Susan T. Fiske, PhD

Presentation 1: Perils of Prejudice: Emotional Biases in Brain, Mind, and Culture
Emotional prejudices may be the strongest predictors of discrimination within groups, stronger than even stereotypes. They are nuanced and differentiated and include pity, envy, and disgust-contempt. Emotional prejudices operate at the level of the brain, an activation that depends on social context. The brain’s amygdala (the area in charge of fear, arousal, and vigilance) and insula (the area in charge of disgust and arousal) may be particularly implicated, but other patterns of origin within the brain are beginning to appear. Emotional prejudices also operate at the level of the social mind. That is, distinct emotional prejudices predict distinct forms of discrimination (active and passive harm or help), and they also operate at the level of cultures, differing in specific groups but not overall structure, except for ingroups.

Presentation 2: Envy Up, Scorn Down: How Status Divides Us
Americans are becoming ever more aware of our huge social-class divides; for example, income inequality. Even outside socio-economic status, other forms of status divide us. Status-comparison compels people, even as it stresses, depresses, and divides us. Comparison is only natural, but the collateral damage reveals envy upward and scorn downward, which arguably poison people and their relationships. All is not lost, however, as other experiments show how to mitigate the effects of envy and scorn.

Speaker Background:
Susan T. Fiske is Eugene Higgins Professor of Psychology, Princeton University (Ph.D., Harvard University; honorary doctorates, Université Catholique de Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium; Universiteit Leiden, Netherlands). She investigates social cognition, especially cognitive stereotypes and emotional prejudices, at cultural, interpersonal, and neuroscientific levels.

Author of more than 250 publications and winner of numerous scientific awards, Fiske has edited most recently, Beyond Common Sense: Psychological Science in the Courtroom (2008) and the Handbook of Social Psychology (2010, 5/e). Currently an editor of Annual Review of Psychology and Psychological Review, she wrote Social Beings: Core Motives in Social Psychology (2010, 2/e) and Social Cognition: From Brains to Culture (4/e, in press). Sponsored by a Guggenheim Fellowship, her 2011 Russell-Sage-Foundation book is Envy Up, Scorn Down: How Status Divides Us.