THE CCSN'S MISSION:
If we compressed the 4.5 billion year history of the Earth into a 24 hour period, the first single-cell organisms would have emerged around 18 hours ago, the first simple nervous systems separating animals from plants would have emerged around 3.75 hours ago, the first brain would have emerged about 2.67 hours ago, the first hominid brain would have emerged less than 2.5 minutes ago, and the current version of the human brain would have emerged less than 3 seconds ago. The human brain is the most complex living structure known, and the determination of how the human brain works to maintain a healthy body and produce our mental and behavioral existence is one of the grand challenges in science. The mission of the Center is to create a rich intellectual environment and a supportive academic environment, to address this grand challenge, with an emphasis on rethinking what is possible. We do this through international, interdisciplinary, multi-level analyses, ranging from genes to societies, that utilize multiple methods in human studies and animal models. The common core for CCSN is rigor, quantification, and theoretical sophistication shaped by reproducible empiricism designed to disconfirm, or at least to identify the limits of, rather than to confirm apriori expectations.
The CCSN recognizes that many of the big problems facing society today involve social and behavioral processes that are influenced by factors across levels of organization and scientific specializations. During most of the 20th century, Occam’s razor ("keep it simple") shaped scientific inquiry on human behavior, with the effect being that scientists sought the simplest possible theories until the need for complexity proved overwhelming. The effect was that scientists were trained to search for a variable that influenced a human behavior, and when such a causal connection was identified to then seek to demonstrate its generality. The CCSN recognizes that it may be more productive to consider a prescription attributed to Einstein which states that “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler.” Consequently, the breadth of disciplines in CCSN permits a wide array of scientific perspectives (and sources of variance) – from the neurosciences to the social sciences – to be included.
The launch of the Center was marked by a conference in 2004 entitled Social Neuroscience: People Thinking About Thinking People, the product of which appeared as a book by the same title (Cacioppo, Visser, & Pickett, 2006, MIT Press).
Among the facilities of the Center are laboratories, computer servers and resources, international collaborations, and Center staff to support the research of faculty members, and among the events sponsored by the Center are an annual colloquium series, meetings here and abroad, faculty and student exchange programs, tutorials on fMRI, and a variety of training sessions and workshops for faculty and students. We welcome your feedback. Simply email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. -- Johh T. Cacioppo, CCSN Director