This week’s conversation is with Dr. Antonio Damasio, a Professor of Neuroscience, Psychology and Philosophy, and Director of the Brain and Creativity Institute at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.

Trained as both neurologist and neuroscientist, Antonio has brilliantly captured the complicated Interplay b/t biology and psychology and culture — and doing it in a way that provides the highest dignity between each discipline, through a structurally artistic and rigorously scientific process.

His work is built on deep curiosity, deep thinking, and deep contribution to humanity.

Antonio has made seminal contributions to the understanding of how the brain processes underlying emotions, feelings, and consciousness.

His work on the role of affect in decision-making has made a major impact in neuroscience, psychology, and philosophy. He is the author of several hundred scientific articles and is one of the most eminent psychologists of the modern era.

His most recent work addresses the evolutionary development of mind and especially the role of life regulation in the generation of cultures.

“Everything that we do from the moment we have some maturity are aimed at reflecting on the conditions under which you were led into pleasure or pain. If you’re smart, you’re going to try to maximize one and reduce the other.”

In This Episode:

  • Had an early yearning for understanding the human mind and why humans do what they do
  • How he came to realize he wanted to be a neurologist
  • Moving from Portugal to the United States to pursue his education and learn from Norman Geschwind
  • Working to understand consciousness, the self, feelings, emotions, and culture
  • His problem with people who “simplify” what goes on in the mind
  • Role of the nervous system with how the mind works
  • Coming to the realization that understanding the mind starts with studying emotions, not language as was previously thought
  • Opening a lab in 1990 to study the processes of emotion
  • Are people driven by pain, pleasure, fame, etc or interconnection with others?
  • His approach to risk-taking
  • What he’s observed about the most successful people

 

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Quotables:

“Emotions actually, as the name implies, are about movement, so when you emote, there’s movement going on in your face. There’s movement going on in a variety of internal organs. There’s movement going on in your hands.”

“I think it’s a myth that people are driven by one thing and it’s all very clear in their minds. Maybe there’s some people that are that way. I’m not.”

“People are what they are and things make sense internally with successful people. Even their defects help them. The defects turn into enormous advantages.”

“After you have control over how you emote, how you feel, how you respond in relation to the world around you, the whole panorama opens and now you’re allowed to think about ways in which you can either prevent or maximize other things. That’s the whole game.”

“I ended up being an expert on language and the brain, when what I wanted to understand is how this whole thing is put together at a much more deeper level. And if I had stayed there, I would not have been able to understand it.”

 

Related Episodes:

  • Finding Mastery 087: Dr. Albert Bandura, David Starr Jordan Professor Emeritus of Social Science in Psychology at Stanford University
  • Finding Mastery 082: Dr. Harry Edwards, Professor Emeritus of Sociology at the University of California, Berkeley
  • Finding Mastery 066: Dr. Judson Brewer, Director of Research and Innovation, Mindfulness Center at Brown University

 

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Professor, Professor of Psychology, Philosophy and Neurology at

Dr. Antonio Damasio is a leader in understanding the biological origin of consciousness. He also argues that emotions, far from being barriers to it, are a crucial component of decision-making.