Aggression, Testosterone and the Biological Basis of Behavior

Dr. Gregory F. Ball, Dean, College of Behavioural and Social Sciences, University of Maryland

Abstract: Many people assume that biological variables determine behavior in an immutable manner. Such inflexibility is thought to be a constraint on behavioral change thus discouraging societies in attaining certain goals.  These ideas are related to the notion that there is a Human Nature that limits us.  While there is no question that all behavior ultimately has a biological basis of some sort there is a causal web involving biological variables such as genes, hormones and nervous system activity that is profoundly modified by experience and culture.  Studies of testosterone and aggression in human and non-human animals illustrate how there is not simple link between a hormone and a behavioral outcome but that it rather occurs in a social and behavioral context that affects whether testosterone is secreted and whether is regulates aggressive behavior.  The effects of social context and experience also have profound effects on gene expression and neural function both during development and in adulthood.  Understanding the role played by biological variables can help think about behavioral change but should not be viewed as impediments to facilitating behavioral plasticity especially as it relates to issues such as aggression and competition.

About the speaker: Dr. Gregory F. Ball became Dean of the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences at the University of Maryland, College Park (UMCP) in fall 2014.  Prior to joining UMCP, Ball was Vice Dean for Science and Research infrastructure in the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences at Johns Hopkins University (JHU) and a Professor in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences.  As Dean of the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences, he oversees one of the largest colleges at the University of Maryland. The college has more than 5,000 undergraduate majors and more than 900 masters and doctoral students. It is also home to four of the university’s most popular majors: criminology and criminal justice, psychology, government and politics, and economics.
In addition to his duties as Dean, Ball maintains a research lab in the Department of Psychology.  A highly accomplished scientist, Ball has amassed more than 235 research publications. Dr. Ball's lab is interested in the interrelation of hormones, brain, and behavior. He studies a variety of avian species that exhibit high degrees of neuroplasticity in response to hormone treatment. His works concerns hormones effects on both affective and cognitive aspects of vocal communication.  His research continues to be supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health.
Ball earned a BA in psychology from Columbia University and a PhD in psychobiology from the Institute of Animal Behavior at Rutgers University. He did his postdoctoral work at Rockefeller University and held faculty appointments there, at Boston College and then Johns Hopkins University (as noted previously).
This event will be held in McKeldin Library, Special Events Room, 6th FLoor, University of Maryland.

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Tuesday, February 20, 2018 - 4:00pm

The Bahá'í Chair for World Peace
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