'Humans and Machines' talk to launch 2021 Expanding Empathy lecture series

David Price
February 26, 2021

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The third annual Expanding Empathy lecture series begins Wednesday, March 3, with Adam Waytz — the Morris and Alice Kaplan Chair in Ethics and Decision Management in Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management — presenting.

The topic of Waytz’s lecture, which is being delivered as a Zoom webinar at 3:30 p.m., is “Humans and Machines.”

“As technology has become part of our social lives,” Waytz says, “understanding how humans think about machines is increasingly important to generate empathy in these situations.”

Waytz describes his talk as one that will examine psychological implications of an automated world, discussing topics such as, “Does online technology help or hurt empathy," "How to mitigate discomfort over robots replacing human jobs," "How automation contributes to political discord and unity," and more.

Admission is free, but pre-registration is required.

The Expanding Empathy lectures are presented by the Rock Ethics Institute’s Moral Agency and Moral Development Initiative, convened by C. Daryl Cameron, assistant professor of psychology in Penn State’s College of the Liberal Arts and research associate in the Rock Ethics Institute.

“For this third year of Expanding Empathy, I wanted to focus on the core theme of how we think about the boundaries and expanse of empathy,” Cameron explained. “My hope is that this series will allow the University community to continue discussions of empathy as an important value.

“This year, I'm bringing in six speakers from the U.S., U.K., and Australia to talk over Zoom about the expanse of empathy and the moral circle. A theme across this year’s talks is empathy and the malleability of moral regard, whether that's with respect to robots, extreme outgroups, animals, or large-scale crises like COVID-19 where the greater good is at stake,” Cameron added.

The talks are aimed toward a broad, interdisciplinary audience, and they are open to faculty, staff, graduate and undergraduate students, and the public.

The additional lectures in the 2021 Expanding Empathy series are:

  • March 10, “Social Context Shapes Social Cognition,” presented by Liane Young, associate professor of psychology, Department of Psychology and Neuroscience, Boston College
  • March 17, “Motivational Bias in Empathy for Animals: Understanding the Role of Need Satisfaction and Mind Perception,” presented by Brock Bastian, professor, Melbourne School of Psychological Sciences, University of Melbourne
  • March 23, "Flexible Social Cognition as a Proactive Empathy Regulation Strategy," presented by Lasana Harris, associate professor in experimental psychology, University College London
  • March 31, “For Better or Worse: The Role of Social Identity in the Pandemic,” presented by Jay Van Bavel, associate professor of psychology, New York University
  • April 7, “Switching Tracks? A Two-Dimensional Model of Utilitarian Psychology,” presented by Jim A.C. Everett, lecturer and assistant professor, University of Kent

Past presentations in the Expanding Empathy lecture series are available here.

The 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

    C. Daryl Cameron
    Rock Ethics Institute Research Associate

    IMAGE: Penn State
Last Updated February 26, 2021