Talk | David Huron

"On the Evolution of Sadness and Grief"

David Huron

School of Music & Center for Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Ohio State University, USA

On the Evolution of Sadness and Grief

About the talk

How and why do people feel sad and sometimes cry? In this presentation, an evolutionary account is offered regarding sadness and grief. The theory addresses biochemical, physiological, cognitive, behavioral, ethological, and social aspects, and offers answers to Tinbergen's classic four questions pertaining to function, phylogeny, mechanism, and ontology. Recent discoveries linking sad affect with the release of pro-inflammatory cytokines plays a central role in the story. The theory accounts for many disparate observations, including sex- and age- related differences in crying behaviors, anatomical changes related to tear ducts, effects of sadness on decision-making, and why weeping resembles an allergic response. The theory can account for why laughter and crying resemble each other -- with both sharing vocalized punctuated exhaling. Finally, the theory suggests why major depressive disorders are so closely linked with immune function.

About the speaker

David Huron is Arts and Humanities Distinguished Professor at The Ohio State University, where he holds joint appointments in the School of Music and in the Center for Cognitive and Brain Sciences. Trained as a performer, Huron worked for several years as a composer before turning to research.

Among other interests, Prof. Huron is especially interested in how music evokes emotion in listeners. In addressing such questions, Huron's research employs a range of methods, including perceptual and cognitive experiments, computer-based corpus studies, simulation and modeling, interviews and surveys, and physiological and endocrine studies. In addition, his research has drawn on traditional historical and analytic methods. Dr. Huron's research has been communicated in some 150 publications, including three books. Huron has delivered over 400 lectures in 25 countries, including 28 keynote conference addresses.

This CogSci Talk is part of a two event series organised in cooperation with Doctoral Program Cognition and Communication.

For more details on the other talk of Prof. Huron on November 6, 2017 – "What Signaliging Theory Contributes To Our Understanding Musical Affect" – please see the webpage of the lecture series of the doctoral program.


Lecture Hall G (Psychologicum)

Faculty of Psychology
University of Vienna
Liebiggasse 5, left wing, 2rd floor
A-1010 Wien