Julian De Freitas ’13: Illuminating the workings of the mind through rhythm

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In a way, Julian De Freitas has ridden the rhythm of a Whiffenpoof song all the way to an international Rhodes Scholarship. While studying at Oxford, the South African native and singer for Yale’s renowned a capella group will investigate how rhythm can illuminate how the mind pays attention.

“While singing, I felt myself marveling at this commonplace feat – how was my mind experiencing rhythm, exactly how was my mind processing the information,” he said.

The Yale senior became interested in the neuroscience of human attention while working in the lab of Brian Scholl, psychologist and director of the Yale Perception and Cognition Laboratory. With Yale philosopher Joshua Knobe, he has studied how our moral sense shapes our judgments of the happiness of others and he is co-authoring a book on the ethics of pharmaceutical advertising in medicine. De Freitas has written articles that have appeared in the Journal of Clinical Ethics, The International Journal of Law and Psychiatry, the journal Nature and Scientific American Mind.

His intellectual curiosity will land him in Oxford next fall, but not before he tours 36 countries with the Whiffenpoofs next summer.

“As if I wasn’t fortunate enough,” he said.

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