This fall, Jorge Morales, PhD, joins the psychology department at the College of Science as an assistant professor. He will also hold a secondary appointment in the Department of Philosophy at the College of Social Sciences and Humanities. Morales is currently completing post-doc work at Johns Hopkins University and starting his interdisciplinary lab at Northeastern.
Why did you choose to apply to work at Northeastern?
Northeastern’s vision of what research and higher education should look like is very forward-looking. It’s exciting to be at a university that invests in both basic types of research of sciences and of the humanities and, with the co-op program, on a practical approach. I will have a joint appointment in psychology and philosophy. People from both departments were incredibly supportive and enthusiastic about my work—which makes me excited about learning more about theirs too! I also really appreciated their commitment to supporting interdisciplinary research and diversity.
What areas of research are you focused on or have focused on in the past?
I work at the intersection of philosophy, neuroscience, and philosophy, focusing on understanding the mind’s subjective point of view: how we perceive the world around us, how the brain creates conscious experiences, and how introspection opens a window into our own minds. My interdisciplinary work aims to provide an “objective” understanding of intrinsically “subjective” phenomena involved in visual processing, attention, awareness, and metacognition.
What are you currently working on?
My work involves understanding subjective mental phenomena. I am currently working on “seeing what’s not there” or the perception of absences in vision science. In a way, an absence is not different from mere empty space, but absences can be special! If you notice your laptop is missing, can you “see” its absence? We are using psychophysics and online testing to assess whether absences attract subjects’ attention in a similar way as objects do. I am also working on understanding better the intensity of conscious experiences. When you experience an intense pain and when you vividly imagine a red apple, do the intensities of those two otherwise different experiences have anything in common? Can conscious awareness come in degrees? And if these degrees exist, can subjects offer reliable introspective judgments of them? We are planning to use fMRI and advanced machine learning techniques to find these pure conscious intensity signals in both behavior and the brain, which will help us advance our understanding of consciousness in general.
Are you actively part of any labs or have plans to join/start a lab at Northeastern?
I am starting The Subjectivity Lab! And we’re recruiting graduate students, postdocs, and undergraduate research assistants!
What excites you the most about continuing your career at Northeastern?
The opportunity to run my lab in the heart of Boston, alongside fabulous researchers both from Northeastern and other great universities in the area, is just wonderful. I’m also very excited to teach Northeastern students!
What do you hope to get out of your time as a Northeastern College of Science faculty member?
I’m looking forward to learning a lot from my colleagues and students!
What courses are you offering this semester, and which are you most excited to teach?
I start teaching in the spring—but I haven’t decided what I’ll teach yet. However, in the following years, students can expect courses on Human Perception, The Neuroscience of Consciousness, Philosophy of Psychology and Neuroscience, and more!
What is a fun fact our community should know about you?
All my degrees are in Philosophy.