BJ Casey — Her Motivation

BJC: I’m going to have to go to another meeting soon.

LC: How much time?

Like three more minutes.

Okay, I’ll ask a hopefully quick question. I like to ask scientists how science affects their daily life, or where it pops up for them… like geologists look at East Rock differently and biologists look at the plants around them differently. When if ever do you think “Oh this is explained by my research” or you see something in your daily life where you think “Oh this makes complete sense when you know some psychology”?

So what drives me in science are the questions. And every time I do an experiment, it raises another exciting question. People constantly ask the question of why an individual engaged in a specific behavior when they know I am psychologist. Sometimes it helps me process when someone is really angry and does something mean or callous. I think “I should feel lucky right now, because there must be things going on in that person’s life that are resulting in this behavior.” But it’s more I just like the questions that human behavior raises. Like what we do as groups or individuals and how we change over time–it’s all about the questions.

As scientists, we aren’t trying to prove anything. We are testing hypotheses. Once you’ve been bitten by the bug of scientific discovery there is no going back. It is what keeps us persevering throughout our long academic training. You find yourself saying “Oh my goodness that was an interesting question but look what these data are saying. This is a whole new question.” When it comes to human behavior, those questions and experiments will never run out. Aren’t you always shocked by what people do?  Trying to understand that and the human brain, it’s the final frontier: outer space for some people, but the brain for me.

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