Sondheim and Pinker on Music and Emotion

When it comes to explanations for human behavior, preeminent experimental psychologist Steven Pinker, Ph.D., adamantly believes that genes matter. When others question this position, claiming that attributing emotion and behavior to genetics is merely a way of evading responsibility, Pinker will often offer a cultural rather than a scientific response:

Dear kindly Sergeant Krupke,

You gotta understand

It’s just our bringing up-ke,

That gets us out of hand.

Our mothers are all junkies,

Our fathers all are drunks.

Golly Moses naturally we’re punks

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World Science Festival Focuses on Language

Photo credit: Shutterstock

Photo credit: Shutterstock

Last week’s World Science Festival event, “Planet of the Humans: the Leap to the Top,” opened with a contemporary dancer and a small, three-foot robot sharing the stage in a dance duet. The robot, which stood on its own two feet, “learned” as it went, with the dancer lifting its arms and giving it direction, support, and “love,” in the form of reassuring head nods and slight touches to keep it steady. Its progression was impressively quick, and soon enough it was mimicking the human dancer’s every move, from splits to rolls and beyond. The dance was an excerpt from choreographer Blanca Li’s “ROBOT,” an avant-garde performance currently at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Continue reading

Brainwave 2013: The Humorist

Expectation and contrast are elements of every joke, yet there is nothing funny about that—humor withers under analysis. When experimental psychologist Steven Pinker and humorist Fran Lebowitz met for the first time this Wednesday for an event at the Rubin Museum of Art (a Brain Awareness Week partner), their contrasting perspectives provided a night of laughter.

Michael palma for rma fran lebowitz_016(Credit: Michael Palma for The Rubin Museum of Art)

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