24 October 2013, 17.30 – 18.30

Special Mind-Brain Lecture: Tania Singer (Berlin)

“The human potential for empathy, compassion, and altruism from the perspective of social neuroscience”

With the emergence of social neuroscience, researchers have started to investigate the underpinnings of social emotions such as empathy and compassion as well as social cognition. After a definition of concepts, I will shortly revise the main results of neuroscientific studies investigating empathic brain responses elicited by the observation of others in pain and show how these empathic brain responses are modulated by several contextual and stimulus intrinsic factors. Furthermore, I will present data from several novel paradigms allowing the assessment of emotional egocentricity bias in children and adults as well as the underlying neuronal mechanisms necessary to overcome such biased socio-affective judgements. I will then provide empirical evidence for socio-affective brain plasticity after mental training of empathy or compassion. While empathy training enhanced negative affect and activation in brain networks associated with suffering, compassion training resulted in an increase of positive affect and activation in brain networks associated to affiliation and care. More importantly, the latter also enhanced prosocial behavior. Finally, I will introduce the ReSource Project, a large-scale one-year mental training program on compassion that consists of training different cognitive and socio-affective faculties crucial for the development of prosocial motivation and compassion. These faculties include attention, interoceptive awareness, perspective taking and meta-cognition, prosocial motivation, and acceptance of difficult emotions. I will discuss the relevance of the ReSource study in relation to other fields such as economy, clinical sciences, neuroeconomics or the emergence of the field of contemplative neurosciences.

Prof. Dr. Tania Singer 
Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Department of Social Neuroscience



Berlin School of Mind and Brain
Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
Luisenstraße 56
FESTSAAL, 2nd floor
10117 Berlin


Dr. Anna Strasser
030 / 2093-1738
mb-postdocs-please remove this text-@hu-berlin.de