Brock Bastian to present third Expanding Empathy 2021 lecture on March 17

David Price
March 12, 2021

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The third of the six talks in the Expanding Empathy 2021 lecture series is scheduled for Wednesday, March 17, with Brock Bastian, professor in the School of Psychological Sciences at the University of Melbourne, presenting.

The topic of Bastian’s lecture, which is being delivered as a Zoom webinar at 3:30 p.m., is “Motivational Bias in Empathy for Animals: Understanding the Role of Need Satisfaction and Mind Perception.”

C. Daryl Cameron, assistant professor of psychology in Penn State’s College of the Liberal Arts and convener of the Rock Ethics Institute’s Moral Agency and Moral Development Initiative, created the Expanding Empathy series, now in its third year. Bastian’s lecture comes on the heels of presentations by Adam Waytz and Liane Young earlier this month.

“In the first two talks, we learned about how people think about empathy in the context of human-machine interactions and in the context of deciding how to prioritize strangers vs. family. We also learned about some of the motivational dynamics that may shape how people expand or contract empathy in these contexts,” Cameron noted.

“In Dr. Bastian’s talk, he will continue this theme by considering how these empathic decisions play out in the context of nonhuman animals. The work is especially interesting when considering some of the moral tradeoffs that we often make with respect to eating meat (or not), and being willing to engage with considering the suffering of animals who might be impacted by the changing climate in various ways,” Cameron said.

“Our research,” Bastian added, “has revealed the various psychological motivations for why people might withdraw empathy from others, but also the qualities and attributes that can lead us to expand our empathy towards a range of non-human targets.”

Admission is free, but pre-registration is required.

Bastian and Cameron also will be holding an informal meet-and-greet from 2 to 3 p.m., just before the lecture. Anyone interested in joining that session can reach out directly to Daryl Cameron for more information.

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.

Future lectures in the 2021 Expanding Empathy series are:

  • 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, NYU
  • 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

    Daryl Cameron
    Rock Ethics Institute Research Associate

    IMAGE: Penn State
Last Updated March 12, 2021