Place: 4274 Chamberlin (refreshments will be served)
Speaker: Seth Pollak, UW Department of Psychology
Abstract: Theories about the emergence of human emotion have traditionally emphasized evolutionarily preserved, universal aspects of emotion or the functional and cultural adaptations of emotions. While these opposing views make different assumptions about the initial state of emotion in the brain, both theories devote little attention to or specification about potential processes for learning and developmental change. This colloquium will focus on the question of how brain and behavior are shaped and refined by children's early social and emotional experiences. To do so, I will describe recent research involving children who have experienced aberrant early life experiences. These include child abuse and neglect, children raised in extreme poverty, children raised in institutional settings, and children who have endured traumatic life experiences. Studies of these children provide new insights about the developmental processes underlying socio-emotional learning as well as shed light on the mechanisms through which children acquire emotions. In addition to these basic science questions, children raised in adverse environments are at increased risk for a variety of health, academic, and social problems. I will highlight ways in which research in this area can both address central issues in human development as well as hold tremendous promise for improving the health and well-being of children.