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Vasily Klyucharev, Dean of the HSE Faculty of Psychology: ‘Our objective is to integrate our faculty into the European academic space’

Vasily Klyucharev is the new Dean of the HSE Faculty of Psychology.  His professional interests lie in neuroeconomics - more specifically, in the study of social influence, of the ways our decisions can be manipulated, what mechanisms are at play, and which parts of our brain are involved when someone tries to manipulate us. The new Dean talked to our news service about the faculty's upcoming research projects and academic courses.

Vasily Klyucharev (born in 1972) holds a degree in biology from St. Petersburg State University and a Ph.D. from the RAS Institute of the Human Brain; he defended his Ph.D. thesis under the academic supervision of Academician Natalia Bekhtereva. Since 2000, he has carried out research in neuroscience and neuroeconomics and has taught at research centers and universities in Finland, the Netherlands, and Switzerland.


— Over the last four years, you have been working with the Economic Psychology Group at the University of Basel (Switzerland) carrying out neurobiological research with MR resonance scanners. What prompted you to return to Russia and why did you choose the Higher School of Economics?

— During my fourteen years of living abroad, I have maintained my connections with Russia. I have been involved in numerous research and educational projects with Russian colleagues. The most recent was a multinational postgraduate course in neurobiotechnology (BioN) – a collaborative project between Moscow State University, St. Petersburg State University, Nizhny Novgorod State University, the Southern Federal University, and other academic centers. I was attracted by the opportunity to work with the Higher School of Economics because I saw a match between my professional interest in neuroeconomics and the HSE's willingness to prioritize interdisciplinary research at the intersection of psychology, economics, management and other disciplines.

Additional funding will be made available for this purpose, in particular for setting up new labs, and international experts will be invited. Many European colleagues have expressed an interest in working with the HSE's faculties of mathematics, since mathematical models of decision-making, the brain functioning, and social interaction in groups are all at the cutting edge of research, and the HSE's mathematicians really are outstanding. Add to that our new educational courses, some of them in English to attract foreign as well as Russian students, and you have a very modern and interesting direction for the university's development. The HSE is a unique place in Russia where these goals are achievable, I believe.

— Being a faculty dean is a largely administrative function. How do you plan to combine your administrative work with research and teaching?

— I believe that the main reason I have been invited to take up this position is to for the faculty to explore new directions in research. Without a good understanding of current research, it is very easy to lose your direction; therefore I will not abandon my research, but at the same time I will try to mobilize additional administrative resources. And since I have been involved in many international educational projects, combining organizational work and teaching are nothing new to me.

Neuroeconomics is a new area of research, and I openly admit that I am still learning a lot. In fact, I would love to attend, as a student, some of the new courses that we plan to design and offer. You can count on the fingers of one hand those universities anywhere in the world that have developed their neuroeconomics research and teaching into full-fledged, sustained academic programs. If our plans succeed, HSE will be a unique university in Europe and beyond.

— What should prospective students who want to be admitted to the Faculty of Psychology this year expect?

— We will not immediately overwhelm students with new courses and disciplines; rather, their introduction will be gradual and will start in the next academic year, i.e autumn 2014. What we hope to do this year is to set up new labs and to invite a number of international researchers to lecture at HSE. So those students who are interested in neuroeconomics will soon have an opportunity to explore this area and to take part in research projects which are new to Russia. The HSE plans to purchase a transcranial magnetic stimulator (TMS), a piece of research equipment that will be exciting for both students as well as established researchers to try out.

— What changes do you expect in the faculty's organizational and staffing plan?

— The faculty has been created from scratch and has gained a good reputation, which is certainly a great achievement by the current team. We plan to add to this already strong team by setting up international labs and inviting guest researchers and lecturers. In addition, the entire university today faces the challenge of developing its publications, and the faculty of psychology should not remain on the sidelines during this process. We will work to send even more teachers and researchers overseas for internships and exchanges, and we will substantially increase the number of courses delivered in English. By doing this, we hope to facilitate our faculty's integration into the European academic space. My colleagues and I see great potential for our faculty in this respect.

Oleg Seregin, HSE News Service

See also:

Plurilingualism Compensates for Low Extraversion in Nurturing Creative Skills

Researchers at the HSE Laboratory for Linguistic, Intercultural, and Creative Competencies have examined the role of the Big Five personality traits in moderating the development of creativity among individuals who use multiple languages and have intercultural experiences. It has been found that acquiring multiple languages and engaging with diverse cultures can enhance an individual's creativity and compensate for some deficiencies in communicative abilities. That said, language practices are likely to foster creativity only in mentally stable individuals. The paper has been published in the International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism.

Attainment of Happiness in Psychologically Mature Individuals Linked to Pursuit of Meaning

Austrian psychiatrist Viktor Frankl believed that the quest for meaning constitutes a fundamental and intrinsic motivation for all human beings. Some other authors suggest that the need for meaning or purpose only emerges at higher levels of personality development. According to a team of psychologists from HSE and the University of Paris Nanterre, individuals who have achieved higher levels of ego development are inclined to relinquish hedonistic motives in favour of cultivating mindfulness and embarking on a quest for meaning. These findings have been published in Frontiers in Psychology.

Married Men Less Prone to Workplace Burnout

Greater marital satisfaction lowers the risk of professional burnout, with this correlation being more pronounced among men than women. This is a conclusion made by HSE psychologists after conducting a study on the effect of social interactions on workplace burnout on a sample of 203 employees from several Russian companies. According to the researchers, gaining a better understanding of the specific aspects of burnout experienced by individuals makes it possible to address this syndrome more effectively. The paper has been published in Organizational Psychology.

HSE Psychologists Propose New Approach to Building Soft Skills

Researchers at HSE's School of Psychology have used the findings of studies into creativity and multilingualism to develop 'Plurilingual Intercultural Creative Keys’ (PICK), a new programme which integrates both aspects into the teaching and learning process. The study results have been published in Psychology. Journal of the Higher School of Economics.

Card File: Plurilingual Creativity

Fluency in foreign languages has multiple advantages in terms of cognitive abilities, communication skills, cultural awareness, and career advancement. But can bilingualism and plurilingualism (knowledge of multiple languages and related cultural contexts) contribute to creative thinking and one's ability to generate new ideas? Studies have shown that linguistic, intercultural and creative competencies are interrelated, and their synergy can give rise to plurilingual creativity. The following overview is based on several papers by Anatoly Kharkhurin, Director of the HSE Laboratory for Linguistic, Intercultural and Creative Competencies.

Readers Found to Rely on Word Spelling Rather Than Sound in Reading

Skilled readers are known to extract information not only from the word they are looking at but from the one directly following it. This phenomenon is called pre-processing. Researchers from the HSE Centre for Language and Brain analysed the eye movements of primary school children and adults during silent reading and found both groups to rely on orthographic, rather than phonological, information in pre-processing an upcoming word. The study has been published in the Journal of Experimental Child Psychology.

Psychological Intervention Reduced Stress during COVID Lockdown

Resilience and well-being in difficult times can be developed via online interventions in the workplace. An international team of researchers from France, the UK, and Russia (with the participation of researchers from the HSE International Laboratory of Positive Psychology of Personality and Motivation) studied the effectiveness of SPARK Resilience, a programme for developing resilience, at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. The results of the study were published in the PLOS One journal.

Light Breezes Improve Moods of Social Media Users

Sergey Smetanin, Research Fellow of the HSE Graduate School of Business, conducted a large-scale analysis to examine the impact of weather conditions on the sentiments expressed by users of the Odnoklassniki (OK) social network. The findings have been published in PeerJ Computer Science. This is the first study of its kind in Russia.

HSE Psychologists Examine Baby Duck Syndrome in Digital Interface Users

Researchers of the HSE Laboratory for Cognitive Psychology of Digital Interfaces Nadezhda Glebko and  Elena Gorbunova have examined the so-called ‘Baby Duck Syndrome’—the tendency among digital product users to prefer the the old version of an interface over a new one. The authors compare this phenomenon to similar cognitive biases such as the mere-exposure effect, the endowment effect, and the status quo bias. Their findings are published in Psikhologicheskie Issledovaniya [Psychological Studies].

Meta-analysis Links Benevolent Sexism to Violence against Women

HSE researchers Elena Agadullina, Andrey Lovakov, Maryana Balezina and Olga Gulevich examined the potential links between different types of sexism – hostile and benevolent – and the likelihood of supporting or practicing violence against women. The authors conducted a meta-analysis of academic literature to find out how sexist attitudes can contribute to violence.