Empathy Conference October 16–17, 2015 Insight Institute of Neurosurgery and Neuroscience – Flint, Michigan


The theme should be interpreted broadly. Topics may include, but are not limited to:

  • What is empathy? It is a cognitive process? an emotion? an attitude?
  • Is empathy a natural condition/capacity or a social condition/capacity?
  • Is it possible to verify that a person is empathetic or is feeling empathy?
  • Do mirror neurons provide insight into how empathy is experienced or the role it plays in our treatment of and attitudes about others? How useful is studying mirror neurons for understanding empathy?
  • Is there a clear difference between affective and cognitive empathy?
  • What exactly is Theory of Mind? What exactly do Sally-Anne test results show? Is having a compromised Theory of Mind (if that is possible) relevant to one’s ability to be empathetic?
  • At what age do people develop the capacity to be empathetic? In what way, if at all, does developing empathy facilitate other cognitive and emotional processes or abilities?
  • Can we teach people to be more empathetic? If so, how?
  • What social conditions foster or damage empathy?
  • Does society have an obligation to ensure conditions are met so that people can most successfully develop a capacity to be empathetic? If so, what would that mean?
  • What are the consequences of lacking empathy?
  • What is the connection between being moral or ethical and having empathy? Is empathy a necessary condition, sufficient condition, or only incidentally relevant to morality/ethics? Can empathy impede or prevent a person from acting morally or ethically?
  • Can empathy cause immoral or unethical behavior? If so, how or when?
  • If non-humans are capable of experiencing empathy, does that imply that non-humans are capable of morality? Why or why not?
  • Are humans the only beings capable of empathy? What evidence is relevant to that claim?
  • If humans are incapable of feeling empathy, does that mean they are incapable of being morally good or ethical?