Five minutes with Sherry Turkle

sherry_turkle.jpgProfessor Sherry Turkle is a psychologist best known for her pioneering research into the psychology of computers and the internet, and particularly on how we interpret concepts such as the self and identity through the veil of technology.

Her book Life on the Screen was hugely influential as one of the first books on ‘internet psychology’ in the days when the internet had barely reached the mainstream.

She remains intensely interested in how technology affects the mind, behaviour and social world, and has kindly agreed to talk to Mind Hacks.

What are your main professional interests?

The relationship between people and technology; how we are going to get along (cognitively, emotionally, spiritually) with robots and artificial intelligences designed as human companions; how models of mind are “appropriated” into everyday thinking about mind; the role of objects, particularly technological objects in people’s lives; the effects of “always-on/always on you” technology on development, personality, human relations.

What first got you interested in the mind and brain?

Trying to understand why certain ideas about the mind were taken up during particular social and historical circumstances, and how ideas about the mind affected how people thought about their past, present, and possibilities for change, whether or not they had a formal understanding of these ideas on a “high” theoretical level. That is, I became interested in the sociology of the sciences of mind.

What are you excited about at the moment?

When psychoanalysts write about objects they are usually referring to people. I am excited about a new object relations psychology that is really about the object world. I am interested in the integration of cognition and affect (emotion) in thinking about such matters.

If you were going to be stuck in a lift with someone of your choice, who would it be?

Since the question leaves open the possibility of people alive or dead, I would have to go for William Shakespeare (no contest). He is the greatest psychologist of all time; I have no real understanding of how this came to be.

What makes you happy?

I give a circular answer: That I feel content with my life, my child, my friendships.

What book you would recommend to make someone enthusiastic about the mind and brain?

Sigmund Freud, The Interpretation of Dreams.

What do you like most about people?

Their diversity and mystery.

Name three under-rated things

Psychodynamic psychology
Writing letters
A day without email

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