice. So even in very basic ways, things like cultural values change the way in which people observe and remember scenes, right? So, you know, there's classic work by Shinobu Kediyama and other people showing that in Japan versus in the US, when you show people a scene of, you know, like an underwater scene with like all the beautiful things that are underwater rocks and plants and things and a little fish swimming by and then one big fish swimming by, right? And you ask a Japanese person what's this a picture of? They tend to talk about it's a scene of rocks and plants and little fish and then a big fish swims by. If you ask an American western educated person, what is this picture of? They say, oh, it's a fish swimming through a scene, right? We tend to notice first and he's shown that this is, you know, is very, very automatic. It's very low level. It's perceptual, not just conceptual, and it actually changes what people actually notice in the scene and what they remember later and all that kind of stuff, right? We learn how to sort of filter input. We're not little, you know, robots or little video cameras walking around observing the world. And so when we see something as complex as a social story, we impose onto that all kinds of personal experiences. So you said, are we ever able to experience new emotions after age 15? I think no, but we are very well able to experience new feelings, right? Which are the complex elaborations of these physiological states and the stories we tell ourselves about, the meaning behind them. That is developing all the time and it's developing through all kinds of quote unquote cognitive media. We do it through our science, right? By being inspired and interested in something, by being in awe of something. We do it through art, through trying to express an emotion or a feeling or a value state through the way in which we portray something to other people. As humans, we are driven. I mean, even as cave people, we were driven to say, I was here. Here's my handprint. I'm going to spit it onto a rock. So forevermore, anybody else comes in here is going to see that it was me who was here. And I have a me, right? And so what we're really doing is moving through the world, not in this kind of receptive, passive way, but we are actively imposing ourselves onto the world. We're actively bringing our interpretive power and adapting what we do next relative to the way in which we accommodate, right? Piaget talked about this 100 years ago, accommodate or assimilate those things into us that may disagree with our schema, that may align and accord and reinforce them.
Narrative & Genocide; Checking Assumptions & Mental Flexibility (57:13)
So this matters a lot for the ways that humans experience the world more broadly because think about, for example, a terrible topic like genocide or the Holocaust, right? How does something like that happen, right? How is it that people who have empathy, who love their family, who love their neighbors can suddenly turn on each other, right? What's happened is they've shifted the way in which they narratize the context of those events, the way in which they impose interpretation on somebody else's pain has been fundamentally shifted from that's another human suffering to that's not a human. That's a rat, a pig, a bug, or whatever it is, right? And that dehumanization process allows us to shift our story set so that we bring another set of values and beliefs into the space. I'm glad that you brought up that dark example because my understanding from my psychology courses and university were that as much as we would all like to think that we are incapable of being the committers of genocide, that there are studies that were done in the 50s but then have been repeated over many decades showing that in certain contexts, essentially everybody and anybody would respond to an authoritarian figure and torture somebody else. And I'm sure as people are listening to this, they're thinking, no, I would absolutely not do that. But all the data points to the fact that if the conditions were set in a particular way, you and I and everybody else most certainly would. A very eerie idea that goes back to, I think, Jung's idea that we have all things inside of us. And we certainly have all the neural circuitry components inside of us for rage and contempt and horrible mistreatment of others as well as all the good stuff. But I'm just glad that you brought up this example because I think that for a lot of people, it's inconceivable. But I've never heard it framed the way that you're describing it, which is that if the story becomes not about the other person's suffering, but primarily about one's own story of suffering and that can suppress or literally inhibit the neural circuits that invoke empathy, then it makes perfectly good neurobiological sense as to why that would at least be possible. And of course, I don't think it's a good thing. It's just like many aspects of our biology and psychology. It just happens to be the way things are. It is. And I think it really, I think, I mean, I'm the ever the optimist. I'm also ever the educator, right? I'm a teacher. I'm also very interested in the ways that we design educational experiences for young people. I think the only hope we have to protect ourselves against these possibilities is to systematically develop dispositions in ourselves, activities within ourselves, to question our own motives, and to deconstruct our own assumptions about situations, and to engage with other people's perspectives systematically. And when we develop those dispositions, the hope is that we are developing within ourselves a kind of a veto system, right? A system for checking our own motivations against other people's experiences of those motivations. And, you know, so much of what's leading, I think, now we're going in another direction and kind of a political direction, but somewhat what's leading us into these very divisive political types, for example, not just the rise of authoritarianism, not just in the US or the threat of it, not just in the US, but around many places in the world, all of which, by the way, are Western educated, is that we are taught that to know something means you own something in yourself, and then you take that with you and you impose it on the world forever more. I know how to do algebra too, and I can do it whenever you ask me kind of thing, and that's what a good student is, where when people learn to engage with their own knowledge states in more curious, open-minded, flexible ways, then we dispositionally teach ourselves to check our assumptions, to rethink what we think we know, and, and this is key, developmentally, to notice when we need to do that and when we should just plow ahead, and it's totally fine. And so what we're doing, I think, right now to ourselves, both in the education system and in things like social media, is we're reinforcing our own biases by diving down rabbit holes, where you re-hear the same thing over and over again that reinforces your own belief systems, and then you come to believe those things, and those put you on a train toward a particular kind of action or belief system that never becomes deconstructed, and it's very comfortable and it's easy to do. But the responsibility, I think, we have as individuals and as groups, as humans, given the amazing intelligence we have, is to rise above that and actually look back on our own selves reflectively and deconstruct our preferences, deconstruct our values and our beliefs, and systematically query them specifically around how they impact or influence or, or change the situations of those around us, or don't, right, the situations and sustainability of the world that supports us, or don't. And so it all comes back to the emotions that drive our thinking. So we have these very basic, primitive, physiological states, which vary across individuals, the degree to which they are incredibly powerful, easily evoked versus not. You know, there's a lot of range in that. Now, all of that variation makes things interesting, right? But it's our ability to learn to experience those and to develop wisdom around when we need to query our own emotions and deconstruct the narratives that are, that we're using to validate or substantiate those kinds of emotions. In order to assess whether we actually are right, whether we should continue or whether we should step back and reframe, right? And so that kind of mental flexibility really comes out of an emotional disposition. It is our ability, so it takes it back to what you were asking at the very beginning. It is our ability to not just drive from what feels like the bottom up which, of course, is always starting in the top down because you've got some interpretation of the world that makes you feel fear that makes your body do this, that makes you right. But also to be able to rise above, to transcend and think about what are the broader systemic historical ethical civic implications of this narrative on telling myself which feels default like the truth and how might I deconstruct those systematically and how might I invite others to give me their version of those events and engage with those systematically in order to be able to really appreciate the implications of my beliefs. And so the bottom line is that the emotions that we're talking about today are actually the fundamental drivers of all of our thinking, decision-making, relationship-building, right? Our community lives and our personal well-being all in one mix, but that doesn't kind of excuse us for acting on their request. It actually imbues us with a responsibility to then develop dispositions to systematically query those and reframe them when they are not serving us or the world well. Exactly what you said. So much so that I'm a big believer in following lots of different types of social media accounts.
Social Media, Cognitive Dissonance (01:05:22)
I've taken some heat here and there because people automatically assume that if you follow an account that you subscribe to that ideology, but I follow many accounts to my disagree with what they say specifically so that I can learn different perspectives. As far as I know, we're the same species, me and these other people. Yes, as far as we are. Sometimes I wonder, but they probably wonder the same about me. They wonder too. And there's enormous range in those accounts that I follow. And I follow different accounts for different reasons, some for entertainment, some for information, some for challenging myself, some for my desire to be baffled every now and again, but to always return to this idea that we are all basically working with the same building blocks of neurons and neurochemistry. Some people's dopamine, which whether or not you're into Bitcoin or traditional currency, the one true currency that's universal is dopamine. Everyone's working for dopamine and exchanging their own dopamine with world experiences. But this is one of the reasons why I think it's important to not be siloed in one's thinking or exposure to different things on social media. A somewhat controversial statement actually because I think a lot of people assume that if you follow somebody from a particular political party, then that means that you vote that political party, etc. But that to me always seemed crazy. I'm fortunate to have this good friend who was on this podcast, Rick Rubin, who's an extremely accomplished music producer. And he's producing music from essentially every genre of music. punk rock, which is an art sort of I got my start and still love punk rock music so much, but classical and hip hop and everything in between. And Rick is somebody who forages so broadly. And I've really learned to try and forage broadly in terms of ideas and ideologies. And I think a lot of people were just scared to be exposed to something that they hate so much because they don't like that feeling in their body of disagreement. But I had dissonance. It's very, you know, that kind of cognitive dissonance. We call it as very difficult. It takes work to resolve it. Yeah, I guess is there. I like to think there's a way to step back from that and observe it not from a disconnected stance, but from a place of curiosity about what's driving those mechanisms and people. And maybe where we need to adjust our thinking, maybe not to adopt their mode of thinking 100%, but maybe, you know, 10% or 2%. I think one of the reasons things are so divisive right now is because of social media and the siloing or kind of very divergent trajectories of people only following and listening to and obeying certain kinds of information and other people, the other. And I think the pandemic is the place where all that really clashed very heavily and continues to clash in other areas too. Certainly not something that's going to be solved inside of this conversation. And yet I do have a question that grows from this aspect of our discussion, which is, you know, what do you think can be done at a concrete level in terms of education of younger people, as well as education of people who are out of high school and beyond to try and adopt these more encompassing modes of learning and experiencing the world? I mean, it's one thing to say, you know, expose yourself to lots of different ideas. It's another to understand how to do that in a way that is adaptive. And any ideas you have, I think, I don't know, I and the audience would really appreciate and feel free to make this an editorial or map back to data. I mean, obviously this is your wheelhouse. This is your expertise. So I'm curious. What should we do? Should I send my family members who have very divergent political beliefs from me? Information to the contrary, their thinking? What do I do? And what do I do for me? What should we all be doing with our 10-year-olds and ourselves? Well, I won't comment on should you send your family members. There's other people that do that. They do that work and they know how to... We're always frustrated each other over text messages. It's okay. It can't get any worse. We all love each other anyway.
Education, Deconstructing Beliefs & Curiosity (01:09:52)
But one thing I really do think a lot about in this is the way in which we educate our young people and what do we do with our 10-year-olds, right? And it's like the first thing I'll say about your 10-year-old, I don't know if you actually have a 10-year-old, but is query them about their beliefs. When they follow something, when they think something's impressive or bad or, you know, ask them why? Teach them to unpack their own beliefs. That doesn't mean that you don't still hold them necessarily. It doesn't mean that you adopt the opposite belief, right? If I talk to someone who has a very different value system than I do and I disagree with them, that's legitimate. But in deciding that I disagree, I have sort of revisited my own belief and queried it. I've externalized it a little bit, made that thinking visible. It's the way we talk about it in education. That's David Perkins at Harvard talks about it that way. You know, making your thinking visible and then examining that thinking. And so I think one really important step that a society will have to take or we won't make it. And I know that sounds a little dramatic, but I actually think it's true, sadly. And I'm starting to think it's more and more true, is that we need to really get brave about how we think about the process of educating our young people. And what it actually means to expose young people to developmentally appropriate, age appropriate opportunities to grow themselves as thinkers, as individuals and as civic agents and community members. I think that our Western designed education system has in it some very basic beliefs about what counts as knowing and what is worth thinking about and knowing about and how do I know that? How do I test you on that? That I think is deeply, they are deeply problematic and lead us. I mean, I know this is a strong statement, but they lead us to a place where we are actively punished, not just not encouraged, but I would say actively discouraged from really playing with ideas, engaging systematically with our own beliefs, deconstructing those beliefs and engaging with complex perspectives on topics and ideas. That is just not what school is about. And it needs to be. We need to shift. So right now, the way in which we think about school is about is basically judged by quote unquote learning outcomes, right? What have you learned and how do we know that? We make you demonstrated by yourself under time pressure in a particular setting, right? Or you're going to come back and I'm going to give you a question and you're going to give you the answer I had in mind. And if you do that in time, then I'll say you learned it. And now we're done. Check. As compared to a system and there are educational systems like this, this is not. There are people, for example, the performance assessment consortium in New York City is a consortium of public schools, some of which do this extraordinarily well. They have a dispensation from the New York State government not to give the Regents exam as their graduation requirements. And their benchmarks of learning, but instead to have alternative ways of assessing kids where kids work for months to years, depending on the project, on these in depth, intellectual, multidisciplinary projects where they explore a topic and they engage with their own process of learning about that topic. And they bring in teachers and community experts and other people and they present their work and then they query the work and they talk about their own learning process and what could happen next and what decisions they made and all these kinds of things. So you graduate thesis. Exactly. You have to invent not just the work, but the question. You need to look at the world and notice what it is we're not understanding that we would benefit from understanding and find a way to isolate and systematically. And systematically query that. Why don't we build education systems from preschool all the way up that engaged people systematically in that kind of intellectual curiosity. We don't do that. So we know that little kids education, preschool education, if you don't have the water table and the sand table and the cool stuff and the choices and the ways to engage with each other and, you know, I mean, all the stuff being really age-appreciated. And they're going to be the age-appropriate for three-year-olds to touch and smoosh and, you know, try to taste and whatever else. They're going to be a mess on the floor. They're just not going to come. They're going to refuse to come to school, right? And they're going to be laying in the doorway throwing temper tantrums. So we know how to do little kid education. Well, it doesn't mean we always do it. But we know that they need to be intrigued. They need to be invited to think and they bring their natural curiosity. And then you expand the range of ways they can leverage that curiosity to discover new things they hadn't known to think about before, right? Then we get to the standard "educational system" and we somehow think that that natural human proclivity to engage curiously and meaningfully with deep thinking about ideas and the world is like inefficient and inappropriate and frightening. And we teach kids, "No, no, no, no, turn that off. It's dangerous. If you do it, it's considered insubordinate, right? And what we want you instead to do is just let me give you what I've already figured out for you. I'm going to give it to you and you are going to give it back to me." And so it seems to me that in the way that things actually happen in school, what is created is a kind of desire for the kid to be a computer, not a human. And they do have a dopamine system, however. And so what becomes the buzz, the emotional buzz is performance. If it becomes a buzz at all. So for the kids that don't get that buzz from performance or they don't intrinsically love the math or the English or the books that they're being presented with or whatever the subject happens to be, or maybe they only like one or two things, then they emotionally dissociate from the rest of the material. I'm actually describing a bit of myself in high school. I was not, I barely finished high school. I dropped out of sixth grade for a few months. Yeah, didn't work for me. Yeah, you know, I eventually got back to it. And as I imagine you did too, we ended up as academics. But I think what you're describing is so key. And I never thought about it from the perspective of, "Oh, yeah, as young kids, we're given all the things that are going to drive our sensory world in the appropriate ways, touch and sound and vision and trying to build meaning in our mind." And that we get to as students, young, very young learners, impose some of our own intrinsic motivation to do certain things and not others. And that, that isn't supported as we're adults.
Sponsor: InsideTracker (01:17:22)
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Emotion, Education And Role Of Teachers In Learning
Emotion & Learning; Constructing Meaning (01:18:32)
What you're describing is so vital. What age do you think this cliffs off? In preschool, kids are allowed to do this. In kindergarten, they're allowed to do it. First grade, they're allowed to do it in most schools. But at what point is the expectation imposed on kids to become little-wrote learning computer machines and to get their dopamine from performance, rather than intrinsic pleasure in what they're learning? You've been thinking about, yeah. And also, how do we address this issue that there are certain basic skills that not everyone is going to perform well at? And so for the kid that says, "I don't like math." Well, you still have to learn it. You need to appreciate it. How do you conjure up in a joy or an appreciation in that kid? It seems like a hard thing. I eventually set myself along an academic trajectory that worked out. But that was initially just out of pure fear because my life was really bad. I made circumstances and myself made it bad. And I was rescuing myself from basically becoming more of a loser. So I was like, "Okay, school's the thing." And I did school. And that was the turn hard right into academics for me. But what do you do for the person who really doesn't like math because they're struggling with it or doesn't like biology or psychology? I mean, how do we evoke at least an appreciation for that? It sounds like the emotion system is the key system to leverage in order to learn. And so could you talk about the relationship between emotion and learning? Because I realize this is really the center of what you do. So, I mean, you could say it this way, right? So whatever you're having emotion about is what you're thinking about. And whatever you're thinking about, you could hope to learn about. Remember something from, right? Understand differently. So the key question for educators is what everybody's always having some kind of emotions all the time, unless you're dead, right? Or unconscious. What are people's emotions about in this space? If the emotions, because whatever those emotions are about, that is what you're learning about. So if the emotions are about the outcomes, did I get it right? Am I going to flunk? Am I going to make a plus? I'm so smart. I'm so stupid. What? Any one of those, right? If those are the main drivers, then that is what you're learning about. If the emotions are about the actual ideas in play, the math, the physics, the why does the ball roll down the ramp? Wait a minute. That's the same as why the moon goes around. You know what I mean? Like, when the emotions are about ideas, then what you're engaging with is learning about ideas. And so what I would argue is that in setting up the kind of accountability system we have, we have taught people that their emotion should be about these high stakes accountability measures, which means that's what we're learning how to think about. Perform. Perform. Not how to think about the ideas, not the intrinsic power of using math to understand the world in a different way. So how do you engage kids, right? You engage kids by setting out which problem spaces that, and problems that invite them to try to engage with something that piques your curiosity that's meaningful to them. Or have them bring in, where the kid really hates it, like, what is it that you do find interesting kid, right? Start there. Start there and start using your academic skills in a way that will give you power to do what it is you're interested in doing. That's the way in. Use your writing. Use your math. Use your persuasive argument skills. Use your filmmaking skills, whatever it is, to tell the story of something that you find deeply, meaningfully powerful to understand. And all of a sudden, you need the math. Kids actually say things like, like, there's this lovely, there's this lovely, long quote from a, from a Sudanese immigrant kid in one of these New York schools with the performance assessments. In an article I wrote with a colleague named Doug Connect, the article is called "Building Meaning Builds Teens Brains." You can find it in educational leadership. There's a big, long quote from this kid at the end, and he's basically explaining what math class meant to him, which he had never passed a math class before. And he says, "You got this problem called walking to the door, which is basically Zeno's paradox, right? You get halfway to the door, halfway to the door, halfway to the door. Do you ever get to the door? Why or why not?" Right. And they spent months learning the math that would help them get at that problem. And he talks about how I had a problem, he says, and I had to learn fractions. I had to, in order to be able to solve the problem I had. And as I engaged with fractions and that problem, I got fascinated, he says, by finite and infinite. And these ideas were driving my need to learn to do fractions, right? So we've got the cart before the horse. I'm not saying you don't have to learn math, or you don't have to learn to read or write, or do all these other kinds of skills. But we make those, which is in the horse's cart, you know, what's in the cart? We call that the metric of the education system and the aim of it. When in fact it's the quality of the horse. Can that horse pull the thing, right? That's the development of the person. And what they put in their cart then serves that development. It's the toolkit of ways of knowing and understanding that come with you as you move into the world. But this takes real, real developmental skill on the part of educators, right, who are not supported or resourced or trained to think about development in these ways. I mean, so you asked when does this fall off? It really depends on what school system you are, and in what demographic you are when it falls off. But for almost everybody, except for the privileged few who are in very progressive alternative schools, it falls off by adolescents, which is when school gets serious, and is also, ironically, when developmentally, kids are developing the neural capacity and the psychosocial capacity and the drive to infer complex narrative meaning from the things they are doing. These aren't just my shoes. These are a statement about what I believe, about sustainability and about sports and about adults and counterculture, right? And as we grow into a space where we're driven to try to challenge and think about big meanings and engage with perspectives and emotions and social issues and broad important existential questions, be they in physics or be they in art or be they in the social civics. What do we do? We double down on controlling the input and the output transactional mechanisms that count as "academic rigor and achievement." We start to ask kids, what's the name of the servant who shows up in the scene and great expectations? Is it Molly or Maria? Who the heck knows? That is not the point of leading great expectations. We take away because we're afraid. As educators, as society, we've got this narrative around young people, particularly about everyone's propensity to build and construct meaning in these spaces and self in these spaces, that agency frightens us because we're worried they're going to take risks, they're going to do something stupid, they're going to fall off the track, they're going to not make it in the traditional system. And in trying to protect them and shield them from their own curiosities, their own dispositions for meaning making, we, I would argue, actually stunt their ability to grow themselves to the point where we have mental health crises, literally crises in mental health right now in adolescence, across demographic groups to the point. Especially bad in young girls, as I understand. Yes, that's right. But bad in everybody and it's worse than girls. Yes, we don't fully understand why that is. We're going to get some suggestions. What we're really doing is actually producing people who are gutted of their own inner drive to become someone who thinks powerfully in the space of the world. We are frightened to let our young people have that power, which is the role of adults is to wrap around young people and help them learn to be reflective, to be systematic, to be rigorous with themselves as they develop the capacities and dispositions to deconstruct their own beliefs, to deconstruct their own aims and goals and the ways they understand the world, and to rebuild them iteratively over and over in this sort of intellectually humble, curious way where we're constantly querying ourselves, constantly querying other people, where we're willing to sit with uncertainty in complex problem spaces and think through the possibilities rather than settle quickly onto one solution. What does the school expect you to do? Settle immediately onto one solution, which by the way is the solution I already had in mind when I gave you the question, right? As compared to sitting with young people and allowing them in safe and appropriate ways, the space in which to actually grapple with complex, powerful questions. When kids develop the proclivities to do that, they learn how to manage those very human capacities that we've been talking about the whole time that can lead to terrible, evil as well as amazing virtuousness. They learn to appreciate and manage those capacities within their own selves.
Good Teachers & Curiosity (01:28:59)
I think so much of what we see in terms of these "failure to launch" examples are because I know some of these, the children of friends, really, really smart kids that didn't map well to the system and therefore are not doing well, really struggling, and clearly have the intellectual power. It just wasn't served up to them and school wasn't served up to them in a way that were... Yeah, that says as much about the system as it does about the kid, right? Yeah, I teach a course at Stanford to the medical students that every first year medical student takes about neuroscience. It's team-taught. It's a phenomenal course because of the range of expertise in the teaching that comes through. And one thing I've noticed is that they're all phenomenal teachers, but the best instructors do two things simultaneously when they teach. First of all, they come to the table with incredible expertise, obviously. You have to deeply understand what you're trying to get at if you want people to engage with ideas. Yeah, they are true luminaries in their respective fields, addiction, pain, memory. Every system of the body and brain that relates to the nervous system is taught in this course. But that I've noticed every once in a while that there's a subset of them that as they teach from that position of expertise, not only are they clear, not only are they engaging, not only are their slides sparse enough to understand, but rich enough to include all the relevant detail. But they also flip back and forth from the position of expert to the position of novice learning it for the first time. That's that intellectual curiosity that they're keeping a lot. They have this disposition we're talking about cultivating. Sorry to cut you off. No, please sue as academics. We're familiar with that. Interrupting in the landscape of academics interrupting me is a sign of interest. I think Carol, I think Carol Dweck was the one who told me that. And she's right. She's right. She's right. The great Carol Dweck. Yeah. But I've seen this especially. So, you know, there are some topics that, you know, I like to think that I might do this reflexively for because, like, for instance, I started off a neural development and I adore the topic. So I can't teach neural development without being completely blown away in the positive sense of how a brain develops. Yeah. I've still never taught this. I've done a podcast on it because it tends to require visuals. And we don't use those because the podcast, most people listen to the podcast. But maybe I'll do something just for YouTube at some point. But that I think it's the same experience occurs when I see somebody like Dr. Sean Mackie who runs our pain clinic at Stanford teach about pain and the systems of the body that relate to pain and emotion and how to cure certain forms of pain, etc. Treat pain. It's like he's clearly the world expert. But the way he describes the system, you can tell he's learning it again for the first time in parallels all of that. And I feel like that ignites the emotional systems of the learner's brain in such a powerful way that is distinct from just hearing an expert talk about something. He's not relaying. He's not a squirrel with nuts and giving all the nuts to the kids. He's inventing the knowledge in front of them, right? That's a great way to put it. As usual, others are more succinct in collecting my ideas and expressing them than I am. So I think that's a powerful thing. I went to a high school that has a kind of a split reputation. It's known as being one of the best public high schools in the country. It's also the high school that at least for a while had one of the highest suicide rates in the country. It's written up in various newspapers and so on. And so much so that nowadays they forbid the kids there from meeting more than an hour before school to practice for the standardized tests. By the way, when I was at school, the only thing that school represented for me in high school was something that came between breakfast and skateboarding. And frankly, I wasn't in school a lot and I don't recommend that kids go to school, stay in school. I missed a lot of school. I traveled a lot of the whole kinds of weird things. I had a lot of making up to do in college as a consequence. So stay in school, get the basics.
Inter-disciplinary Education; Development & Culture (01:33:25)
But this is actually where I'd like to go. You have a very interesting trajectory. You are a university professor. You study emotion and learning and many other things across cultures and adolescents and so many other important topics. But you are not a story of growing up in an academic family. You grew up on a farm. And sort of gentleman's farm. My dad was a surgeon, but we had animals in a farm and my parents tried to have us growing the things we ate. You had a number of different experiences that we were talking about before. We started recording. But one of the things that you mentioned was getting involved in education where you were exposed to students who had very different backgrounds than you. Maybe you could just talk a little bit about the nodes of your experience. So you grew up on this farm and then maybe just hit some of the other nodes. And then let's take a foray into when you first got exposed to educating others. And because I think that's an important backdrop for what we've been talking about here. And services are jumping off point for where I'd like to go next. I'll just jump in. It's always hard to talk about yourself. I don't know what's interesting and what's not. I think what's interesting is knowing where you've been and the things that marked that mapped back to your emotional networks in a way that for you feel like that mattered in terms of what you're doing now. As a little kid, I remember even as a little kid, not liking school. I was a very good kid. I was a very well-behaved kid. I went to a decent public school. But just the whole idea of it, I just always felt like I had two left feet. It never felt like it was really me there. I was always trying to escape a little bit. You know what I mean? And thinking about when I first started educating others. And my first memory of educating others specifically that comes to mind is I was six. And I went on a little vacation in the summer to stay with my cousins in Patoskey, Michigan, which is a place on Lake Michigan where there are these stones where there's my understanding from when I was six is that there are these 200 million year old fossilized worms in these stones. And you can see them when you look at them. There's little worms and you can see them. So I just was fascinated by these stones that these are actual fossilized 200 million year old worms. And I don't know if that number is correct. That's what I remember from age six. So I'm some paleontologist out there can correct me. But I collected these stones and I went to the little local exhibit they had at the library or whatever. And I learned about these stones and I brought some back and somehow somebody thought to ask me to teach my second grade class when I started school about these stones. And I just remember, I don't know how I got asked to do this, but I remember standing in front of my class and talking about these stones and just looking around the room and suddenly noticing you know that feeling when you're lecturing and you think, Oh my God, they're fascinated by what I'm saying. Like every kid is looking at me and like, holy crap, you know, like, and I was so I'm like, all right, I'll keep going. I'll tell you some more about these stones and I passed them around and whatever. It must have been okay because I was then asked to give that talk all the way up to the fifth graders who are way older than me. You are a professor. You are a professor. I was already fascinated by the natural world and able to like make meaning out of something in a way that inspired other people if I can be so blunt as to say that. And yet I was constantly in trouble at school for not having my homework. And I was just, you know, the feeling of release on the Friday afternoon and the feeling of dread on Sunday evening is hard to like describe, you know, and I went to a reasonably well resource school, you know. Anyway, fast forward up to when I was older. I mean, I was just always fascinated by, and I think someone that comes from my mom to trying to, you know, speak different languages, engage with people who are different than myself. Just have conversations. So from the time I was old enough to barely qualify to do these programs, my parents had the resources, luckily, to be able to let me to do these things. But I, you know, I went off to France and stayed on a farm there for a summer and went to, you know, Ireland. I went to Russia. When I was 18, I was working with these little kids off the street and camping with them in Southern Siberia and all these kinds of things when I was. Cold as they say in Siberia. It was gloomy and rainy and muddy and cold. Yes. Yeah. Siberia always sounds so bleak. My parents threatened many times to send me there. Oh, yeah. No, that's a real threat. I mean, it's beautiful in many ways, but yeah, that was a sad. It was a sad, sad story. Anyway, you know, I think what I was trying to do was actually learn by doing, by being, by engaging with other people who knew things I didn't, learning how to, you know, build things. I was always really interested in warm working and boat building. I went to Kenya and spent eight months there as an undergraduate, right, documenting this traditional Dao construction in Northern coast of Kenya. And then we can do, which are sailboats, sailboat construction, no electricity and everything. Cabinetry. Yeah, cabinetry. You know what I mean? You can actually build furniture. So when people say they built furniture, but they basically assemble the key of furniture. We're not talking about that. I have built cabinets and built in bookshelves and furniture. Some of my friends have pieces I made for them. I never made anything for myself, so I don't have anything. But yeah, I mean, I think I was really torn between trying to build things and learn by engaging with other people and in these different cultural spaces. You know, being a woman in a cabinet shop in Connecticut is really not a cultural space that I had grown up in and then gone, you know what I mean? And yet, right, moving myself and changing myself to adapt to these different situations somehow felt like learning to me, I think. And I ended up in a strange situation where I cut my hand opening a window at a job site and I needed to, I was on workers comp and I had to take some time to let it heal. And I couldn't run machinery. So I had to figure out what to do with myself. I was 23 years old and I was not going to go back to my parents for more money. Right. So I thought I have to support myself. So I thought, okay, I went to college at a, you know, high level, I think, like school. And I majored in French because I could. That's basically what I was like, I don't know. I better finish. I don't know. I can do French. I know I speak French fluently. I'll do a French literature major and that one quickly. And then I'm like, what am I going to do with myself? I never thought I could be a scientist, but I loved science. So I just went around taking like a year of every science. I took a year of astronomy and a year of biology and a year of physics and a year of, you know, human anthropology, paleontheropology, like all these things. Psychology and realized, holy crap, like this is super interesting. You can study how babies think and, and the natural world. And then also be, be bringing sort of a scientific lens to bear that helps you understand things in a new way. So, so here I was as a 23 year old with a cut hand and I thought, what am I going to do with myself? I convinced the Massachusetts Board of Education that I, you know, had the background knowledge to be able to, to teach some, you know, sections of AP biology and physics that they had in their high school. So when I got to, you know, finally got an interview with this, you know, public school district in South Boston where they were desperate for a teacher. Like I'm noticing in the Boston Globe where two weeks into the school year and you still don't have a teacher, you know what I mean? Why don't you take me and, you know, manage to convince the Massachusetts Board of Education to give me provisional teacher certification based on the coursework I'd done and how well I did in that coursework, which I did, you know, I was really super motivated. I did extremely well and all that. And when I got there, they basically said when I showed up for the interview, you know, another high school teacher wants to take those AP classes. Can you just teach full time seventh grade? So I was like, okay, so I, I, you know, had my full contingent of 130 kids, right, seventh graders coming through my classroom. And the middle school had just been shut down because there wasn't sufficient funding in the town for it. So they had taken the middle school kids and pushed them into the high school space. And what that basically meant is I suddenly found myself in a fully equipped high school classroom with microscopes and all kinds of scientific equipment that would be used to teach later courses with my seventh graders. And it also happened that the Massachusetts Board of Education had changed the requirements for, for the way they organized science instruction and curriculum from, you know, seventh grade life science, eighth grade physical science, whatever it was, you know, different sciences each year. They wanted an integrated interdisciplinary science all the way across. And of course, that was very difficult for the traditional science teachers to do because they'd been teaching only biology or only earth science or only physical science for their whole career. And they didn't know how to teach the other subjects. And here comes me with like one intensive year of study in each of these domains. I was perfectly situated to like try to pull it together. So some of the high school teachers helped me. Thank you to them. And I built out a new curriculum for seventh grade for that district around this interdisciplinary approach to science together with other teachers. It was very hands on. Very. And it was very much like a web of concepts. You know, we'd study nuclear fission and atoms and reactions and then the sun and astronomy and the solar system and then, and then how the, the energy. Is being, you know, shined over onto the, onto the planets and then the earth and then these organisms called plants are actually using those photons to do something chemical. Let's talk about photosynthesis and where you write it. And then we can talk about chemical reactions and breaking down sugars and molecules. Right. So we built this whole web like curriculum that I was trying to help the kids appreciate the sort of dynamic complexity of the natural world. And some of my professors from Cornell also sent me materials and all kinds of cool stuff from the Cornell Museum that, that they didn't really need. And then I gave it back when I was done with all these instructions, what all this stuff is on hominid evolution and Ashley and hand axes and all kinds of stuff. So I built out a curriculum around all this stuff. And I realized the first time that I was in this amazingly fascinating space because it just so happened that the school I was working in was one of the most diverse. Culturally in the nation at that time. I think we had something like 81 languages spoken out of 1100 kids. That's a lot of first languages. And kids were arriving from all over the world. This was right after the Rwandan genocide. So kids were coming in from East Africa. There were refugees from Kosovo and Eastern Europe. There were kids coming in from Jamaica. There were kids coming in from Haiti. There were kids from Malaysia and Myanmar. Like there were kids landing in that class like deer and headlights from very, very broad ranges of cultural backgrounds. And they're landing in my science class. And what I quickly realized is they were using these scientific ways of exploring the world and thinking about questions and trying to make sense of what they had witnessed. To try to understand their own sort of cells, their own origin story, their own place in the world. Why different people in this class look and eat differently than me dressed differently than me. Like how is it that you look like that and I look like this. And there was all this crazy, you know, adolescent turmoil layered into this space where kids were grabbing on to the scientific ways of knowing. As a handle to try to make sense of who they are. And those kids started asking questions of me. I'll never forget this one girl, black girl, raised her hand and all the other kids are looking at like yeah yeah yeah ask it, ask it, right. And like you know she was being brave like she talked about it before school like I can't say that no again I say it and she said Miss Imordino. Why is it that when we're studying hominid evolution and you show us this Nova episode with early hominids in Africa. Why do they always show those creatures looking like they have dark skin. Why do they always look like black people. And I was like well because they're on the equator and you need that level of melanin in your skin to be able to adapt and live without getting skin cancer in that space right. And it opened up this amazing class discussion that actually went on for months like evolved into a whole curriculum that was biology it was culture it was sociality where we started to really unpack the ways that we as humans are natural beings in the world and the ways in which our cultural experiences are extensions of our natural ways of adapting. And that had me hooked I realized then that I could bring science right the science of adolescent development and of learning and of emotion and of culture to this very pressing real world problem of how do we help our kids actually figure out who they are invent themselves in this incredible crazy multicultural space and become scholars and intellectuals who engage systematic with the ideas along the way. I took those ideas and I started going to night school at Harvard Extension School to study cognitive neuroscience and to study language and cognition and you know all these kinds of topics and quickly realized like I really needed this developmental perspective infused right I wanted to understand not just how these things works but how they got that way. And so I took that back to grad school at Harvard and began to study you know social and cultural and emotional and cognitive development in kids and quickly they are also kind of hit a wall where I was I went back to the school district in which I worked and I went back to the teachers who were my colleagues and I worked with them and I observed their classes and I interviewed their students and we did all kinds of work around how kids were building scientific concepts in ways that reflected their cultural concepts and ways of approaching the world. And I quickly realized you know it seems to me that kids are doing all this meaning making and we as adults are doing all this supportive meaning making we're also engaging and growing and learning in ways that reflect not just knowledge bits like little computers but also that reflect the biological substrate on which the learning and the thinking are happening and I wanted very much to understand how we could use and leverage developmental biology as a kind of constraint to from which to appreciate the kinds of theoretical frames we were inventing in the real world sort of anthropological educational space the developmental psychological space. How could these two systems you know act as a Venn diagram and how could the inner section between them. The places where the theorizing about the natural behaviors and the way kids were making meaning and learning and describing their knowledge and engaging with each other on the one hand and the ways in which the brain and the biology are engaging in or supporting those processes on the other hand. The places where those two circles would overlap it seemed to me that was where we could most directly target to start to deeply understand the nature of our developmental psychobiological growth and selfs. And so I set out to try to study about the ways in which culture and sociality shaped the brain and physiology and survival mechanisms and development and at that time which wasn't even that long ago you know it's like two decades ago quickly realized very, very little was known you know about the way in which emotions beyond things like fear you know flash a snake in your face and your amygdala lights up right like I was thinking of something a little more nuanced you know what I mean like what I'm seeing happening in science class among a kid from Kosovo and a kid from Rwanda is they're trying to figure out why they understand how they look different right those deeply emotional conversations they're having but they're not so cut and dry as the things we had been studying and so that's what really drove me to try to start to understand in an integrated way the way in which our biological development and our psychological development are actually sort of two sides of who we are and of how we're organizing ourselves to build capacity, mental capacity as well as sort of physical health and capacity over over the course of our lives as we're engaging with living incredible story and foray into what sounds to me like really your ability to identify how the universals among us like the universal biological features the universal psychological features can really strongly inform specifically what's happening now in a classroom interaction in the mind of a view or somebody else or any of us but to approach it from the other direction.
Idea Exploration, Tolerance (01:50:58)
In other words to take what's happening now and say why is what's happening now happening as opposed to just saying what is actually happening underneath the surface right of the behavior right as opposed to saying okay this is the psychology of character structure this is the biology of the hypothalamus but rather say you know is anyone else really shocked about the school shooting in Nashville and go through the feeling of shock and go from there to the biology as a route of learning again and of course I don't want to take away anything from the real world seriousness of that but it sounds to me like you saw that there's a different portal through which to teach and understand experience and that we are all but especially young people are really tied to our emotional state says that as the main filters which we like that just like that and therefore make decisions and move through life. I mean I think it's so key that early on I mean if we like a teacher oftentimes we like the subject if we happen to fall in love with you know figure four B in a paper great that's not as that's not how I went through graduate school I just was blown away by the fact that sperm meets egg you get a bunch of cell duplications and then and then you get a brain and then you get a brain. How does that happen? That's crazy amazing and I was blessed with a graduate advisor who literally told me this is how it works in my lab is what she said she said we have everything you need here I'll help you if you need help but basically you're gonna mess around with stuff you're not gonna burn down the lab you're not gonna kill yourself with any of the poisonous stuff but then you're gonna like mess some stuff up and do some stuff and you're gonna figure some stuff out this is literally the description and I liked her lab because I had green countertops and she had pictures of interesting animals on the wall and then she said and I'm gonna have two kids while you're in graduate school so I'm not gonna be around very much you're gonna have to figure it out on your own and I said well can I play the music I want she said sure and I said can I put tin foil on the windows because I don't want to be bothered and she said sure and I was like okay this is the place for me in other words she gave me a room to explore and of course she gave me a lot of guidance along the way she was amazing amazing graduate advisor I'm extremely blessed but it sounds to me like that identifying what's the what's really going on now is key and that the other thing that's key is an openness to ideas I mean earlier you talked about kind of the let's just let's just admit where we're at right now we're in a we're in a culture war right now we're in a weird space right now it's very divisive and one of the major problems is that we can't really talk about things I mean I think fear of getting canceled fear of exploring ideas is real it's very real not just for academics it's just real people are so it's important to be sensitive to the experiences of others absolutely but if we can't actually explore ideas and feel like we can walk out of the room safely then we can't really explore ideas and so I think right now it's not just social media I think it's the fear of offending anybody and and probably the fear of voicing how upset certain people are about their experiences or the experiences of others whatever it is I don't see a landscape right now where there is true open exploration of ideas anywhere anywhere at least in this country so what do we do if there if the two if at least two of the requirements are you know an emotional gripping of something around the learning plus an openness to thinking about things that maybe we don't feel right to us as a way to learn how to think something that I think we both agree if I may that is really critical and that the world will be a far better place if people could do that and how do we navigate this landscape I mean is what has to come first a demonstration of the value of openness and ideas and here I'll just state my stance I feel like any idea should be open to at least discussion and I think that's the idea but then it needs to be systematically dissected with some rigor so that people can't just assume any idea is true just because it's true for them and this I actually learned from my graduate advisor you know she used to say you know tolerance has to go both ways like when it comes to thinking about ideas and criticizing it can't just be I'm right there wrong or I don't tolerate that it has to be tolerance for all ideas and then you arrive at hopefully eventually core truths or at least core trajectories what do you think could support this how early should this start I mean should kids in elementary school be discussing the current landscape of politics and what they see from a place of like we talk about safe spaces but is a safe space one in which no one gets offended or is a safe space one in which any idea can be discussed I think that's never really been defined for me yeah that's a really fraud issue I mean first let me go back to something you said which I would have said it differently so you said our emotions are a filter right and they do act like a filter but I actually don't think emotions are really filter like so much as they
Reframing Education, Deconstructing Assumptions (01:56:53)
are the lives that are undergirding the impetus to think right they're pushing us to think about particular things and I think I mean as a scientist my disposition is always that to understand something is good and the more complex the more thoroughly you can interrogate and understand something the better so there's nothing I'm afraid of knowing right and what you're really talking about there is the fear of knowing why are people so afraid to engage with each other basically because it's deeply threatening to reveal things about your own experience that are not going to land in a space where we can kind of collectively engage with them as legitimate experience that's the sort of the opposite of canceling people right it's the opposite of dismissing people it's actually developing spaces of trust where we can engage with ideas and take them from ourselves right so that they don't they're no longer personal value judgments they become cultural memes or models or schemas that we can dissect together that we can engage with together and construct understanding around right and I don't really understand my own position unless I also understand your opposition to my position even if I still disagree with you I think there are really important conversations going on right now I'll take it back to the education system because that's that's what I know what most about there are really important conversations going around on right now around reframing the experience and outcomes and aims of schooling around civic discourse and reasoning so there was just a major report that was produced by the National Academy of Education and another academies collaborating with it for example around this topic and helping us to move as a society toward a space where we learn to kind of lay ideas out and develop skills for reasoning around those ideas including bringing ethical experiential emotional cultural values to bear but then being willing to deconstruct and engage with those ideas whether they're the ones that are commensurate and fluid with our experience or that appear to be conflicting or dis-disfluid with our experience we need to develop a spaces for young people especially but for everyone to engage with the deconstruction of our own assumptions like I said before and to engage with the deconstruction of others assumptions and to try to reconcile the building blocks and that's where we can build some common ground but we can also disagree but we don't really understand our own position unless we appreciate some of the things that we can do appreciate someone else's disagreement with our position unless we can actually articulate and appreciate how it is that person's opinion is opposed to mine I don't really understand mine it's such a key point one of the reasons why I do read all the comments on podcasts on YouTube it takes me some time but I do it or on social media is that oftentimes I'll get a comment or criticism that makes it very clear that I wasn't clear about something both of which are great and for a scientist is a delight so keep it coming and of course when people agree and they agree and make it clear that they agree from a stance of understanding that of course is also gratifying so it's exactly what you're saying and it's one of the upsides I think of social media which is that unless people block their comment section and I do occasionally block people if they're being offensive to other people in the top you say whatever you want to me that's not inviting people into a conversation that's not constructive I actually have a rule which is I call it classroom rules I've never announced it but I allow for classroom rules you can swear but you can't swear how to do it you allow for classroom rules you can swear but you can't swear at people yeah that's what I was taught in graduate school that's where you can swear at people it's also a rule at home although we try not to swear it's you can swear but swearing at people is not not okay and that you know a certain decorum of you know is required in order to have open discourse so that works for me I think that it's been a while since I've been in school but I work at a school and I think that the ability to not just reinforce but challenge one's own stances which sometimes leads to reinforcing our own stances it may it will may and that's legitimate I mean I have to assume that in high schools they still do debates and things of that sort I mean do they allow that I mean could you throw kids in a class and say let's debate something really controversial and then but you have to debate it from the other side I mean just as a as a experiment of forcing the brain to try to be effective for sake of winning but from the other perspective or stance it seems like a great exercise if I were a high school teacher that's the first thing I do we pick the most controversial topic and then I'd pick I'd ask people to divide along that topic and then I'd swap them into the other one and have them argue from the other one stands learning to appreciate perspectives this is very is very and we'd use 14 ounce clothes no I'm kidding it wouldn't be physical it would be purely intellectual yeah I mean let's take can we take it back to the brain for a moment to the conversation that we were having earlier right so we were talking about that in our experiments and now and whole you know whole bodies of neuroscientific knowledge we know that there is this very interesting neuro biological sort of processing difference between emotions and the thoughts that are
Safety, Creativity & Default Mode Network (02:03:28)
part of those emotions that are you know the result of those emotions that are also insipitating those emotions right like that whole process when it pertains to the direct actions observable characteristics behaviors you know of another person or situation that you can actually directly pretty much directly and learn or infer as compared to when you have to bring a whole lot of conceptual content knowledge to bear experiential knowledge simulation capacity to bear to be able to fully appreciate the nature of a situation and we talked about how that second kind of processing that I called transcendent is it essence about distancing yourself from the immediate physical you know situation the observable perceivable situation in a direct sense and instead constructing a narrative in your mind that's built from that but that then brings to bear all these other kinds of information that allow you to elaborate this into a narrative that takes on emotional meaning and psychological power as a narrative it becomes part of identity beliefs all that kind of stuff and we talked about that kind of thinking being associated with the so called default mode which is deactivated systematically and decoupled from itself right the different regions aren't talking to each other when you are in the world acting doing a task paying attention inferring the direct things that you need to notice around you you know you're in the middle of playing a soccer game the ball is coming at your head that's not a time to stop and muse about you know title nine and girls access to sports right you're gonna you're gonna trip and fall or you're gonna miss your shot at the goal or you're gonna hit get hit with the ball right so we need to sort of manage that space in order to have these conversations and I think what's important here is to remember that the default mode network that is the substrate that's that is playing out your own sense of self and inner consciousness and self awareness and is also the basis on which we construct these broader inferential narratives that are the elaborative stuff of stories and beliefs are fundamentally incompatible the activation of those systems is fundamentally incompatible with needing to be vigilant into the immediate physical or social situation around you so if you feel physically emotionally culturally socially unsafe and you feel that you need to watch your back either literally or metaphorically as you're thinking about things neurobiologically that situation is inconclusive it is not conducive to being able to actually conjure an alternative perspective in which you construct a meaningful narrative with alternate ethical implications with alternate perspective possible future outcomes with alternate views of historical precedent or context being able to sort of mentally time travel into the space of those ideas is only really possible when people feel safe to think together so is it sounds like it's anti creative yes creativity is also associated with the activations of these networks yeah causally so in some recent work I had the good fortune of having dinner last year with somebody I won't reveal who it is but he runs a major social media platform and he told me that in Japan it's common for people to have two or three or even as many as seven different social media handles and that they do this in order to embody different versions of themselves safely so these are not troll accounts these are not the accounts and by the way I see you troll accounts that say whatever and then you go to their accounts at some private account where they hide rather these are individuals who have multiple accounts in one account they might be a bit aggressive maybe even a bully online dare I say in another account they might be very fawning and show up as the person that everyone knows them to be in the real world and another account they might be a university professor and another they're an athlete and it's fabricated in the sense that the posts that they put up often don't accurately represent who they are in the real world but it's accurate in the sense that it represents the different dimensions of their persona that are driving their real world decision making at some level it's kind of like pretend play for little kids it's pretend play but it's it's it's not pretend because it's in cyberspace I'll just go back to Rick Rubin who in addition to being this incredible music producer is an enormous fan of professional wrestling for many years and I asked him you know from a perplexing it's like why professional wrestling is that the athleticism he says it's the only thing that's real because everyone agrees it's not real and so these are characters right so you're agreeing for it to not be real and yet it allows these characters to fully embody these different personas and and I had the experience years ago I was at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory summer camp for scientists where I attended and taught and I was in a cab driving out to Cold Spring Harbor from the train station so I asked it and I got into a discussion with the cab driver and he said okay you're from California he said when New York accent I won't try and imitate he said you're from California and he said you know your governor who at the time was shorts and he said he's great and I said tell me more I happened to like Schwarzenegger for a number of reasons he actually signed my PhD because he was governor and I went to a UC and and he said well because if terrorists show up in California he's going to go out there with a machine gun and take them down so in his head he's the Terminator yeah he's the Terminator and I realized in that moment this was a smart guy this cab driver smart guy that it wasn't a lack of narrative distancing he had conflated the actor with the roles he played and I realized in that moment that this was not a reflection of him being unintelligent it was a reflection of the fact that the brain often collapses identities of others and makes these I think it's just an efficient way to parse the world yeah we decide and then that's that kind of person and we put him over there on a shelf right so so to return to the discussion that that we're having I think that the ability to embody different aspects of self but also the ability to transiently embody the personas of other people and to do that in a way that allows for really thorough exploration of idea space I feel like can only be a good thing provided it doesn't get physically violent or something but that to me seems like the exact opposite of what's happening now which is that people are siloing off into their camps where specific language and specific ideas are accepted and others are not I mean it's it's it's so interesting and perplexing and disturbing to me that the way that certain things that have nothing to do with politics get lumped with one group or the other you know that it's so crazy to me on the one hand and yet I think what you're describing seems to me the route out of all this I really mean that I feel like you the education system starting young and getting people emotionally engaged learning what they like what they don't like but then also teaching them about their emotional systems and how it helps them parse the world is really the solution so that when we're upset we can realize that yeah I'm upset it makes sense why I'm upset let me explore it from the other side it also makes sense why they're upset and that seems to be what humans have done somewhat throughout history never perfectly well but it seems like it ought to be possible I mean the forebrain is there for a reason so could you in wanting to go back to a little bit of the biology and the research what have you seen in terms of cross cultural consistency yeah about the role of emotions in it in our ability to parse and learn and because obviously we're not going to solve these problems today but although I think you've went shine light on some potential solutions what do we know for sure about human beings and their capacity to do what you're describing to really learn differently it worked in the classroom where you were teaching but how could each and every one of us do that?
Education And Its Relation To Social Experiences And Health
Civic Discourse & Education; Deconstructing Ideas (02:12:15)
I mean how would we approach this? I guess I want to take this to the practical what can we do when we read a newspaper article what can we do when we're on social media what can we do when our kid is like refusing to do something because they simply don't like it or the teacher they don't like the teacher are there paths through that that you've identified or that you can sense work? I can get funny examples of my own kids when they didn't like things at school right this isn't licensed what tools do you use? My son when he was in third grade he was very upset about behavior chart that his teacher had at school right so he had a behavior chart they had a behavior chart at the back of the room the principal didn't agree with this but that teacher was there for a year and okay so there was this behavior chart and you have green you start on green with your little clip and then there's yellow and then there's red which is like call your parents which I never understood why they don't call your parents on the green but anyway right so you know you start on the green and then you get down to the yellow and they get down to red and you know there's Ted's little friend is always getting on the red by 9 a.m. it's like can we just get it over with you know and he tried to talk with his teacher about why this behavior chart made him so uncomfortable because and she couldn't she could not understand his perspective because she kept saying but you're always on green you're always doing what you're supposed to be doing and you're respectful and you're well behaved so why is it a problem and what he was trying to say was that somehow it just made him uncomfortable to have that there so he was constantly bothering me with this and I finally told him I was trying to work one day and he was home from school because I would let him work from home some days because we needed to to come back to school because we needed to to kind of buffer a little bit and you know he'd bring all his work home and he'd do it himself I'd be working he'd be working right it's fine he had all kinds of projects going on you know and this is a kid who this little side story is a kid who went to first grade and about two weeks into first grade good first grade class he was crying on a Sunday night to me like I gotta go to school I don't want to go to school I'm like well what's you know what's wrong I'm thinking he's getting bullied something's wrong and he's like I know he finally looks at me and he goes I have so much work to do how do you expect me to get my work done if I'm sitting in school all day I can relate I can relate can you relate because you're actually a motivated right we take kids motivations and the things they're interested in and we sideline them and try to structure them into something so back to their legos to the bill yes there's yeah he was he was way into building armor at that time he would yeah I know we're probably terrible parents but we gave him some safety glasses and we taught him how to use it and we explained how metal sharp and we gave him some super cool and some tin snips and he made a whole suit of armor in the backyard that you know in second grade anyway it took him months and months I mean chain mail the whole bit he was super into it I know anyway and he made airpline he did all kinds of things but so here's this kid and he's bugging me about his teacher in this behavior chart I said Ted go write a letter to your teacher but both he's that much you go write a letter about why it bothers you right because in doing so he's first of all helping to solve the problem secondly he was he was formulating his understanding of what this behavior chart is and why specifically it bothers him and in so doing it helps him not be so bothered by it right so that's an example of something you could do right so he wrote this letter to his teacher which ended up being published in the National Academy of Science Engineering and that's how people learn volume two because I was on the committee of people that wrote it and we needed an example of kids making sense that of motivational things and actually took his name and the teachers they often put the letter in the book it basically is a little kid saying listen teacher when you put up this behavior chart he called it a bad behavior chart which it wasn't it was just a behavior chart but he interprets it as a bad behavior chart when you put that up it's as if you're you're daring me to do something bad you're you're basically he doesn't say it like this he says you're basically making me uncomfortable because you are laying out a perspective on me a possibility space for me that you're now bringing into the conversation that I could be like that and let's see if you're going to be not today we're still on green right and so where does this go it goes back to the idea that kids are and all of us are interpreting the interactions and the structures around us not only for what they are but for what they represent as somebody else's interpretation of what we are or are not capable of and he saw that behavior chart as a marker that his teacher assumed that all kids in that class are capable of being badly behaved and that their main aim of being in school is to be well behaved right and so he writes all about saying saying dear teacher every day I come to school every single day and every single day is new that's what he says and I could learn something new except then I see dot dot dot the bad behavior chart right he's saying school is supposed to be about learning and and us engaging and you're making it about something so low level and basic as are you going to be able to do something basic as are you going to behave yourself today we're we are insulting him by the way we frame the context so take it back to the bigger issues of civic discourse and all these things I think so much of the way that we're organizing our lives our social relationships our community our civic structures right now is mirroring that teachers behavior chart right she take the chart down I don't know I don't think so and what and I asked because I'm not sure that it matters I think what probably matters is that he had the chance to voice he voice his understanding of his understanding of the chart yeah that's right and now you know anybody can read his understanding of the chart and like you know the most widely read textbook I'm learning right and motivation I mean the point there's a couple points first is that we're structuring the way we structure our environment can unwittingly impose our mental models of other people's possibility spaces onto them and people find that inherently abhorrent right so think about how we're doing that in many contexts not simply in schools and then the second thing is from the kids perspective deconstructing exactly why and it's something bothers you by understanding how it is that you are interpreting that thing then opens you up to be able to manage those spaces in a new way and to engage in them in a new way so if we take the conversation back to the idea of civic discourse of civic reasoning of engaging with with any idea right there are ideas that are deeply problematic there are ideas that are deeply hurtful that have long histories of trauma associated with them of long histories of power dynamics and oppression associated with them the way in which I think we deconstruct those ideas is going to be critical to how those ideas live on implicitly in our social relationships in our society if we cancel them if we negate them and pretend they don't exist all we're doing is burying them in a place where they can't be deconstructed and only by actually taking them apart and appreciating the pain the relationship structures the limitations the resource allocations the inequities that are implicit in those concepts only by deconstructing and deeply understanding those can we rebuild them in a different way so it's very difficult because on the one hand we have a space created for ourselves right now in society that is deeply unsafe for many people and when you're in an unsafe space you are not in a space that is conducive to constructing and deconstructing meaning using those default systems and other systems to be crass about the brain right and kind of oversimplify it that are the substrate of autobiographical self of possibility spaces of ethics of deep moral and ethical emotions so on the one hand we have a space that is deeply unsafe for individuals to think together and genuinely so there are real implications for people to reveal certain kinds of identities to engage with certain kinds of ideas in culturally culturally formulated spaces right that we've constructed together and the irony is that we can only fix that and create a different way of interacting with one another by actually boldly going in there together so it's a very nuanced line where we need to develop skills and this is where I think and many people think now that schools should be focused across disciplinary domains whether it's math science social studies history art the arts right sports should be focused on helping young people and teachers develop capacities and dispositions for deconstructing and constructing again safe cultural spaces to think together about you know interpretations about narratives about stories about assumptions about ideas because as we engage in those thoughts together we call that civic discourse right we learn kind of rules for not triggering and sensibilities for not endangering another person's ability to engage unequal footing with us because if we trigger those unsafe right dangerous places for people they can't neuro biologically then engage with us deeply around sharing their perspective and deconstructing hours together to build something where we have a shared understanding in the middle we have to trust one another and trust trusting one another really means we have to have a space established in which we can feel safe to deconstruct our own beliefs and to allow others to do the same and to assure them that we can engage with those beliefs no matter what they are and then actually exteriorize them and evaluate them together and think about them around core values we probably both hold like well-being like sustainability of society and of cultures and of groups right these things are core everyone wants to be well everyone wants to have a sustainable life and a life future and a cultural set of values and so when we all appreciate that we're bringing those things to the table but then are systematic about constructing a space for civic discourse in which we are supporting one another in deconstructing our own beliefs rather than each other's beliefs right then we are at a space where we can start to construct some kind of understanding some kind of nuanced more adaptive more prosocial and the true sense way of engaging with one another with not necessarily way of agreeing with one another but way of engaging and constructing and deconstructing meaning together so that we can be adapted so that we can build a society where everyone can flourish so that we can build a society where everyone can belong and can can actually have the resources they need I would argue as long as free speech is not possible for everybody that nobody says that nobody is safe nobody is safe and that there's an illusion of safety around the idea that people who have voice are going to get what they want simply because they are the ones who are allowed to talk and other people aren't I mean I think you said it perfectly when you said that anytime ideas get buried there's no way they can be solved we know this from the scientific literature there are results within social science and biological science that are deeply troubling I can think of experiments that were done in the realm of neurosurgery on humans in the 1960s people stimulating different brain areas and seeing rage or seeing very politically controversial ideas emerge from the person's mouth in real time as a function of stimulating that brain area and they say well did they really believe that and they just never were saying it and the person doesn't even recall that happening during the surgery or I mean this idea that young had that we have all things inside of us I think can be seen as a very dangerous notion and territory that we have all these shadows but the I'm also an optimist and I feel that the optimistic view of it is that by knowing that we have all things inside of us potentially and by embracing that fact that we can manage that to steal what you just said we can manage that and that we can function so much better when we see something in the world that we think that's not me I'm not that and I hate that when if we understand that that also lives inside of us but that we just don't realize it and I realize some people will hear this and go that's not true you know I have my stances and I disagree with other things I would say absolutely yes but the difference between one person's stance and another person's stance is could be purely developmental wiring it could be it could be a difference of having read different childhood books and oriented towards one book versus another and I don't I think that we are very similar at the level of core wiring and core algorithms that we run but somehow these days we have the perception that we've diverged so much I think the only thing that's really missing is what you're describing is a place where any and all ideas can be explored freely not to establish consensus or validity of certain kinds of ideas but to actually exteriorize them and deconstruct them for what they actually are absolutely thank you for working through that that space because it's a tricky one I realize it's very it's very fraught but so so very important I have a question that's very basic but I've never gotten a good answer on I was raised thinking that mirror neurons were a real thing that there are these neurons that exist in the brains of us and other old world primates I'm not a cat monkey but
Mirror” Neurons, Shared Social Experiences (02:27:31)
especially in humans the so-called mirror neurons that are activated when we see somebody experience something and it evokes a sort of empathic understanding in us I've also seen some reviews written recently in some popular press saying that mirror neurons are perhaps not playing the critical role that we thought they were what's the story on mirror neurons and we're not going after anybody's work in particular I just want to know whether or not there's real validity to this notion of mirror neurons I'm not an expert on but I can tell you what I know about it and the way that I think about it I think it's pretty clear now that there are no such things as mirror neurons like some special kind of cell type that's in the brain that they have not been found they were predicted but they were not found something else was also predicted back in the late 1980s by Antonio de Blasio where he talked about the brain in terms of being organized in terms of what he called convergent and divergent zones so he talked about the brain being organized as networks converging and then diverging again back out so you have places where processing is kind of coming together and then then what happens in there then determines how things get spread back out and you've got these sort of loops happening in the brain and his thinking on that was very much commensurate with others thinking about the notion of goal directed action and perception so if you think back to developmental scholars who had nothing about the brain very much like Jean Piaget back in the early 20th century where he was observing young children and noticing that they were interacting with the world and they expected certain things and they were he thought imposing theories or schemas onto the world and then and then accommodating was the word he used the world with their actions when it didn't act the way they expected and then assimilating that back right to change what they expected next time so that he had this model that he built from from systematically observing children in particular right and where he what he realized is that kids are not just flailing around sort of discovering things haphazardly they're imposing a certain logic onto the world and then they're systematically testing that logic so they're hypothesis testing basically yes right they they're expecting things and then when the world does what they want that reinforces and when it does something different that's surprising and then they have to accommodate and make sense and then they have to expect differently in the future so what does this have to do with Mir and Arons I think when you bring these different ideas together that the psychological observational ideas and then the neurobiological ideas what we basically have and I wrote about this a little bit in like I think 2008 I have a paper called something like the smoke around your neurons and I forget the second half of the title but it has the word goals and and directed actions and things right the idea I think is it's not that there are special neurons that are firing when we see another person do the thing right that but that we are it goes back to the notion of us imposing our expectations on to the world you have to share and understand intuitively the goal of the other ones action in order to activate these mirror regions right where and what are those mirror regions they are basically regions that are deeply interconnected with these deeply interconnected with each other right there thoroughly interconnected with each other in terms of white matter fiber tracks and they are regions involved in action planning you know goal oriented actions and perceiving the outcomes of those actions so it's a kind of a loop between acting and perceiving and acting and perceiving and and I argued at the time rate that goals are emergent like high level goals are emergent from the dynamic feedback loops of acting and perceiving and I was really taking a very pea jetty and you but imposing that on the neuroscience so I think you take what I'm saying together with like a pea jetty and constructivist view there are many other constructivist neuroscientists all or constructivist psychologists also and and then also the neural data is that we don't have these special neurons built into our head what we have is a natural proclivity and I don't know where that comes from right but we have a natural proclivity to try to appreciate another person's actions feelings experiences by leveraging our own similar actions feelings experiences and so when we can share goals or experiences that becomes more facile right and that's been shown over and over in these mirror type papers right and when you distance yourself from those goals and actions or don't have an intuitive sense of them then you don't get these mirroring activations you don't get these kind of ramped up sharing of goals right or of experience so I think it really comes back to the way the nervous system is wired to be inherently social we are cultural learners we are situated in social spaces from the moment we're conceived and certainly from the moment we're born in that social space observing others interacting with others co regulating each other's physiology each other's attention each other's emotion right as we do those things we accommodate to each other and we wire ourselves to expect certain kinds of feelings and to recognize those same things in other people and so as we share constructed experience together we start to appreciate the sameness right the parallels between other peoples and our own emotions thoughts goals and we can also dehumanize them you know make the other the other person not share our thoughts emotions goals and then we are capable of all kinds of horrible things we've talked about before right where you're where you've actually distanced yourself so what's this coupon mirror neurons I don't think mirror neurons exist I think that's the consensus but our propensity to engage with other people by simulating on the substrate of our own self and then inferring the goals and the feelings and the outcomes and the experiences of those experiences that we've simulated that's what is very essential to being a human but keeping in mind that there's also this layer of learned lived cultural developed expectations we impose on to the world we not filter but we we steer our attention we steer our perception to accommodate to align with our expectations so it's never just the reality of what the person experienced or what happened it's always our perception of that reality as we expected it to happen so there's this very dynamic cultural co-construction happening that is that is messy that is iterative that you can learn to do in different ways in different contexts and that's kind of how I understand this notion of mirroring before we conclude I do want to answer your son's question so so so prior to recording there was a text message that came we don't have to
Cold Exposure & Sickness; Role of Education (02:35:49)
read it verbatim but the text message is very Ellen's son is late teenage years and he's been doing deliberate cold exposure cold showers on a daily basis and reported that he's not yet he hasn't had any colds since starting this this is actually a pretty common experience because the pulse and adrenaline that is inevitable with a uncomfortably cold but safe should he get sick should he continue the cold showers and and the answer is no I think that then it would be hot showers and hot baths and sauna type stuff is probably bare but not so hot that it's stressful he really want to reduce stress on a on an ill system so he sounds up for many reasons like a remarkable young man as as is your daughter sounds like a remarkable and listen and you're remarkable and I really mean that I feel like we could go on forever exploring these ideas I absolutely would love to have you back for another discussion or many about your research I want to thank you for taking the time of your research schedule your teaching schedule to come educate us today these ideas are so widely important and you provide so many real world examples in fact it's one of the things that I love so much about your work is that it's really nested in real world and you're thoughts and perspectives on the education and how it could be better at the level of educating kids at home teaching ourselves teachers and the education system I hope will ring far and wide because they really can be implemented we're not talking about the need to purchase a bunch of stuff no we need to start with a different disposition we need to start with a different goal yeah the goal of education needs to not learnings not the goal it's not the outcome it needs to be the development of the person right how is a person changing themselves having learned this and then you design the learning opportunities to change who people are capable of becoming right so the learning is there but it's not the end point it's just the means to something else which we haven't been attending to enough and that's the development of the person who they become having learned that beautifully but well thank you so much for your time thank you so much for the work you do and I can't wait to have another discussion with you about the emerging research great I'll be back thank you thank you for joining me today for my discussion about emotions social interactions and learning with Dr. Mary Helen Emordino Yang I hope you found the conversation
Acknowledgements And Fan Support
Zero-Cost Support, YouTube Feedback, Spotify & Apple Reviews, Sponsors, Momentous, Social Media, Neural Network Newsletter (02:38:51)
to be as informative and enriching as I did if you'd like to learn more about Dr. Emordino Yang's research please find the link to her laboratory website in the show note captions in addition Dr. Emordino Yang authored an incredible book called Emotions Learning and the Brain it's a book designed for the general public it's incredibly informative and has a lot of practical tools as well we've provided a link to that book in the show note captions if you're learning from and or enjoying this podcast please subscribe to our YouTube channel that's a terrific zero cost way to support us in addition please subscribe to the podcast on both Spotify and Apple and on both Spotify and Apple you can leave us up to a five star review if you have questions for me or comments about the podcast or guests that you'd like me to include on the Huberman Lab podcast please put those in the comments section on YouTube I do read all the comments please also check out the sponsors mentioned at the beginning and throughout today's episode that's the best way to support this podcast not on today's episode but on many previous episodes of the Huberman Lab podcast we discuss supplements while supplements aren't necessary for everybody many people derived tremendous benefit from them for things like enhancing sleep for hormone support and for focus the Huberman Lab podcast is proud to have partnered with momentous supplements to see the supplements discussed on the Huberman Lab podcast go to live momentous spelled O U S so that's live momentous dot com slash Huberman again that's live momentous dot com slash Huberman if you're not already following us on social media I am Huberman Lab on Instagram Twitter Facebook and LinkedIn and at all those places I discuss science and science related tools some of which overlaps with the content of the Huberman Lab podcast but much of which often does not overlap with the content of the Huberman Lab podcast so again it's Huberman Lab on all social media platforms in addition if you haven't subscribed to our neural network newsletter it's a zero cost monthly newsletter that provides summaries of podcast episodes as well as tool kits for instance tool kits for optimizing sleep or tool kits for learning and neuroplasticity or for deliberate cold exposure for dopamine and on and on to sign up for the neural network newsletter simply go to Huberman Lab dot com go to the menu scroll down to newsletter and provide your email we do not share your email with anybody thank you once again for joining me for today's discussion with Dr. Mary Helen Emordino Yang and last but certainly not least thank you for your interest in science