Faculty Insight: Is Addiction a Choice?

MON, JUL 26, 2010 (6:51)

Faculty Insight is produced in partnership with Harvard University Extension School and ThoughtCast. This first interview of the series is with Gene Heyman, a faculty member at the Extension School and a lecturer on psychology at Harvard Medical School. Professor Heyman’s controversial new book, called Addiction: A Disorder of Choice, asks if addiction is a disease, and anwers: no!

+ BIO: Gene Heyman

Gene Heyman earned a PhD in experimental psychology from Harvard University (1977). His thesis tested economic interpretations of the “matching law,” a behavioral principle that describes how animals and people make choices. After a year of teaching undergraduate classes, Heyman took a post-doctoral position in the Department of Pharmacological and Physiological Sciences at the University of Chicago. The psychopharmacological studies led to a research position in drug discovery for a pharmaceutical company. In 1987, Heyman returned to the Harvard Psychology Department. One of his goals was to develop an animal model of addiction that would shed light on how addictive drugs gained control over behavior. He also began teaching an undergraduate course on addiction. Heyman has received several Harvard teaching awards and published more than fifty papers and chapters on topics in choice, basic behavioral processes, psycho-pharmacology, and addiction. His research has been supported by the National Science Foundation, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, the National Institute on Drug Abuse, and private foundations. Most recently he has been teaching Introduction to Psychology as a Natural Science at Boston College, where he is a Visiting Associate Professor.

+ BIO: Jenny Attiyeh

My name is Jenny Attiyeh, and I began my career in 1987 in London as a freelance reporter on the arts for the BBC World Service Radio. I remember my first interview for “Meridian”, as the program I worked for was called. It was with Placido Domingo, and I’ve never been so nervous since. After my work permit ran out, I returned to Los Angeles, my home city, and continued as an arts reporter for KCRW, an NPR station in Santa Monica. While there, I reported and produced an award-winning documentary on Japanese-American internment during World War II. Shortly after, I was accepted to a National Public Radio residency, which brought me to Washington, D.C. and to WBUR, an NPR station in Boston to report stories for NPR’s Performance Today. I later attended the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University. After that, I remained in New York City for 9 years, during which time I worked primarily as a reporter on television and radio. I hosted and produced a weekly arts and culture segment for WNYC TV, a PBS station, until it went out of business (thanks to then Mayor Giuliani, who sold the station). Before the lights went out, I managed to produce a mini-documentary on the making of a Philip Glass opera, “Les Enfants Terribles.” I worked next as a correspondent for a nationally televised PBS program called “Freedom Speaks” which focused on the media, until it too was taken off the air. (I detect a pattern here…) In between gigs, I also worked as a reporter for WBAI radio, a Pacifica station, and WNYC radio, an NPR station, covering local politics and the arts. I then moved to Maine, where I lived by the harbor in Kittery, and worked as a reporter for New Hampshire Public Television. There, I covered the ‘99/2000 New Hampshire presidential primary season, and interviewed the major presidential candidates. I also participated as a panelist in nationally televised presidential debates, hosted by Peter Jennings and Tim Russert. Following the conclusion of the New Hampshire primary season, I moved to Boston, where I did freelance writing on academics, the 2004 presidential campaign and the single life, among other subjects. From this base, in early 2005, I launched ThoughtCast.