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can
historians periodize
human emotion?

While the history of emotions has been called "history from the inside-out," advances in behavioral science demonstrate that it is also important to consider "history from the outside-in": how humans use gestures, displays, repetitive actions, objects, and spatial arrangements to produce cognitions and emotions.

How do humans interact with their social environment? What are "costly signals," and why do people send them?  How do individuals learn and form attachments? And how do societies work to inhibit (or produce) aggression?

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The brain is amazingly versatile: humans can dynamically rewrite neural pathways, and inhibit or alter emotional responses. Humans also learn cognitive shortcuts to aid in information processing and decision-making.

What can historians contribute to the study of human cognition? History offers insight into multivariate  decision-making in action: how individuals negotiate emotional cues, leverage cognitive biases and heuristics, engage in satisficing behaviors, and attempt to turn bounded rationality  (limits in time, energy, information, and other resources) to their advantage.  

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What are emotions? Do emotions have a history? Are they universal, or are they specific to certain societies and epochs? How do humans use emotional cues in communication, learning, attachment, aggression, and decision-making?

In the last decade, advances in psychology and cognitive neuroscience have prompted a renewed interest in the study of human emotions. How are historians approaching this historiographical turn, dubbed "history from the inside-out"? 

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In human societies, ideas about right and wrong behavior are produced and negotiated across many different spaces: the home, schools and educational institutes, religious spaces, media, the workplace, marketplaces, and government spaces (e.g. law enforcement, judicial, and legislative spaces). Humans also negotiate ideas about morality using different vocabularies, symbols, stories, and emotions.

How can historians begin to think about histories of moral production and exchange?

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BEHAVIOR

COGNITION

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EMOTIONS

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MORALITY

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An academic center and digital history lab space, The Center for Behavioral and Cognitive History (BACH) strives to further the study of human cognition, emotions, and behavior in history. The Center offers resources for students and scholars studying how information-processing strategies, affective cultures, and behavioral patterns change through time. Click to Learn More...