April 30, 2009
Vol. 28 No. 15

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    Cacioppo to deliver Ryerson

    By William Harms
    News Office

    John Cacioppo

    One of the University’s most anticipated annual lectures, the 2009 Nora and Edward Ryerson Lecture will feature John Cacioppo as its speaker.

    A distinguished neuroscientist and the Tiffany & Margaret Blake Distinguished Service Professor in Psychology and the College, Cacioppo will present “Connected Minds,” a lecture about his groundbreaking work on loneliness.

    The lecture, which is free and open to the campus community, will be at 5 p.m. Wednesday, May 13 in Max Palevsky Cinema in Ida Noyes Hall. A reception in the Ida Noyes library and adjacent lounge will follow.

    Cacioppo will discuss the evolutionary origins of the need to be social and also examine some of the consequences of social isolation. His work has shown that a lack of social connections undermines people’s health.

    People are programmed by their genetic makeup to avoid loneliness because in early evolutionary times, hunting and gathering required joint activity, he said.

    “People’s aversion to isolation is the social equivalent of physical pain,” he said. Loneliness is a cue that people should seek the company of others.

    Cacioppo is Director of the Center for Cognitive and Social Neuroscience, and Director of the Arete Initiative of the Office of the Vice President for Research and National Laboratories.

    He also is the past president of the Association for Psychological Science, and he is a recipient of numerous awards. He also has served on various boards, including the Department of Health and Human Services National Advisory Council on Aging.

    The Ryerson Lectures grew out of a 1972 bequest to the University from Nora and Edward L. Ryerson Jr., a former Chairman of the Board of Trustees.

    It has become a “hallmark of the University,” said Hugo Sonnenschein, President Emeritus and the Adam Smith Distinguished Service Professor in Economics and the College, because of its “rich tradition in celebrating the work of our faculty.” It honors excellence in academic pursuits and the “high aspirations we hold for ourselves as a community of scholars,” he added.

    Members of the faculty select each Ryerson speaker based on a consensus that a particular scholar has made research contributions of lasting significance. In return, the selected speaker is asked to reflect on his or her intellectual life and work.