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The Brains that pull the Triggers. Paris Conference on Syndrome E

28 apr 2015 09:00 - 29 apr 2015 17:30

IEA de Paris

17 quai d'Anjou, 75004 Paris



The transformation of groups of previously nonviolent individuals into repetitive killers of defenseless members of society has been a recurring phenomenon throughout history. This apparent transition of large numbers of so called “psychologically intact”, “ordinary” individuals, to perpetrators of extreme atrocities is one of the most striking variants of human behavior, but often appear incomprehensible to victims and bystanders and in retrospect even to the perpetrators themselves and to society in general. 
This transition is characterized by a set of symptoms and signs for which a common syndrome has been proposed, Syndrome E (Fried, Lancet, 1997). The purpose of such designation is not to medicalize this form of human behavior, but to provide a framework for future discussion and multidisciplinary discourse and for potential insights that might lead to early detection and prevention. 
The Brains that Pull the Triggers, a special conference under the auspices of the Paris Institute for Advanced Studies, will bring together scientists and scholars from the human, social and brain sciences along with guests from literature, politics, and law to bear upon this tragic invariant of the human condition.
The central focus of the conference is not the victims of atrocities but the Perpetrators carrying out these acts. The aim is to increase our understanding of the Perpetrator’s mind, and thus inevitably of the brain mechanisms which pull the triggers and make this most extreme and disastrous of human behavior possible. The hope is that such understanding will be useful and help the human and social sciences address this problem.


Tuesday April 28th

08:30 -  Registration and coffee


09:00 -  Gretty Mirdal (Paris IAS): Introduction and welcome

09:10 -  Marie-Christine Lemardeley (Deputy Mayor of Paris in charge of Research)

09:20 - Itzhak Fried (Paris IAS/UCLA): “The Brains that Pull the Triggers. What is Syndrome E?”

10:00 - Alain Berthoz (Collège de France): “Syndrome E and Plurality of Perspectives”


The Perpetrators that Pull the Triggers: Observations, Interpretations and Experiments

Chair: Lionel Naccache (Brain & Spine Institute ICM)

10:20 - Christopher Browning (Univ. North Carolina): “The Elusive Holocaust Perpetrator”

10:50 - Break

11:05 - Jacques Sémelin (CNRS - Sciences Po Paris): “Analysing massacre to Understand the Genocidal Process”

11:35 - Stephen Reicher (Saint Andrews): “On Obedience, Choice and Accountability – or Why Orders Don’t Work”

12:05 - Discussion

12:50 -  Lunch break


The Brains that Pull the Triggers: Perception, Volition, Decision

Chair: Itzhak Fried (UCLA)

14:15 - Lasana Harris (Univ. Leiden): “Dehumanised Perception: A Psychological Mechanism that May Facilitate Human Atrocities”

14:45 - Patrick Haggard (University College London):  “Volition and Affect: How Do Positive, Negative, Right and Wrong Outcomes Influence Human Sense of Agency”

15:15 -  Wolf Singer (Max Planck Institute for Brain Research): “The Coexistence of the Good and the Evil in a Single Brain: Phase Transitions in a Non-Linear Dynamical System?”

15:45 - Discussion

16:30 - Break

16:45 - Etienne Koechlin (ENS Paris): “Neural Mechanisms of Rule Compliance in Humans”

17:15 - Beatrice de Gelder (Univ. Maastricht): “Group Influences on Individual Social Behavior”

17:45 - Discussion

18:30 - Cocktail


Wednesday April 29th

08:30 -  Coffee

08:50 -  Jacques Dubucs (Representative for the Ministry of Education and Research, Scientific Director for the Humanities and Social Science, Department of Research and Innovation)

The Brains that Pull the Triggers: Self and Emotional Regulation

Chair: Nicolas Georgieff (Univ. Lyon 1)

09:00 - Ray Dolan (University College London): “Self and Other Valuation”

09:30 - Alain Berthoz (Collège de France): “Is Empathy Involved in Perpetrators Behavior?”

10:00 - Nemat Jaafari (Univ. Poitiers): “Psychiatric Perspective”

10:30 - Discussion

11:00 - Break


The Individual and the Group: Mechanisms of Group Contagion

Chair: Saadi Lahlou (London School of Economics)

11:15 - Luciano Fadiga (Univ. Ferrara): “Sharing to Communicate: Neurophysiological Mechanisms”

11:45 - Julie Grèzes (ENS Paris): “Group Membership Prejudices Early Neural Processing of Emotions”

12:15 - Eddie Hartmann (Univ. Potsdam): “Symbolic Boundaries and Collective Violence. Boundary Activation as a Key Mechanism of Collective Violent Behaviour”

12:45 - Discussion

13:15 - Lunch Break


Ethical and Legal Issues

Chair: Jean-Paul Costa (President, International Institute of Human Rights)

14:20 -  Christophe Girard (Mayor of the 4e arrondissement of Paris)

14:30 - Ilina Singh (Univ. Oxford): “Do Brains or Persons Pull the Trigger?: Ethics of Medicalizing Violence”

15:00 - Michael S. Gazzaniga (UCSB): “Beliefs and Brains: A Critical Balance”

15:30 - James Stewart (Deputy Prosecutor, International Criminal Court): “Responsibility and Punishment”

16:00 - Discussion

16:45 - Itzhak Fried (UCLA): Concluding Remarks


International interdisciplinary conference convened by Itzhak Fried, fellow of the Paris Institute for advanced Studies, with the support of Alain Berthoz, Collège de France.
The Brains that Pull the Triggers
20 September 2014 - 20 October 2014
20 October 2014
29 Apr 2015 17:30
Itzhak Fried
Conferences and workshops
Contemporary period (1789-…)
World or no region