Speaker and Sessions


After more than two years of social disruptions, school closures, isolation, loneliness, and online learning, parents and educators have noticed a drop in social skills and prosocial behavior in children. A 2021 OnePoll survey of parents of school-aged children (ages 5-14) found that 7 out of 10 parents expressed concern that their child’s social skills are at risk and two-thirds are concerned that their children have become more socially awkward around others since the pandemic. 81% of the parents polled wanted schools to implement activities to teach social skills. Research has found that social deprivation and lack of peer interaction in adolescence will have lasting negative consequences on their brains and physical and mental health while other research shows that social skills and prosocial behaviors (caring, cooperating, altruism, etc.) have significant benefits, including mitigating the negative effects of stress, increasing positive moods and health, and improving interest in learning.

This conference will explore the “Science of the Social Brain”, the impacts of isolation and social anxiety, and the importance of peers, social identity, connections, cognition, caring, cooperating, collaborating, and belonging for wellbeing, learning, and a good society. Discover ways to teach students the social skills and prosocial behaviors they need for learning, friendships, and life success.

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This conference will be presented as a hybrid conference. You can either attend in person in New York City or participate virtually. Click here for more details.

Featured Speakers

The Power of Us: Harnessing Our Shared Identities to Promote Performance, Cooperation, and Social Harmony

Jay J. Van Bavel, PhD

Director, Social Identity and Morality Lab; Associate Professor of Psychology and Neural Science, Department of Psychology, New York University; Co-Author, “Out-Group Animosity Drives Engagement on Social Media” (2022, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences), The Power of Us: Harnessing Our Shared Identities to Improve Performance, Increase Cooperation, and Promote Social Harmony (2021), and “The Social Neuroscience of Cooperation” (2020, The Cognitive Neurosciences)

Blueprint: The Evolutionary Origins of a Good Society

Nicholas A. Christakis, MD, PhD, MPH

Social Scientist; Physician; Director, Human Nature Lab; Co-Director, Yale Institute for Network Science; Sterling Professor of Social and Neural Science, Yale University; Named by Time Magazine in the list of “100 most influential people in the world”; Author, Apollo’s Arrow: The Profound and Enduring Impact of Coronavirus on the Way We Live (2020) and Blueprint: The Evolutionary Origins of a Good Society (2019); Co-Author, Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives (2009)

Social Brains in Adolescence: Peers, Pressures, and a Pandemic

Sarah-Jayne Blakemore, PhD, FMedSci, FBA

Neuroscientist; Professor of Psychology and Cognitive Neuroscience, University of Cambridge; Leader of the Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience Group; Honorary Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience, University College London; Author, Inventing Ourselves: The Secret Life of the Teenage Brain (2018); Co-Author, “Development of a Gamified Cognitive Training App “Social Brain Train” to Enhance Adolescent Mental Health” (2022, Wellcome Open Research), “Navigating the Social Environment in Adolescence: The Role of Social Brain Development” (2021, Biological Psychiatry), “The Effects of Social Deprivation on Adolescent Development and Mental Health” (2020, Lancet Child and Adolescent Health), and The Learning Brain: Lessons for Education (2005)

Belonging: The Science of Creating Connections and Bridging Divides

Geoffrey L. Cohen, PhD

Professor of Psychology, Stanford University; Professor of Education, Stanford Graduate School of Education; Author, Belonging: The Science of Creating Connection and Bridging Divides (2022); Co-Author, "A Meta‐Analysis of the Effect of Values Affirmation on Academic Achievement" (2021, Social Issues), "A Brief Social-Belonging Intervention in College Improves Adult Outcomes for Black Americans" (2020, Science Advances), and "Bolstering Trust and Reducing Discipline Incidents at a Diverse Middle School: How Self-Affirmation Affects Behavioral Conduct During the Transition to Adolescence" (2019, School Psychology)

Learning, Languages, and the Social Brain

Patricia K. Kuhl, PhD

Professor, Speech and Hearing Sciences, University of Washington; Co-Director, UW Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences; Director, NSF Science of Learning Center (LIFE); Endowed Chair, Bezos Family Foundation Endowed Chair for Early Childhood Learning; Member, National Academy of Sciences, the Rodin Academy, and the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters; Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Cognitive Science Society and the American Psychological Society; Co-Author, "Brain Myelination at 7 Months of Age Predicts Later Language Development" (2022, Neuroimage), "Early Language Learning and the Social Brain" (2015, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press), "Is Speech Learning 'Gated' by the Social Brain?" (2007, Developmental Science), and The Scientist in the Crib: Minds, Brains, and How Children Learn (2000)

The Power of Social Disobedience: Overcoming Social Pressures by Building Mental Fortitude, Empathy, and Friendships

Todd B. Kashdan, PhD

Professor, Department of Psychology, George Mason University; Director, Well-Being Laboratory; Awarded 2013 Distinguished Early Career Researcher Award by the American Psychological Association; Author, The Art of Insubordination (2022), The Upside of Your Darkside (2017), Mindfulness, Acceptance, and Positive Psychology (2013), Designing Positive Psychology (2010), Curious? (2009); Co-Author, "Social Anxiety is Associated with Similar Emotional Impairments During Digital and Face-to-Face Communication in Daily Life" (2020, PsyArXiv), "Gratitude Across the Life-Span: Age Differences and Links to Subjective Well-being" (2019, Positive Psychology), "When Empathy Matters: The Role of Sex and Empathy in Close Friendships" (2017, Personality)

The Power of Positive Relationships for Learning and Development

Pamela Cantor, MD

Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist; Founder and Senior Science Advisor, Turnaround for Children; Governing Partner, Science of Learning and Development Alliance; Member, Brookings Institution's Task Force on "Next Generation Community Schools"; Commissioner, "Learning 2025 Commission" of the American Association of School Superintendents; Author, Whole-Child Development, Learning, and Thriving: A Dynamic Systems Approach (2021); Co-Author, "Drivers of Human Development: How Relationships and Context Shape Learning and Development" (2018, Applied Developmental Science); Co-Editor, The Science of Learning and Development (2021)

A Sense of Belonging Matters: Building Connections and Community

Terrell L. Strayhorn, PhD

Professor, Higher Education and Women’s, Gender & Sexuality Studies, Director, PhD Program in the Department of Educational Administration & Foundations (EAF), Illinois State University; Founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Senior Research Scientist, Do Good Work Educational Consulting, LLC; Provost and Senior Vice President, Academic Affairs, Virginia Union University; Author, College Students' Sense of Belonging: A Key to Educational Success for All Students (2018), Student Development Theory in Higher Education: A Social Psychological Approach (2015), Theoretical Frameworks in College Student Research (2013); Co-Author, “I Just Want to Be a Regular Kid:” A Qualitative Study of Sense of Belonging Among High School Youth in Foster Care" (2020, Children and Youth Services Review) and The Evolving Challenges of Black College Students: New Insights for Policy, Practice, and Research (2012)