Psychologists mingle at workshops

by Roshan Dutta | 8/4/14 7:23pm

A social perception workshop brought researchers from across Europe and the U.S. to the Hanover Inn late last week.

Last week’s social perception workshop exposed younger social psychology community members to high-level work as part of a conference involving presentations and a poster session sponsored by the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience and the Center for Social Brain Sciences at the Hanover Inn.

The conference, featuring researchers from across Europe and the U.S., brought together interdisciplinary perspectives regarding person perception, which applies ideas from neuroscience, psychology and sociology to the process of interpersonal identification, psychology professor Maria Gobbini said.

The issue confronts the biases that individuals apply as they recognize and react to others, Gobbini said.

The conference facilitated idea exchange from July 30-Aug. 1 through a combination of presentations by leading researchers and a poster session, during which junior researchers presented their projects to the attendees.

The presentations ranged from studies on the relationship between facial and language processing to an analysis of the power of imaginary experiences.

The small size of the conference allowed the attendees to reach out to peers who would be inaccessible at larger conferences, said Kerri Johnson, a University of California at Los Angeles social psychology professor. The academically diverse population of the conference resulted in interdisciplinary work that would have been impossible otherwise, she said.

“Most of the conferences researchers go to are so large that there is not much of an opportunity to meet with people outside of your immediate area anyway, so this combination of rigorous scientific discussion coupled with informal opportunities to talk to our friends and peers over lunch or appetizers was an incredible opportunity to learn and spread research ideas,” Johnson said.

Gobbini said attendee feedback indicated that the event was successful.

“For me, it was gratifying that at the end of one of the speaker’s talks, he said that he hopes that this was the first of a long series of workshops and that he hopes to be invited again,” she said.

A secondary goal of the workshop was to expose younger members of the social psychology community to high-level scientific work while providing access to the researchers behind the findings, psychology professor and conference organizer James Haxby said.

Post-doctoral students could achieve this goal by being present at the senior presentations and conducting poster presentations of their own, which occurred at the end of the first day of presentations, Gobbini said.

Johnson noted the rarity of post-doctoral students and graduate students meeting with researchers of such a high caliber.

“The exposure to these ideas will move forward and impact their work for years to come,” she said. “I think it was wonderful insight on the part of the organizers and a step in the right direction to bring together the current and future generations.”

Gobbini and Johnson noted the event’s interdisciplinary reach. Whereas most conferences focus on one specific field of academia, the workshop brought together researchers from many fields — neuroscience, psychology and sociology — to work on the specific topic of social perception, Johnson said.

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