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Empathy & COVID-19 Webinar + Blog Post

Back in March, when COVID-19 hit, Dr. Cameron took the Expanding Empathy 2020 series, which he had organized as faculty associate in the Rock Ethics Institute and convener of the Moral Agency & Moral Development initiative — to an online Zoom format. Despite being remote, the talks were conveyed digitally, which culminated in a spontaneous capstone event in April. Here, speakers from the 2019 and 2020 Expanding Empathy series joined together to discuss what they mean by the term empathy; what its uses and functions might be to support public health during the pandemic; and how people might effectively cultivate empathy during a challenging international crisis. The panel features Michael Poulin (University at Buffalo), David DeSteno (Professor of Psychology, Northeastern University), Paul Conway (Assistant Professor of Psychology, Florida State University), and Abigail Marsh (Associate of Psychology and Interdsiciplinary Neuroscience Program, Georgetown University). The other webinar talks from the series (Conway, DeSteno, Marsh) were also recorded and will be archived online later this semester.

Later that summer, the entire team (Dr. Cameron, Eliana Hadjiandreou, Stephen Anderson, Julian Scheffer) had the opportunity to write a blog post for the Social Science Research Institute's Insights from Experts blog. Here, we discuss the role of motivation and choice in cultivating empathy, outrage, and public health behaviors (e.g., mask-wearing) during the pandemic.

Eliana Hadjiandreou Defends MA Thesis

Eliana Hadjiandreou has successfully defended her Masters thesis on adversity and parochial empathy. Congrats, Eliana!

Victoria Spring Defends Dissertation

Victoria Spring has successfully defended the PhD on moral outrage and collective action. Victoria's the first graduate student to finish their PhD through the EMP Lab, making this a big individual and collective moment. Nice work, Victoria!

Eliana Hadjiandreou Receives Grant from McCourtney Institute for Democracy

Eliana Hadjiandreou has received a Democracy Research Support Grant from Penn State's McCourtney Institute for Democracy, to support her research on moral psychology and political conflict. Congratulations, Eliana!

Stephen Anderson Defends MA Thesis

Stephen Anderson has successfully defended his Masters thesis on the empathy and creative thinking. Nice work, Stephen!

Victoria Spring Accepts Post-Doc at NYU + CSMU Grant

Victoria Spring has accepted a post-doctoral position at New York University to work with Jay Van Bavel on topics related to moral outrage. Additionally, she has received an Emerging Scholar Award from UNC's Center for the Science of Moral Understanding to support some of this work. Congratulations, Victoria!

Scheffer et al. Publish Paper on Compassion & Politics

The lab recently published a paper -- led by Julian Scheffer,  with Eliana Hadjiandreou and Dr. Cameron -- on political stereotypes about compassion in the journal Emotion. This paper involved field data collected at the 2016 Iowa Caucus and U.S Presidential Election and will be forthcoming soon.

Daniel Lim Accepts Position at Adelphi University

After spending two years in the EMP Lab as a post-doctoral associate, Daniel Lim has accepted a tenure-track position in psychology at Adelphi University in New York City. Excellent work, Dan! 

Julian Scheffer Receives STAR Award

Julian Scheffer has received the Superior Teaching and Research (STAR) Award from the College of Liberal Arts, which recognizes graduate student excellence in teaching, research, and service. The award will assist Julian's research on social emotions and responses to disparity. Congratulations, Julian!

Expanding Empathy Series Moves Online, Includes COVID-19 Panel

The Expanding Empathy Speaker Series has been re-imagined for an online format for the remainder of the series. 

For more details, see the release on Penn State News here.


EMP Lab Receives Seed Grant about Covid-19 Response

The EMP Lab has received a seed grant from the Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences rapid-response initiative for understanding the Covid-19 outbreak. The grant is "Motivated Empathy and Social Distancing During Covid-19", and the team is led by Dr. Daryl Cameron (PI) with Dr. Daniel Lim and Dr. Janet Swim as co-PIs. For more details about the Huck initiative about the coronavirus response, check out more information here.

Dr. Cameron Receives Roy C. Buck Award for "Empathy is hard work"

Dr. Cameron received the Roy C. Buck Award from Penn State's College of Liberal Arts, for best annual paper in the social sciences by a pre-tenure faculty member. The award is for the paper "Empathy is hard work" from 2019 in JEP:General. For more details about the award, see here.

Expanding Empathy Series Returns for 2020

The Expanding Empathy Speaker Series will return for spring 2020. Dr. Cameron organized this series through the Moral Agency and Moral Development Initiative at the Rock Ethics Institute. The series is designed to present a range of perspectives on how and why people choose to feel empathy and act with generosity and moral concern. The talks are open to the public and designed for an interdisciplinary audience. For more details, see the release about the series in Penn State News, and click on the Moral Agency Initiative tab at the top of the page.

Lab Publishes Paper on Empathy Choice in Physicians

The lab recently published the paper, "Empathy choice in physicians and non-physicians", now in press for an upcoming special issue of the bright and dark sides of empathy in British Journal of Social Psychology. In the paper, a sample of practicing physicians and demographically matched controls completed the Empathy Selection Task, in which they could choose to feel empathy or be detached from suffering targets. 

Victoria Spring Receives Best Publication Award

Victoria Spring has been awarded the Best Publication Award from the Psychology Department, for her first-author paper “The upside of outrage” in Trends in Cognitive Sciences. Congrats, Victoria!

Julian Scheffer Receives BRIDGE Impact Award

Julian Scheffer has been awarded the Impact Award from the BRIDGE group in the Psychology Department, for his extensive work supporting diversity and inclusion both within the department and the university as a whole. Congrats, Julian!

Paper Validating the Empathy Selection Task Receives Press Release

The paper validating the Empathy Selection Task has received a press release by the American Psychological Association, which can be viewed here. This release has been picked up in the media as well (e.g., Pacific Standard, Independent, Daily Mail).

Published Empathy Selection Task Paper in JEP: General

The lab has published the validation paper for the Empathy Selection Task — “Empathy is hard work: People choose to avoid empathy because of its cognitive costs” — in Journal of Experimental Psychology: General. This paper, co-authored with lab members Julian Scheffer and Eliana Hadjiandreou, along with Cendri Hutcherson, Amanda Ferguson, and Michael Inzlicht, develops a novel behavioral measure of empathy regulation and shows how decisions to empathize associate with and are caused by felt cognitive costs.

Graduate Students to attend the 2019 Summer Institute in Social and Personality Psychology

Julian Scheffer and Victoria Spring were both accepted to attend the 2019 Summer Institute in Social and Personality Psychology being held at New York University. Congrats, Julian and Victoria!

Dr. Cameron Awarded Grant from the John Templeton Foundation

Dr. Cameron was awarded a grant from the John Templeton Foundation, “Nudging empathy: Harnessing motivation to create sustainable empathic choices”. This grant is a collaboration with David DeSteno (Northeastern) and Daniel Lim, and will examine the roles of motivation and ability in the experience of empathy for others. For more discussion of this project, see this writeup at the JTF website: Is Empathy a Renewable Resource?

Daniel Lim giving Symposium Talk

Daniel Lim will be giving a symposium talk, “Past Adversity Mitigates the Adversity Bias in Compassion”, at the 31st annual convention of the Association for Psychological Science in Washington D.C. this May. Additionally, he will be giving an invited talk on the same work at the 6th World Congress on Positive Psychology in Melbourne, Australia. Congratulations, Dan!

Julian Scheffer and Eliana Hadjiandreou Presenting at the SPSP Emotion Preconference

Julian Scheffer and Eliana Hadjiandreou will both be presenting posters at the SPSP Emotion preconference. Julian will be talking about his work on compassion choice, and Eliana will be talking about her work on social norms and empathy choice. Congrats, Julian and Eliana!

Recently Published Paper: “The upside of outrage”

The lab recently published the paper “The upside of outrage” in Trends in Cognitive Sciences. This is a first-authored paper by Victoria Spring, and co-authors include Daryl Cameron and Mina Cikara. The work was also covered by Penn State News: “Does putting the brakes on outrage bottle up social change?”

Victoria Spring Chairing/Speaking in Symposium

Victoria Spring will be chairing and speaking in a symposium “The functions and perils of moral outrage” at the SPSP 2019 convention in Portland, Oregon. She also received a SPSP Student Travel Award to present on this work!

Eliana Hadjiandreou Receives an Educational Grant from the A. G. Leventis Foundation

Eliana Hadjiandreou has received an Educational Grant from the A. G. Leventis Foundation in Cyprus ($12,000) to support the first year of her doctoral research. The grant will support a project exploring 1) how undergoing adversity may create pathways to prosocial emotions through mechanisms of meaning-making and reduced perceived cognitive costs of empathy in samples undergoing medical, economic, and social adversity and 2) the potential prosocial effects of parochial empathy stemming from such adversity-based group memberships. Congratulations, Eliana!

Conceptual Research Posters Presented

Taylor Buchness and Shenyun Chen both presented conceptual research posters at the Psi Chi Undergraduate Research Conference. For her poster, Shenyun was judged as one of the top three presenters for conceptual research. Thanks for representing the EMP Lab, Taylor and Shenyun, and congrats on the award, Shenyun!

Taylor Buchness Working as a McNair Scholar

Taylor Buchness will be working this summer as a McNair Scholar in the EMP Lab, where she will be advised by Dr. Cameron on a project about empathy choice and leadership. Congrats, Taylor!

Dr. Cameron Awarded Social Science Research Institute Grant

Dr. Cameron was recently awarded a Level 2 grant ($15,240) from Penn State’s Social Science Research Institute for a project in collaboration with Drs. Robert Roeser and Chuck Geier (Human Development and Family Studies) and Dr. Jose Soto (Psychology): “Empathy for Disparity: A Social-Cognitive Neuroscience Approach”. The team also includes graduate students Sinhae Cho, Blake Colaianne, Julian Scheffer, and incoming graduate student Eliana Hadjiandreou. The project will use a range of methodologies, including self-report, behavioral, physiological, and neuroimaging techniques, to assess the motivated regulation of empathy and compassion in response to social inequalities.

Recently Published Paper: “Intentional and unintentional empathy among physicians and non-physicians”

The lab recently published the paper “Intentional and unintentional empathy among physicians and non-physicians” in Social Psychological and Personality Science. This is a first-authored paper by Victoria Spring, and co-authors include Daryl Cameron, Stephanie McKee, and Andrew Todd. In this work, we administered the Pain Identification Task (Cameron et al., 2017, Emotion) to practicing physicians as well as a matched group of educated non-physicians. Results revealed that physicians showed greater ability to intentionally empathize with the experiences of others compared to non-physicians; however, there was no difference in their tendency to unintentionally empathize with others’ painful experiences. Nice work, Victoria!

Welcoming new Post-Doc: Daniel Lim

The lab continues to grow. We will be welcoming a new post-doc to the EMP Lab this fall: Daniel Lim, who will be coming to us from David DeSteno’s lab at Northeastern. Welcome, Daniel!