The Power of Darkness: How Darkness Shapes Humanity

Holley Moyes
UC Merced

Michael Spivey
Cognitive and Information Sciences
UC Merced

This one-day interdisciplinary symposium, “Shedding Light on Darkness”, was held at UC Merced and brought together experts in the humanities and social sciences to study the effects of darkness on human cognition, human history, the human brain, and the human condition. Chasing away darkness is fundamental human behavior and represents one of the first cultural adaptations of our early ancestors, Homo erectus. While we dispel darkness we may also seek it out for activities that require imagination or imaginary leaps such as singing, dancing, storytelling, and religious rites. Yet, this quality of human behavior that cross-cuts time and space has not been well-studied. At this symposium scholars, students, and the public interacted to examine darkness as a phenomenon. Observations grounded in the humanities sparked this line of research and remain at its core. The symposium demonstrated the importance of the humanities in generating and defining important new trajectories of inquiry based on empirical behavioral observations as well as human representations surrounding the theme.