Jim Sidanius Interview

March 4, 2011

Jim Sidanius is a Professor in the departments of Psychology and African and African American Studies at Harvard University. He earned his Ph.D. at the University of Stockholm, Sweden and has taught at several universities in the United States and Europe. His primary research interests include the political psychology of gender, group conflict, institutional discrimination and the evolutionary psychology of intergroup prejudice. Prof. Sidanius was also the recipient of the 2006 Harold Lasswell Award for “Distinguished Scientific Contribution in the Field of Political Psychology” awarded by the International Society of Political Psychology and was inducted into the National Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2007.

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Selective Attention Video

April 19, 2010

Here’s the video we discussed in class, from Prof. Daniel Simons at the University of Illinois at Chicago. It’s tricky, so pay close attention!

MBB Distinguished Lectures with Michael Gazzaniga

April 18, 2010

GazzanigaHarvard Mind, Brain & Behavior will hold its 2010 Distinguished Lecture Series this week, featuring three evening lectures with Dr. Michael Gazzaniga, psychology professor and director of the SAGE Center for the Study of Mind at the University of California Santa Barbara. All three events look interesting, and the final event has particular relevance to law and mind sciences. All events will be held in Harvard’s Yenching Auditorium, 2 Divinity Ave, Cambridge, MA.

  • Tuesday, April 20, 4 to 6 pm
    Building the Parallel Distributed Brain, How Do We Know?
    From Hebb, Lashley, and Sperry, and through modern research, the basics of brain organization are reviewed at both the cellular and neurological level, including a personal history of split-brain research that all lead up to the view of a parallel and distributed brain. Post-talk commentary by Professor Albert Galaburda (Neurology / HMS).
  • Wednesday, April 21, 4 to 6 pm
    Automatic Brains, Interpretive Minds
    With a massively parallel and distributed and automatic brain, how is it we believe we experience a unified conscious life? How does the sense of psychological unity become established and how does it work in the brain? Post-talk commentary by Professor Güven Güzeldere (Philosophy / FAS).
  • Thursday, April 22, 4 to 6 pm
    Feeling Free in a Mechanistic World: Where the Brain Meets the Law
    The idea of determinism and mechanism rings out from every quarter of science and society. What does this mean for the concept of personal responsibility and how might ideas on the issue impact our ideas of justice and the law? Post-talk commentary by Professor Joshua Greene (Psychology / FAS).

Law and Mind Sciences event this Thursday

April 12, 2010

FYI, the Project on Law and Mind Sciences is hosting a panel discussion this Thursday on moral biology, addressing specifically the question: How should developments in mind sciences and behavioral biology alter our understanding of law and morality?

See details below:

Thurs. April 15


Harvard Law School

Austin Hall, West Classroom

Free and Open to the Public

This panel discussion will examine how developments in evolutionary biology and the mind sciences should inform law, philosophy, and economics, focusing on subjects such as punishment, responsibility, racism, addiction, and cooperation. Participants will include

I. Glenn Cohen, Joshua Greene, William Fitzpatrick, Adina Roskies, Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, and Thomas Scanlon

Co-sponsored by the Petrie-Flom Center and the Project on Law and Mind Sciences at Harvard Law School,  the Gruter Institute for Law and Behavioral Research, and the MacArthur Law and Neuroscience Project  with support from the Cammann Fund for Law and Medicine at Harvard.

Adding Music to Videos

April 11, 2010

FMA logoWe’ve been discussing what music to add to our videos and how. One great resource is the Free Music Archive. According to its website,

“The Free Music Archive is an interactive library of high-quality, legal audio downloads. … Radio has always offered the public free access to new music. The Free Music Archive is a continuation of that purpose, designed for the age of the internet. Every mp3 you discover on The Free Music Archive is pre-cleared for certain types of uses that would otherwise be prohibited by copyright laws that were not designed for the digital era.”

The FMA is affiliated with Jersey City-based freeform radio station WFMU and features 15 genres of music. The website has curators who filter through submissions to determine which pieces to upload, and visitors can listen to the full length and download anything that’s on the site.

FMA genres

Twelve Steps to Numeracy: A Rehab Program for Lawyers

March 22, 2010

If a Supreme Court justice stumbled upon our blog, I would not be surprised if the subject matter bored her.  Despite the tremendous value that the mind sciences could add to our legal jurisprudence – as we have been highlighting for almost a complete semester (!) – the typical justice appears unconcerned about what science has to say about the doctrine that the Court creates.  Moreover, even if the justice were interested in a certain scientific topic, it is doubtful that the justice would take the time to understand the topic thoroughly enough to employ the science in her judicial decision-making.  In fact, the entire enterprise of law appears to be deliberately non-scientific: judges, advocates, and scholars engage in the practice of argument, but rarely pay attention to whether their arguments are scientifically valid.

Professor David L. Faigman, however, is a rare breed of legal scholar: He is numerate.  That is, he has a social scientific background, he understands science, and he cares deeply about the plague of innumeracy that has infected the field of law.  In Legal Alchemy: the Use and Misuse of Science and the Law, for example, Professor Faigman suggests (perhaps somewhat facetiously) that scientifically-challenged juris doctors should enroll in “Innumerates Anonymous,” a twelve step program to cure innumeracy:

  1. I am an innumerate.
  2. The law needs the best science available or that could be made available.
  3. As a/an _____ (insert one: practicing attorney, professor, judge, administrator, legislator, or other), it behooves me to become familiar with science and the scientific culture in order to fulfill my professional obligations. . . . Read the rest of this entry »

Iceland: Land of unattended babies and free-roaming animals

March 21, 2010

Upon entering a shop in Reykjavik, Iceland—my spring break destination—one is likely to encounter a sign similar to this one at tourist shops.  More likely than not, the shopkeeper is not present, but is somewhere in the back, if not further off.  In less-touristy shops, the shopkeeper is also not present, but rather than a friendly admonition against stealing, a sign directs the shopper to a phone number (s)he can call if (s)he wants to buy something.  I never tried it, but presumably the shopkeeper would show up and make the sale.

Read the rest of this entry »