Psych prof. recognized

A Bradley psychology professor made big news this month with a shocking study.  

The work of Lane Beckes, psychology professor, was recognized at number two on Forbes list “Top 10 Brain Science and Psychology Studies of 2013.”

Beckes’ study was published in Oxford Journal, under the title “Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience,” and was intended to study the area of the brain that expresses empathy and how we relate to others. It included three sets of people – the participants, friends of the participants, and strangers to the participants.

Beckes and the others associated with this research project showed the participant group cues that they would be shocked, their friends would be shocked or the strangers would be shocked.

Their results found that the signals in the brain that were sent when the friends of the participant was threatened to be shocked were remarkably similar to those signals that were sent when the participant him or herself was threatened to be shocked.

In response to threats to strangers, participants were empathizing, but not treating them as an extension of themselves, Beckes said.

“The signal [for strangers] was just different,” Beckes said. “This shows that the participants have an automatic, uncontrolled motivation to help their friends.”

Beckes reported that his research does not explain everything, but it provides evidence for the brain’s extension of self.

He said this shows one of the benefits of familiarity, because the brain responds to threats to friends similarly to how it responds to threats to itself. This is what earned the study the title “To Your Brain, Me is We” in the Forbes article.

Dr. Beckes recently joined the Bradley psychology department as an assistant professor last fall, coming from the University of Virginia, where he did his post doctoral work. He received his Ph.D. in psychology from the University of Minnesota.

He primarily studied social psychology, interpersonal relationships and cognitive neuroscience.

On the subject of Bradley, Beckes said the school offered a good balance of teaching and research and that the other faculty members were very inviting.

“The people in this department seemed welcoming, friendly, and down to Earth,” Beckes said.