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Empathy & Moral Psychology Lab

Welcome to the Empathy and Moral Psychology (EMP) Lab at Penn State University, directed by Dr. Daryl Cameron.  We study the affective and motivational mechanisms involved in empathy and moral decision-making.  Our lab utilizes insights and methodologies from affective science, social cognition, and moral philosophy, in order to understand how people think about and respond to pressing social and ethical situations.

Some of the particular questions we focus on include why does empathy fail in response to mass suffering and during conflicts, and what can we do about it?  Why do people engage in blame and punishment, and how does outrage motivate people to engage in collective action?  For short and accessible introductions to some of our lab’s recent research, read the Penn State News article about our work on moral outrage, the release about our work on empathy avoidance and mental effort, and the article in the The Conversation about the scientific and ethical ramifications of empathy deficits. Dr. Cameron wrote about empathy and politics for the Rock Ethics Institute’s “Ask an Ethicist” column, “How important is empathy in the U.S. Presidential election?”

Student Spotlight
Julian A. Scheffer, M.A.

Julian A. Scheffer, M.A. Graduate Student

Julian is a 6th-year graduate student in the EMP Lab (and a 4th-year here at Penn State).  He is interested in the psychological rewards and costs of empathy, and he is currently exploring how the brain contributes to regulating empathic responding using functional neuroimaging and lesion methods.  He is also interested in how people regulate moral behavior and moral judgment, focusing on propensities for prosocial versus antisocial behavior, as well as the policing of moral violations within and between social groups. Julian obtained his B.Sc. in Neuroscience and Psychology at the University of Toronto, where he managed Michael Inzlicht’s Toronto Lab for Social Neuroscience and Elizabeth Page-Gould’s Embodied Social Cognition Lab (now known as SPRQL).  Julian also obtained his M.A. in Psychology at the University of Iowa, where he participated in the NIH-funded T32 training program and worked with Dr. Daniel Tranel and Dr. Jan Wessel.

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