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8:50 – 10:50am Session One

Empathy, Compassion and Altruism in Psychology

Moderator: JEANNE TSAI, Ph.D, Psychology, Stanford University
PAUL EKMAN, Ph.D, Professor Emeritus, Psychology, UC San Francisco
TRACY SPINRAD, Ph.D, Psychology, Arizona State University, Tempe
Discussant: ROBERT SAPOLSKY, Ph.D, Biological Sciences and Neurology, Stanford University

Darwin, Compassion and the Dalai Lama:

Presented by Paul Ekman, Ph.D.

University of California, San Francisco

Darwin’s views of compassion and morality are near identical with those of the Dalai Lama. I
discuss six pathways by which Darwin might have directly, or indirectly learned about Buddhist
thinking. I then present a new formulation of compassion which distinguishes:

Emotion Recognition
Identical Resonance
Reactive Resonance
Familial Compassion
Global Compassion
Sentient Compassion
Immediate Heroic Compassion
Considered Heroic Compassion

Research questions raised by these distinctions are elucidated.

Empathy-related responding: A Developmental Psychology Perspective

Presented by Tracy L. Spinrad, Ph.D.

Arizona State University

Psychologists have increasingly recognized the importance of empathy in moral and

socioemotional development. In this paper, we begin by defining the constructs of empathy,
sympathy, and personal distress. We argue that these distinctions are critical when attempting to
predict prosocial behavior (i.e., voluntary behavior intended to benefit another, such as helping and
sharing). In fact, empathy-related responding (particularly sympathy) has been associated with
prosocial behavior, whereas personal distress reactions often have been unassociated or negatively
related to helping behaviors. In this talk, we review research on the relations of empathy-related
responding to prosocial behaviors. In addition, we discuss research on findings concerning the
relation of empathy-related responding to individual differences in emotionality and emotion-related
regulation. Examples of research, particularly from research in our laboratory, are provided as


1. As a developmental psychologist, I am particularly interested in the origins of

empathy/prosocial behavior. I would be interested in a discussion of the role of both
cognitions and emotions in the development of empathy/compassion, with a consideration
for the limited capabilities of young children.
2. How will parents’ socialization practices impact the development of prosocial behavior?
What is the process? What are the factors that mediate (or perhaps moderate) the role of
parenting on prosocial development?
3. We have often found sex differences in children’s empathy or prosocial behavior (favoring
girls). How can we explain this and how can we promote compassion in boys?
4. I would be very interested in understanding prosocial development in atypical samples
(children with autism or other developmental challenges).
5. How do environmental factors (e.g., socialization, poverty, stress) contribute to the
physiological correlates of empathy/sympathy?