Second talk in Expanding Empathy lecture series being held March 10

David Price
March 05, 2021

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The second of the six talks in the 2021 Expanding Empathy lecture series is scheduled for Wednesday, March 10, with Liane Young, assistant professor of psychology and neuroscience at Boston College, presenting.

The topic of Young’s lecture, which will be delivered as a Zoom webinar at 3:30 p.m., is “Social Context Shapes Social Cognition.”

Admission is free, but pre-registration is required.

"We’re very excited for Liane Young to visit for the second talk. Her work has focused on many important questions, including the role of perceived harm in moral judgment, how people think about mental states and intentionality, and how psychology and neuroscience can be used together to reveal the nature of the moral mind,” said C. Daryl Cameron, convener of the Rock Ethics Institute’s Moral Agency and Moral Development Initiative.

Young describes her talk as one that will explore the broad question of how social context shapes the time we spend thinking about the mental lives of those around us, both for social interaction and for moral evaluation.

"Our work focuses on how brain regions for social cognitive capacities like perspective-taking and empathy drive moral judgment, and especially asymmetries in moral judgments of close vs. distant others (engaging in helping and harming actions), as well as moral judgments of others who help close vs. distant others,” Young said. “In other words, we are interested not just in the psychology of empathic bias, how it manifests, but also folk intuitions about this bias, across different contexts. Who deserves more moral credit: someone who helps a stranger, or someone who helps a relative? Leveraging a psychological understanding of precisely how social cognition is shaped by social context can perhaps shed light on how to intervene on social cognition, and how to think more flexibly about context.”

Young’s lecture comes just one week after the opening event of Expanding Empathy 2021 (which can be viewed here), a lecture by Adam Waytz, the Morris and Alice Kaplan Chair in Ethics and Decision Management in Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.

“In the first Expanding Empathy 2021 lecture,” Cameron said, “Dr. Adam Waytz gave a compelling talk about the interactions between humans and machines and how they influence our sense of empathy. We had a number of great opportunities for faculty and students at Penn State, and from other places as well, to talk with Dr. Waytz about his research and think about practical applications to salient questions about immigration, care for elderly, and the nature of other minds more generally.”

All of 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 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 (assistant professor), University of Kent

Past years’ 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 March 08, 2021