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Feature
Inside the Mind of Zimbardo, Loftus, and Villarreal
by: Ray PorMansor

Inside the Mind is a KUCI public affairs program that focuses on psychological, psychiatric, sociological, technological, and other factors of the mind and mental health — bringing you interviews with the top minds of psychology, sociology, and healthcare. Here are some teasers to entice you to listen in.

Dr. Philip Zimbardo

I got an interesting email from a friend who suggested that I seek out the new book by renowned psychologist Dr. Philip Zimbardo called The Lucifer Effect. I was surprised because I thought he had retired. Well, it turns out that Dr. Zimbardo has retired from teaching at Stanford University, but is far from finished contributing to the academic world. In our interview he discloses that he “still has quite a lot of energy” – that at the ripe age of 70, he can still teach us something about human nature. His name may ring a bell with some people out there, especially if you’ve taken any intro to psychology or sociology classes. You may remember the famous Stanford Prison Experiment; yup, you guessed it, Dr. Zimbardo was the one who conducted the immortal investigation.

Since that time, Dr. Zimbardo has conducted a vast amount of research on prison environments as well as authority. Such experiments are much more difficult, if not impossible, to conduct in modern times due to the new emergence of ethical and legal guidelines, how research is conducted and how test subjects are treated. He would be the perfect specialist to deal with the situation of what occurred in the Abu Garib Prison Systems. Currently, Dr. Zimbardo is still on the panel of homeland security and serves as an expert witness for various trials that involve authority and even heroism. He plans to publish more material throughout his retirement.

*****

Dr. Elizabeth F. Loftus

In the last few weeks I had the honor of interviewing distinguished UCI professor Dr. Elizabeth F. Loftus. I had learned about her research a few years ago in one of my undergraduate upper-division psychology classes regarding cognition. We were studying the subject of memory and her name came up as a specialist a number of times. What was most fascinating about her work was that she seemed to be a maverick of the psychology field. Her research not only made her the most recognized female psychologist ever, but it also opened up heated debate with regards to the legality of memory recall during court trials. Despite being one of the most sought after professors at UCI, Dr. Loftus was kind enough to answer my questions regarding memory.

Dr. Loftus is a leading figure in the understanding of false memories as well as memory recall. She mentions some of her current experiments, including how to implant totally false memories in healthy subjects. If her studies yield the data to validate her hypothesis, it could have astounding ramifications to how legal hearings are carried out in the future. Dr. Loftus continues to teach and conduct research at UCI, but she also discloses her passion about getting more involved in law. We await her further studies to see how cognition, psychology and law intertwine.

*****

Dr. Luis P. Villarreal

With regards to human evolution, Dr. Luis P. Villarreal is perhaps one of the most informed and creative scientists on the forefront of evolutionary psychology. However, he is not a psychologist or animal behaviorist: he is actually a virologist and the head of the Department of Biochemistry at UCI. I came across Dr. Villarreal’s name a few times, sometimes under the origins of group identity and other times under virology. This caught my attention because these are two vastly differing fields. Then one night to my surprise, as I flipped my television on (which I rarely do), he was being interviewed on the Discovery Channel. I immediately picked up the phone and contacted him. He agreed to conduct a one hour interview with KUCI to address the fascinating topic of what roles virus may have played in the course of human evolution and the evolution of the mind.

The topic of the interview was inspired by Dr. Villarreal ‘s recent book “Virus and Origins of Human Identity”. During the interview, Dr. Villarreal mentions how there is an overwhelming amount of genetic evidence that points to virus in shaping our brains through the process of evolution. He addresses how virus can actually serve as an advantage, functioning not only as an evolutionary catalyst, but also as a benefit to those who are immune, for they are more likely to be naturally selected. We also talk about how previous viral infections may be the reason why some primates (human ancestors) lost their sense of smell and thereby became dependent on vision and language as modes of communication and group identification.

The opinions expressed above are not those of KUCI management, UCI, or the UC Board of Regents. Ray PorMansor hosts Inside the Mind, airing on KUCI 88.9FM Mondays from 8am-9am.

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