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Rewiring morality How to nurture and sustain empathy Dan Reisel Research Associate, UCL

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Overview of session Questions for us to consider this morning‌

Background theme: - How to achieve a balance of empathy? 1. Where does empathy come from? 2. How does learning happen in the brain? 3. How can empathy be nurtured and sustained?

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How to achieve a balance of empathy?

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Pieter Breugel, 1560

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Katharina Ross, 2006

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“The origins of evil are enlightenment and its neighbours� - Zygmunt Bauman

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“The reason they can never answer the question “How could it possibly happen?” is that it's the wrong question. Given what people are, the question is “Why doesn't it happen more often?” - Woody Allen

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1. Where does empathy come from?

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Evidence from cognitive archaeology

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Evidence from cognitive archaeology

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Evidence from cognitive archaeology

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Evidence from cognitive archaeology

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Evidence from developmental psychology

Baillargeon et al, 1985. @danreisel

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Evidence from the attachment tradition

Maine and Weston (1981), based on Ainsworth’s Strange Situation (Ainsworth et al. 1978)

Secure with both parents

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Secure with mother, insecure with father

Insecure with mother, secure with father

Insecure with both parents

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Evidence from developmental anthropology

Tomasello et al, 2004

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Helping

Evidence from developmental anthropology

Tomasello et al, 2004 @danreisel

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Emergence of language and complex emotions

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Rosenberg et al, 2013. @danreisel

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Brain regions involved in moral cognition

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Brain regions involved in moral cognition

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Brain regions involved in moral cognition

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Title

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Physiological responses to emotional situations

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Physiological responses to emotional situations

Blair et al. 1997

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Antisocial personality traits = reduced amygdala activation

L

R

Boccardi et al, 2011.

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Overview of amygdala function  preferentially processes certain key emotions, including fear, anger, and sadness (Morris, Ohman, & Dolan 1998; Blair et al. 1999; Adams et al. 2003; Killgore &Wilson et al. 2001)  is reduced in ‘psychopaths’ (Blair et al. 2007; Boccardi et al. 2011)  reduced in behaviourally disrupted adolescents (Marsh et al. 2008)  left amygdala relatively larger in major depression (Marvalaa et al. 2010) @danreisel

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2. How does learning happen in the brain?

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Mechanisms of learning: synaptic plasticity

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Increased numbers of receptors

Increased release of neurotransmitters

Sprouting of new terminal boutons

More effective dendritic spines

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Mechanisms of learning: neurogenesis

Elizabeth Gould Lab @danreisel

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Mechanisms of learning: epigenetics

Johansen et al. 2011 Reisel et al, 2001 @danreisel

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3. How can empathy be nurtured and sustained?

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Restorative Justice: a way to rewire the brain?

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‘Getting to the gold’

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Ivan Pavlov (1849 – 1936) @danreisel

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Intact empathy towards self in ‘psychopaths’

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Amygdala activation

Intact empathy towards self in ‘psychopaths’

Jean Decety et al. 2013. @danreisel

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Peter Singer: The Expanding Circle (1981)

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Restorative facilitation in the NHS

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“Now! That should clear up a few things around here!” @danreisel

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Summary of session

How to achieve a balance of empathy?

1. Where does empathy come from? Evolutionary history, early years, life long potential

2. How does learning happen in the brain? Synaptic plasticity, neurogenesis, epigenetic modification

1. How can empathy be nurtured and sustained? Power of restorative approaches, expanding the circle, role of art/design

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How to achieve a balance of empathy?

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Joop Picard @danreisel

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Over to you‌.

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Dan reisel