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Why the brain won't change its mind

  • Wurstküche 625 Lincoln Boulevard Los Angeles, CA 90291 USA (map)

Jonas Kaplan, PhD

Cognitive Neuroscientist at USC's Brain and Creativity Institute


Minds are hard to change. Beliefs that are linked to our sense of who we are and who we are connected to are especially difficult to modify. While maintaining a stable set of beliefs may have some advantages, it is also exceedingly important that we are able to change our minds when it is appropriate to do so. In this talk I describe recent work done at the Brain and Creativity Institute that uses functional brain imaging to shed light on the question of how beliefs persist and how they change. We looked at what happens in the brain when people resist changing their minds in the face of evidence, and what happens when people do actually change their minds. Results from this ongoing line of work suggest that neural systems for emotion and feeling are central to this process, and that the brain has repurposed some of its oldest systems for protecting us against threats and steering us clear of spoiled foods to protect us against information that might threaten our sense of who we are.

Speaker Bio

Jonas Kaplan is a cognitive neuroscientist whose research focuses on using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to study the cognitive and social aspects of brain function. Dr. Kaplan received his PhD from the Department of Psychology at UCLA, and has been faculty at USC’s Brain and Creativity Institute since 2008, where his work has explored issues relating to consciousness, self, identity, empathy, and social relationships. His most recent work uses functional neuroimaging combined with machine learning approaches to examine the neural mechanisms that underlie various forms of narrative cognition, including studies on how the brain processes stories, imagination, beliefs, and values. He is the Co-Director of USC’s Dornsife Neuroimaging Center