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Violence, Values and the Brain

18 mar 2021 15:00 - 18:00

Roundtable organized by Gretty Mirdal (Uniercity of Copenhagen / Paris IAS) and Alain Berthoz (Collège de France) in the Brain, Culture and Society program, for the 2021 Brain Awareness Week

What goes on in the brains of ordinary persons when they become barbaric mass-murderers? How can brain research contribute to the understanding of the processes that lead to the annihilation of fellow human beings?

The transformation of groups of previously nonviolent individuals into repetitive killers of defenceless members of society has been a recurring phenomenon throughout history. This apparent transition of large numbers of seemingly normal, “ordinary” individuals, to perpetrators of extreme atrocities is one of the most striking variants of human behaviour, and it has been a topic of permanent preoccupation in the human and social sciences. How can the impressive progresses of the neurosciences add to this knowledge?  Can a dialogue between researchers in the humanities, social sciences, and neurosciences help us to understand, and hopefully prevent the processes leading to extreme violence?

In order to investigate these questions, the “Brain, culture and society program” of the Paris Institute of Advanced Study arranged three international conferences from 2015 to 2018 with eminent neuroscientists, sociologists, philosophers, jurists, psychologists, and psychiatrists to discuss their research on violence and group phenomena, and foster a multidisciplinary approach to the problem of “evil”. The results of these three conferences are to be found in the book The Brains that pull the Triggers to appear at Odile Jacob – Paris/New York in spring 2021. The main conclusions will be presented in this roundtable along with new developments.


Co-Chairs:  Alain Berthoz (College de France) and Denis Peschanski (CNRS and Université Paris1- Panthéon-Sorbonne)

-Itzhak Fried (University of California Los Angeles Medical Center and Tel-Aviv University): 

         The Brains that Pull the Triggers: Syndrome E then and now

-Susan Fiske (Princeton University):

          Dehumanization and the value of a human life

-Berangère Thirioux (Unité de Recherche Clinique Pierre Deniker, Centre Hospitalier Henri Laborit): 

          Are empathy and violence compatible?

-Saadi Lahlou (Paris Institute of Advanced Study and London School of Economics):

          Values, frustration and violence.                                                                  

-Patrick Haggard (University College London):

          Volition, agency and violence

-Leor Zmigrod (University of Cambridge):

          Violence, values and ideology

-Gretty Mirdal (University of Copenhagen and Paris Institute of Advanced Study): 

          Concluding remarks: Violence, values and the brain across disciplinary borders


Review the online roundtable of 18 March 2021, Neurosciences de la violence et des valeurs :

Les inscriptions sont closes. Néanmoins l’entrée sera possible 5 minutes avant le début de l’événement en fonction du nombre de places disponibles.
The Neurocognitive Underpinnings of Ideological Dogmatism
01 April 2021 - 30 June 2021
Neurons as Will and Representation
02 April 2018 - 30 April 2018
18 Mar 2021 18:00
Itzhak Fried,Leor Zmigrod
Conferences and workshops