'Expanding Empathy' lecture series moves online

David Price
April 28, 2020

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — As society continues to deal with the widespread ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been many questions about the role of empathy. How and why does encouraging fellow-feeling with others matter for public health and public policy?

To help address these questions, Penn State’s “Expanding Empathy” 2020 lecture series kicked off the series in March with Jesse Graham of the University of Utah discussing expanding and contracting circles of care. Such considerations have become ever more relevant, as soon after Graham’s lecture, COVID-19 began to directly impact the world, and the Penn State community.

As a result of this increasing importance, the convener of “Expanding Empathy” — Daryl Cameron, assistant professor of psychology in Penn State’s College of the Liberal Arts and research associate in the Rock Ethics Institute — has moved the remaining lectures online, with two events scheduled for Wednesday, April 29.

Lecture: 'The Altruistic Brain'

Abigail Marsh, associate professor of psychology and interdisciplinary neuroscience program, Georgetown University, will present “The Altruistic Brain,” from 11 a.m. to noon, on Zoom. Participants can register here.

Panel discussion: Empathy in the time of COVID-19

An expert panel discussion about how to think about empathy in the time of COVID-19 also is being added. Each panelist will talk about their work and how it might relate to the current pandemic. Additionally, they will take questions from the audience as time permits.

The panel discussion is scheduled for 1-2:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 29. Participants can register here.

Does empathy encourage others to engage in distancing and help others in need during this crisis? Can empathy be exhausting in a large-scale crisis like this? What are the moral dilemmas that people may face in this crisis, and what kinds of extraordinary altruism have we seen and might we expect to see moving forward?

Cameron, who will moderate the discussion, studies empathy and moral decision making. The Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences recently awarded Cameron a coronavirus research seed grant to study empathy and its relationship to the pandemic response.

Joining Cameron for the panel discussion, from the 2020 “Expanding Empathy” series, will be:

  • Paul Conway, assistant professor of psychology at Florida State University
  • Abigail Marsh, associate professor of psychology, Interdisciplinary Neuroscience Program, at Georgetown University
  • David DeSteno, professor of psychology at Northeastern University

Also on the panel will be Michael Poulin, associate professor in the Department of Psychology at the University at Buffalo. As part of the 2019 “Expanding Empathy” series, Poulin presented the lecture, "Must We Feel Bad to Do Good?" which can be viewed here.

Admission to all of the "Expanding Empathy" events is free, but Zoom attendees must register in advance. Viewing on Facebook Live does not require registration.

'Expanding Empathy' series to be available on website

Audio and video of the “Expanding Empathy” webinars, which will be shown on Facebook Live on the Rock Ethics Institute’s page, will be recorded and made available for online streaming at a later date.

This will include two Zoom webinar versions of  talks that had been previously planned for being in-person at University Park:

  • "Marrying Deontology and Utilitarianism with Virtue Ethics: Balancing Affective with Cognitive Processing Predicts Increased Prosociality and Reduced Antisociality," presented by Paul Conway on April 27.
  • "Hacking Virtue: How Moral Emotions Build Self-Control from the Bottom Up," presented by David DeSteno on April 28.

About the lecture series

The “Expanding Empathy” series is supported by Penn State’s College of the Liberal Arts and College of Health and Human Development, as well as the Department of Psychology, the Edna Bennett Pierce Prevention Research Center, and the Penn State University Libraries.

As part of his broader research and outreach on empathy and generosity, series organizer Daryl Cameron is supported by a grant from the John Templeton Foundation.

Established in 2001 through the support of Doug and Julie Rock, the Rock Ethics Institute promotes engaged ethics research and ethical leadership from its home in Penn State’s College of the Liberal Arts.

  • Photo of Daryl Cameron

    Daryl Cameron

    IMAGE: Penn State
  • Photograph of Paul Conway

    Paul Conway
    Florida State University

    IMAGE: Penn State
  • Photograph of Abigail Marsh

    Abigail Marsh
    Georgetown University

    IMAGE: Penn State
  • Photograph of Michael Poulin

    Michael Poulin
    University at Buffalo

    IMAGE: Penn State
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Last Updated May 04, 2020