Final 2022 Expanding Empathy lecture to examine empathy in groups

Final 2022 Expanding Empathy lecture to examine empathy in groups
Photo of Emma McClure
Emma McClure

The Rock Ethics Institute will host the final lecture in the 2022 Expanding Empathy series from 3-5 p.m. EDT on Wednesday, May 11, on Zoom. This panel features Emma McClure, assistant professor of philosophy at St. Mary’s University (Halifax), and Linda Tropp, professor of social psychology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. It will focus on the topic of empathy and intergroup interactions. Pre-registration is required.

Photo of Linda Tropp
Linda Tropp

“These speakers both seemed to appreciate the complexity of empathy with respect to intergroup interactions and their respective research programs both address these issues,” said C. Daryl Cameron, senior research associate in the Rock Ethics Institute (REI) and

associate professor of psychology in Penn State’s College of the Liberal Arts.

Cameron, convener of the REI’s Moral Agency and Development Initiative, is organizing the Expanding Empathy series in collaboration with Martina Orlandi, postdoctoral scholar in engaged ethics at the Rock Ethics Institute and the Schreyer Honors College.

“Our research seeks to understand why empathy toward other groups might not always emerge, and what motivational processes may be involved,” Tropp said. Although we are often inclined to think about “empathy” and “indifference” toward the plight of other groups as flip sides of the same coin, we wanted to conduct empirical tests to see whether this was the case–including whether indicators of empathy and indifference are essentially equivalent, or whether they might function differently in predicting policy attitudes.”

The panel will see McClure and Tropp deliver individual lectures before joining each other for an interactive question and answer section, seeks to assess empathy in social interactions. The Expanding Empathy lecture series aims to examine empathy in relation to different parts of life.

“Engaging in interdisciplinary conversations reveals underlying assumptions that we might otherwise have been overlooked — how ‘we’ve always done things’ in our particular field — and also reveals what questions we’re not asking — what we could explore, together, that we couldn’t have seen, alone,” McClure said.

The collaborative question and answer is an updated format to the Expanding Empathy series. The goal of having two speakers is to see how two fields, psychology and philosophy, view topics differently and produce collaborative dialogues.

“I really appreciate the Rock Ethics Institute’s efforts to encourage interdisciplinary conversations, and I think having scholars engage with each other across disciplinary boundaries is immensely valuable. Increasingly, it appears that scholars from different disciplines are interested in the same societal challenges, but the angles from and lenses through which we approach these challenges are often quite divergent… the more we are able to recognize both similarities and differences in our perspectives, the better equipped we will be to link the unique strengths and insights from our disciplines to those of others, toward mutual learning and greater insight for everyone” Tropp said.

Prior to the lecture, Martina Orlandi has released a podcast with Emma McClure, titled “Lecture #7,” highlighting her background and laying a foundation for her lecture. These podcasts will be made available through Cameron’s Empathy and Moral Psychology collaborations page on his website. They will also be available through the Rock Ethics Institute’s website.

McClure will also participate in a meeting of the Moral Agency Workshop, an interdisciplinary collective of faculty and students interested in morality and ethical decision-making. This meeting will take place before the lecture from 1-2 p.m., also on Wednesday, May 11, on Zoom for informal discussions related to the lecture and network with students and faculty.

The Expanding Empathy series aims to highlight the value of cutting-edge scientific and philosophical work on empathy and moral judgment, and to highlight the importance of the interdisciplinary moral psychology research being done at Penn State.

The Expanding Empathy lecture series is supported by Penn State’s Social Science Research InstituteDepartment of PsychologyDepartment of PhilosophyCollege of the Liberal ArtsCollege of Health and Human Development, and the Edna Bennett Pierce Prevention Research Center.

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.

Topic(s): Expanding Empathy Lecture Series, Health
Expanding Empathy poster for McClure and Tropp
Image Credit: Tiny Little Hammers