BSN faculty in the Divisions of the Humanities and Social Sciences and Biology and Biological Engineering, among other Caltech divisions, conduct research in the following areas:
The Neural Basis of Learning Behavior
How do past learning and experience guide our future behavior? What are the fundamental mechanisms the brain uses to learn, and what associations are formed in the brain? Are there different systems for mediating learning of different types of information, and if so, how do these systems interact with each other to produce complex behavior? How do learning mechanisms work in social contexts as well as in non-social ones?
The Neural Basis of Valuation
What brain processes mediate how we establish the value or utility of objects in the environment? How are behavioral preferences established over items in both non-social and social domains?
The Neural Basis of Decision Making
How do we take into account information about subjective value, risk and uncertainty, and timing, among other variables, when making a decision between multiple options? What kinds of algorithms and computations underpin the decision process itself? What brain areas are involved, and how are these processes implemented at the neural level? How are decisions made in more complex social environments, such as in a financial market or in politics?
How does the brain encode and represent information about other individuals? What factors govern the ways in which we interact socially with others? What role do facial expressions, eye gaze, and gestures play in how we interact with others? Why is it that we feel empathetic and altruistic toward others on some occasions, while on other occasions we don't feel that way? How can we make inferences about the intentions and attitudes of other people?