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Durham University

Department of Physics


What are the origins of empathy? (Psychology)

15th February 2020, 10:30, Calman Learning Centre, Diane Austry, Jake Brooker Centre for the Coevolution of Biology and Culture

Empathy - the ability to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes - is a core feature of what it means to be human. It is central to the human experience, from our social and romantic lives to engaging with politics and marketing in our wider society. However, we know little about how our empathy develops early in life, or the extent to which we share such abilities with our closest living relatives, the great apes.

Our research has taken us to the miombo woodland in Zambia and the Congolese forest, stopping by UK nurseries and Zambian villages to investigate how chimpanzees, bonobos and human children experience andrespond to the emotions of others. To do so, we observed conflict preventionand resolution, as well as underlying physiological mechanisms, measured using thermal-imaging technology. Our projects aim to extend our knowledge of what it means to be a social and emotional creature in a complex society.

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