Department of Psychology pres.
Clinical Brown Bag: The Neuropsychology of Stuff
Stephanie Preston, Professor of Psychology
In our current, Western context of abundance, we are surrounded by stuff. We are fortunate to have access to so many affordable items. Far from being simple utilitarian tools, we have deeply personal, emotional, and sometimes even contentious relationships with our stuff, as we do with other people. Most research on this topic resides either in the context of shopping and the way people overvalue their own stuff or clinical hoarding disorder, in which people accumulate and failure to discard goods to the point of distress and impairment. Our interdisciplinary research instead assumes that all of these phenomena reflect a common, neural and affective system that evolved to guide us toward rewarding items that we care for and protect. This system is largely adaptive, but it can lead to bad consequences in a modern context of superabundance, stress, and chronic psychopathology. This talk summarizes our work in the ecological neuroscience laboratory, which demonstrates a role for both positive and negative affect in our drive to acquire and keep goods, which is subserved by ancient neural systems for allocating resources and produces individual differences across typical and disordered populations alike.
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