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Home > Events > Expanding Empathy Speaker Series: Michael Poulin, "Must We Feel Bad to Do Good?"

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Expanding Empathy Speaker Series: Michael Poulin, "Must We Feel Bad to Do Good?"

Michael Poulin, Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology at SUNY Buffalo, is the second speaker in the Expanding Empathy Speaker Series. His lecture will discuss research that suggests that empathy and personal discomfort need not go hand in hand, and that less discomfort may translate to more prosocial action.
by Betsy VanNoy Jan 15, 2019
When Feb 21, 2019
from 3:30 PM to 5:00 PM
Where Pasquerilla Spiritual Center, Memorial Lounge
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Michael Poulin headshot for Expanding Empathy

Michael Poulin, Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology at SUNY Buffalo, is the second speaker in the Expanding Empathy Speaker Series. His lecture will discuss research that suggests that empathy and personal discomfort need not go hand in hand, and that less discomfort may translate to more prosocial action.

Speaker Series: Expanding Empathy

Speaker: Michael J. Poulin

Title: Must We Feel Bad to Do Good?

Abstract:  Bearing witness to the suffering of others can reveal our moral blind spots, evoke empathy, and prompt action on behalf of those in need.  However, empathy for suffering can itself be painful, and awareness of this fact can lead us to avoid reminders of others’ suffering.  In this talk, I will discuss research in our lab revealing that empathy can take on different forms and manifest in qualitatively different kinds of psychological and physiological experiences depending on the connections between empathy, self-focus, and goal pursuit.  This research suggests that empathy and personal discomfort need not go hand in hand, and that less discomfort may translate to more prosocial action.

Bio: Michael J. Poulin’s research explores humanity’s remarkable capacity for generosity. People are willing to give to and support others. They intervene on someone’s behalf, and often at great cost or risk to themselves. Why do people make these kinds of sacrifices for family, friends and even total strangers?

People often set aside the potential costs of their actions when they see someone in need. Poulin, PhD, examines the mechanisms that allow us to overlook these costs and how in turn these mechanisms might lower the barriers to valuing others. In fact, Poulin’s research indicates that people who feel compassion toward another will even act aggressively toward an unknown third party, showing that empathy can actually motivate aggression.

His work has been published in leading journals such as Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin; Health Psychology; the American Journal of Public Health; Psychological Science.

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