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Home > Events > Expanding Empathy Speaker Series: Mina Cikara, "Their Pain, Our Pleasure"

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Expanding Empathy Speaker Series: Mina Cikara, "Their Pain, Our Pleasure"

Mina Cikara, Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology at Harvard University is the first speaker in the Expanding Empathy Speaker Series. In her lecture, she discusses factors contributing to Schadenfreude, a phenomenon that occurs when people strongly identified with their social group experiencing pleasure when they observe threatening out-group members' misfortunes.
by Betsy VanNoy Jan 15, 2019
When Jan 24, 2019
from 3:30 PM to 5:00 PM
Where Memorial Lounge, Pasquerilla Spiritual Center
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Mina Cikara, Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology at Harvard University is the first speaker in the Expanding Empathy Speaker Series. In her lecture, she discusses factors contributing to Schadenfreude, a phenomenon that occurs when people strongly identified with their social group experience pleasure when they observe threatening out-group members' misfortunes. 

Speaker Series: Expanding Empathy

Speaker: Mina Cikara

Title: Their Pain, Our Pleasure

AbstractIf humans are innately good, cooperative, fair, and averse to harming one another, why does widespread intergroup violence continue to afflict society? Several factors contribute to fomenting aggression between groups; in my talk I will focus on the role of pleasure in response to out-group pain. People who identify strongly with their social groups frequently experience pleasure when they observe threatening out-group members’ misfortunes: a phenomenon termed intergroup Schadenfreude. Though people are generally averse to harming others, they may learn to overcome this aversion via the consistent pairing of subjective pleasure with out-group pain, thereby lowering the barrier to participating in collective violence. I will review a series of behavioral, fMRI, and electromyography studies exploring this phenomenon and its relationship to out-group harm. 

Bio: Mina Cikara is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology and director of the Intergroup Neuroscience Lab. She received her Ph.D. in Psychology and Social Policy from Princeton University in 2010 and completed an NIH Ruth L. Kirschstein NRSA Postdoctoral Fellowship in the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences at MIT. Before arriving to Harvard she was an Assistant Professor of Social and Decision Sciences at Carnegie Mellon University (2012-2014).

Professor Cikara studies how the mind, brain, and behavior change when the social context shifts from “me and you” to “us and them.” She focuses primarily on how group membership, competition, and prejudice disrupt the processes that allow people to see others as human and to empathize with others. She uses a wide range of tools—standard laboratory experiments, implicit and explicit behavioral measures, fMRI and psychophysiology—to examine failures of empathy, dehumanization, and misunderstanding between groups. She is equally interested in the behavioral consequences of these processes: discrimination, conflict, and harm. She tweets about psychology and neuroscience @profcikara.

The Expanding Empathy speaker series is sponsored by the Moral Agency and Moral Development Initiative of the Rock Ethics Institute (REI)  and is convened by Daryl Cameron, a core faculty member of the REI and Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology at Penn State.

Poster promoting the Expanding Empathy Speaker Series Spring 2019