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Psychologists Talk About Minds and Research

By Irfan Mahmud, Contributing Writer

More than a hundred students and community members packed Geological Lecture Hall Tuesday evening to listen to a conversation between psychology professors Steven Pinker and Howard E. Gardner ’65.

The event, presented by the Mind/Brain/Behavior Graduate School Committee, was designed as a natural conversation between the two professors, giving students a chance to see them in a different environment than in a traditional lecture.

“It was good to see them play off each other. Perhaps it was less exciting than other talks because there was less room for disagreement between them,” said attendee Sarah E. Coughlon ’15.

Gardner said that the inspiration for this event was for students to get a peak into the conversations that professors have behind closed doors.

Pinker and Gardner questioned each other on a variety of topics, ranging from their literary works to their inspiration in education and psychology to the methods they use and research.

“What’s most surprising to you about your own career?” Gardner asked Pinker.

“I consume topics and move on to other ones. I say what I had to say, and then I’m done,” Pinker said.

Much of the event consisted of reminiscing by the two professors. They recalled their time as graduate students in psychology and having to spend countless hours in the laboratory or pouring over case studies.

“We did pay our dues earlier on,” Gardner said.

At the end of the conversation, Gardner and Pinker answered questions from the attendees. One audience member asked how technological advances would lead to robots and computers replacing humans in the labor market.

“I start every introductory psychology class with a lecture that discusses all the things computers cannot do. I have had to modify that lecture every year,” Pinker said.

In the midst of Advising Fortnight, several students attended the event to gain insight into the Mind, Brain, and Behavior field of study.

“I came to get a sense of what [MBB] is and what these great men had to say because they are obviously big names,” Jasmine A. Fernandez ’16 said.

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