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The word “psychology” literally means the study of the soul (psukhē, in Greek). As such, it is an academic discipline that is unique in the way it straddles the sciences (natural and social) and the humanities.

[P]sychology as an academic discipline is exceptionally diverse. The field comprises a spectrum which merges at one end with “soft” disciplines like ethnology, sociology, and the helping professions, and at the other end with “hard” disciplines like genetics, endocrinology, and neuroscience. Moreover, at every point along the spectrum, many of the most famous psychologists have often taken a step back to reflect upon the nature of the field as a whole—examining the tacit presuppositions that guide psychologists’ thought and practice, and thereby assuming the role of philosopher.

Certainly, we hope and believe that the work of the individuals listed here will be widely appealing just for its own sake. After all, we humans cannot help being curious about ourselves—about “what makes us tick”—and these 50 individuals are acknowledged experts in precisely that topic. But we believe the article has some value even beyond the inherent fascination of the subject of psychology itself. It is important because, whether we know it or not, the ideas of psychologists hold great sway in our society, and are of the foremost practical importance for public policy, especially in areas like criminal justice and economics.

Kent C. Berridge | Biological Psychology

Berridge was born in 1957. He received his bachelor’s degree in 1979 from the University of California, Davis, and his master’s in 1980 from the University of Pennsylvania. He also received his PhD from Penn, in 1983. He is currently Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience at the University of Michigan, as well as Director of the Affective Neuroscience and Biopsychology Lab there.

Berridge’s work is situated in close proximity to neuroscience, and concentrates on the neural correlates of human conscious affective states—pleasure, pain, joy, sorrow, elation, depression, and so forth—as well as learning, decision-making, addictive behavior, and allied topics. The master question that his lab raises and attempts to answer is the way in which affective states are generated in the brain, including pleasure, desire and appetite, emotion, and affective valence (the subjective scale from positive to negative value according to which most affective states present themselves to us). In addition, Berridge’s works addresses still more complex issues, such as the neural basis of learning, the causes of addiction, the neurobiological relation between desire and fear, and the neurobiological relation between consciousness and emotion (can there be unconscious emotions?).

Berridge is the author or co-author of approximately 200 peer-reviewed research papers and chapters of edited volumes, and is the co-editor (with Morten L. Kringelbach) of Pleasures of the Brain (Oxford University Press, 2009). With a citation h-index that puts him in the 95th percentile of all scientists working in the biomedical field, Berridge has won many honors, including (in 2011) election as Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and (in 2016) receipt of the Distinguished Scientific Contributions Award bestowed by the American Psychological Association (APA).