Eleanor A. Bliss Professor of Biology, Bryn Mawr College
Past Director, Bryn Mawr College Center for Science in Society
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(in blog format)
I'm a neurobiologist, educator, and parent with a life-long interest in understanding why people behave the way they do, and how they can continually expand their capabilities.
I've done laboratory research on the organization and development of the nervous systems of crayfish, rabbits, leeches, and, most extensively, frogs, where the work focused on the nature of spatial representations. and the origins, organization, regulation, and significance of unpredictability in neuronal function and behavior. This research related as well to several broader questions, including the distinction between conscious and unconscious processing, and the nature of individual choice and free will.
I'm also a biologist and philosopher, with an array of more general interests in the underpinnings of human behavior, the nature of biological, cultural, and intellectual change, complex systems and general information processing principles, and the character of human understanding and the relationships among its different forms. In recent years, I've come to think of myself as an "applied neurobiologist", and devoted much of my time to thinking about the implications of current and anticipated understandings of the brain for a variety of practical and philosophical issues, including mental health, child-rearing, political decision-making, and education. Associated with this is a strong commitment to improving the educational environment at all levels and for all people.
I am, in addition, an active explorer of the opportunities being made available by the development of computing technology, and of the internet and the web. With a number of colleagues, I co-founded and continue to develop the Serendip website as a venue for explorations of new directions for the development of human culture that are being opened up by the world wide web.
Common to all these activities is a strong belief in the capabilities of the human brain to explore and create, both individually and collectively, in ways that achieve improved understandings of the human condition and open new avenues for its further development. And a belief that modern information technology, including the web, is a distinctive and valuable tool for the extension of human understanding.
B.A, Harvard University, 1969
Selected Print Publications
Grobstein, P. (2007) From Complexity to Emergence and Beyond: Towards Empirical Non-Foundationalism as a Guide to Inquiry, Soundings 90(1/2): 301-323 (manuscript as Word file)
Grobstein, P. (2007) Interdisciplinarity, Transdisciplinarity, and Beyond: The Brain, Story Sharing, and Social Organization, Journal of Research Practice 3(2): M21. (earlier manuscript, Social Organization as Applied Neurobiology: The Value of Stories and Story Creation, as a .pdf file)
Dalke A. and Grobstein, P. (2007) Story-Telling in (At Least) Three Dimensional Story Telling: An Exploration of Teaching Reading, Writing, and Beyond, Journal of Teaching Writing 23(1): 91-114, PDF available (earlier draft).
Dalke, A., Cassidy, K., Dalke, A., Grobstein, P., and Blank, D. (2007) Emergent Pedagogy: Learning to Enjoy the Uncontrollable and Make it Productive, Journal of Educational Change 8(2): 111-130, PDF available (draft, 2004)
Dalke, A., Grobstein, P. and McCormack, E. (2006) Exploring Interdisciplinarity: The Significance of Metaphoric and Metonymic Exchange Journal of Research Practice, Volume 2.2, Article M3
Dalke, A., Grobstein, P. and McCormack, E. (2006) Why and How to be Interdisciplinary, Academe, May/June 2006
Grobstein, Paul (2005) Revisiting Science in Culture: Science as Story Telling and Story Revising, Journal of Research Practice, Volume 1.1, Article M1.
Grobstein, P. (2005) Making the Unconscious Conscious, and Vice Versa: A Bi-directional Bridge Between Neuroscience/Cognitive Science and Psychotherapy?, Cortex 41: 663-668.
Grobstein, P. (2003) Getting it less wrong, the brain's way: science, pragmatism, and multiplism, IN Interpretation and Its Objects: Studies in the Philosophy of Michael Krausz (A. Ritivoi, ed.), Rodopi, pp 153-166
Dalke A., McCormack, E, and Grobstein, P. (2003) Theorizing Interdisciplinarity: The Evolution of New Academic and Intellectual Communities, submitted
Grobstein, P. (2002) Who's afraid of Emily Dickinson, or how I learned to stop worrying and love the brain, Newsletter of the Psychoanalytic Center of Philadelphia
Patton, P. and Grobstein, P (1998) The effects of telencephalic lesions on visually mediated prey orienting behavior in the frog (Rana pipiens). I. The effects of complete removal of one telencephalic lobe, with a comparison to the effects of unilateral tectal lobe lesions. Brain, Behavior, and Evolution 51: 123-143.
Patton, P. and Grobstein, P (1998) The effects of telencephalic lesions on visually mediated prey orienting behavior in the frog (Rana pipiens). II. The effect of limited lesions to the telencephalon. Brain, Behavior, and Evolution 51: 144-161.
Grobstein, P. et al. (1994-present) Serendip, a WWW resource - http://serendip.brynmawr.edu
Grobstein, P. (1994) Variability in behavior and the nervous system. In: Encyclopedia of Human Behavior, Volume 4 (V.S. Ramachandran, ed.), Academic Press, 447-458.
Grobstein, P. (1992) Directed movement in the frog: motor choice, spatial representation, free will? In: Neurobiology of Motor Programme Selection: New Approaches to Mechanisms of Behavioral Choice. (Kien, J., McCrohan, C., Winlow, B., eds.), Pergamon Press, pp 251-279, , PDF available
Grobstein, P. (1990) Strategies for analyzing complex organization in the nervous system. I. Lesion experiments, the old rediscovered. In: Computational Neuroscience. (Schwartz, E., ed.), MIT Press, pp 19-37, PDF available
Grobstein, P. (1990) Strategies for analyzing complex organization in the nervous system. II. A Case Study: Directed Movement and Spatial Representation in the Frog. In: Computational Neuroscience. (Schwartz, E., ed.), MIT Press, pp 19-37, PDF available
Grobstein, P. (1988) From the head to the heart: some thoughts on similarities between brain function and morphogenesis, and on their significance for research methodology and biological theory. Experientia 44: 961-971.
Additional teaching activities
New Serendip exhibits
Thinking broadly: notes of a public intellectual