On Giving More Light Than Heat: The Life And Contributions Of John T. Cacioppo (1951 – 2018)

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On the passing of John T. Cacioppo, his former students and collaborators have gathered to honor his legacy to the field of psychophysiology and to the Society for Psychophysiological Research. John served SPR in multiple roles, including as President (1992-1993) and editor of Psychophysiology (1995-1998), and was honored by SPR with both the Distinguished Scientific Award for Early Career Contributions to Psychophysiology (1981) and the Award for Distinguished Scientific Contributions to Psychophysiology (2000). In addition, John (with his long-term collaborators Lou Tassinary and Gary Berntson), edited the Handbook of Psychophysiology, referred to as “the Bible” by many in the field, which is now in its fourth edition. Along with Gary Berntson, John co-founded the field of social neuroscience, and his research contributions were expansive, impacting the fields of social psychology, psychophysiology, consumer psychology, psycho-neuroimmunology, affective neuroscience, and many more. Furthermore, John’s interests were broad, as he began his career studying attitudes and persuasion, branched into work on affect and emotion, and dedicated much of the last decades of his career to investigating the causes and consequences of loneliness, including potential interventions to diminish its deleterious effects. Throughout, John was known for his innovative theoretical approaches, and his careful implementa-tion and thoughtful use of psychophysiological methods, including EMG, EDA, ERPs, and fMRI. Although John was not one to shy from disagreements arising from competing models or perspectives, one principle that guided his work was that such conflicts should give more light than heat – that the ultimate goal was to produce knowledge that would benefit the field as a whole. In this symposium, John’s former students and collaborators will honor his memory by sharing their personal experiences and discussing how his contributions in both research and mentoring have influenced their own scientific paths. Lou Tassinary will talk about the influences of John Platt’s concept of “strong inference” and S.S. Steven’s discussion of “invariance” on their psychophysiological work during the late 80’s and his work since then. Eric Vanman will focus on his EMG work with John in the 1980s, as well as on the NSF summer schools for psychophysiology. Karen Quigley will discuss how her work, which takes a psychological constructionist approach, has strong similarity with components of the Somatovisceral Afference Model of Emotion (SAME) that John first published with Gary Berntson and David Klein. Tiffany Ito will highlight the benefits of ERPs for understanding the underlying elements of social cognition, and how John’s work foreshadowed the field’s current emphasis on implicit processes. Cat Norris and Jeff Larsen will briefly describe the Model of Evaluative Space, as well as the development and refinement of behavioral and psycho-physiological measures used to test hypotheses regarding the negativity bias and ambivalence. Mary Burleson will talk about her work on the relations between social con-nection and interpersonal touch, particularly as a means of emotion regulation and stress reduction. Louise Hawkley’s reminiscences will review the trajectory and transitions in John’s study of loneliness during the almost 20 years she worked with him. Jos Bosch will present experimental and epidemiological work, partly done in collaboration with John, showing how inflammatory responses affect social cognitions and, vice versa, how loneliness regulates inflammatory responses, as an illustration of John’s multilevel approach to understanding human behavior. Greg Norman and Gary Berntson will discuss the integration of work on so-cial stress in humans and non-human animal models, with an emphasison social isolation and loneliness. Our discussant, Bruce Bartholow will talk about how John’s work broke down barriers (e.g., between social and biological approaches; between sub-areas within Psychological Science) and led the way for all of us who have followed in his path.

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