Fear of the dark (nyctophobia), spiders (arachnophobia), and snakes (herpetophobia) are universal terrors among human beings, whereas zombies, vampires, and psychopaths are more culturally specific. But do the cultures of horror (from folktales to Hollywood monsters) have roots in the evolution of our cognitive operating-system? Is our brain hard-wired with instinctual fears of certain morphologies, or does culture alone write our biases on the blank slate of developing consciousness?
In this talk Professor Stephen Asma–author of On Monsters–will use horror as an interdisciplinary bridge between humanities and scientific methodologies —a kind of case study for triangulating philosophy, psychology and biology. Recent research into the neuroscience of fear and cognition will be applied to some of the perennial monsters of our imagination. Copies of his books will also be available for sale and signing at the event.
Stephen T. Asma is the author of Stuffed Animals and Pickled Heads: the Culture and History of Natural History Museums (Oxford) and more recently On Monsters: an Unnatural History of Our Worst Fears(Oxford). He is Professor of Philosophy at Columbia College Chicago and Fellow of the LAS Research Group in Mind, Science and Culture at Columbia. You can find out more about him at his website, www.stephenasma.com.
Image from Jacques Louis Moreau (1771-1826). Description des principales monstruosités dans l’homme et dans les animaux précédée d’un discours sur la physiologie et la classification des monstres, 1808. The New York Academy of Medicine
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