'The Unanticipated Science of Pleasure & Desire' with Prof. Angus MacDonald

Join us at our December chapter meeting for a psychological romp through some of our holiday dispositions. In this talk, Professor MacDonald will unpack the evolutionary challenge of devising a system that can motivate an organism toward survival goals and yet allow enough flexibility to learn new goals. The result is a brain where the system for evaluating whether an experience is good (the Liking network) has been separated from the systems for deciding what experiences to seek (the Wanting and Learning networks). This legacy has a number of ironic consequences in the holiday season, where wish lists, consumerism and stress co-mingle with friendship and generosity. MacDonald will discuss a series of studies that explores this science, from the earliest work on the electronic stimulation of “pleasure centers” to more recent work on kindness and gratitude. Neuroscience and psychology will provide a backdrop for a general discussion of how to balance wanting and liking not just during the holidays, but the whole year around.


Angus MacDonald, III, (2001 Ph.D., University of Pittsburgh) is an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Minnesota where he teaches clinical psychology and cognitive neuroscience. His research focuses on brain systems and genes associated with cognitive control, emotional control, addiction and psychosis. He is an author on over 75 publications on these topics, has received research funding from the National Institutes of Health and private foundations, and is the recipient of a dozen honors and awards in his field. ◙

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