The Cognitve Neuroscience of Empathy: You're a DevOps Natural
1. The Cognitive Neuroscience of
Empathy: You’re a DevOps Natural
empathy is a popular topic in the field, Jeff and others
WE already know we can be empathic now we have proof, that’s what I’ll aim to
maybe throw in a bit on Nigel’s cognitive biases
2. Cognitive Science
Thank you! Cog Sci, NIH, research asst, C programmer, subject, those brain
pictures are me!
Grasping likely learned but imitation happens even in babies, sticking tongue out
We naturally build social system between two entities, this feedback loops feeds into the idea of
empathy, we create one shared mind!
2 neuroscientists from St. Andrews U movie Lake Victoria, Uganda, Mawa and Baluku one monkey
imitates nut cracking in other, feedback loops!
8. “I predict that mirror neurons will do for
psychology what DNA did for biology”
- V.S. RAMACHANDRAN
...they will provide a unifying framework and help explain a host of mental
abilities that have hitherto remained mysterious and inaccessible to
● just activated all your mirror neurons! has implications for free will, Why is
● “what is his emotion, how do you know, what is he thinking about, how do
● did experiments where mimic’d facial expressions like surprise, disgust
(mirror system -> anterior insula - > limbic system)
● Our brains want to naturally connect, be social
● random dots moving ascribed intention and anthropomorphization (get this
animation?!) (big dot little dot?), we can’t help but want to connect
11. Empathy is not merely understanding
someone else’s feelings, empathy is
actually experiencing someone else’s
feelings, as a way of arriving at an
● More advanced models beyond simple mirroring (Harvard, UCLA, Stanford
● experience (mirror, emot contagen)= identify, mental = understand,
prosocial = action
● our "default network" spends its time trying to understand other humans,
(mPFC) why would evolution pick that?!
● Need to ensure survival of the group.
● “When we empathize with someone, we must first detect a mind that can
feel pain, “ (Leor Hackel)
● False belief paradigm (Sally-Anne test) age 4 & autism (theory of mind) -
looks like Outcome bias to me!
by default use default network, our default tendency is to adopt intentional
engage mPFC because attribute mindfulness to the error (fundamental
disposition) as opposed to situational
● some parts of the default network,missing TPJ and other in default network
● What do we know about empathizing at a group level?
● we mentalize about groups in the same ways we mentalize about
● Out of group members evoke less activation in the mPFC, we empathize
less with out-group! (what does this mean for silos!)
● lower threshold to mind perception for in-group unless outgroup
considered a threat
● this is why silos are bad, much better to go with Spotify x-func model
16. It is useless to attempt to reason a man
out of a thing he was never reasoned into
- Jonathan Swift
● What can we do about it?
● Need to show each other how we are the same, not make rational
walter story - could have appealed to reason (devops, etc), instead went with
● Brain Mapper Tanya Singer found that the women activated the pain distress
network in the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (dACC) and the anterior insula
regions of the brain (see Figure 3.2) regardless of who was receiving painful
stimulation. (but only sensory areas when being shocked) These women could say
to their boyfriends with a straight face, “I feel your pain.”)
● CYBERBALL - Tylenol worked (can fix psych/neuro pain with phys pain drugs)!
● subjects believed that they and two other individuals were simultaneously having
their brains scanned while they played the videogame over the Internet, when
rejected, saw increased activity in dACC, just like real pain,
● Need to praise more, activate those opiod and dopaminergic receptors, it’s
•Go multi modal!
•Perceivers want to be evaluated positively by others, and the presence of
another surveilling mind can therefore increase socially desirable behavior.
•Priming the presence of a mindful God therefore prompts less cheating ,
and more generous donations in an economic exchange
•managers, let your groups know you expect them to work together and
succeed and you will be there to help
•Give people a chance first! Trust them. They are more inclined to help than
•What % of people would give blood for $15 vs. free, underestimated by 50%,
•People have known about the empathy being experiencing the experience of others for thousands of
•The Golden Rule - Christian Keysers
• Jesus said, “In everything, do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the
prophets” (Matthew 7:12);
•the Prophet Muhammad said, “Not one of you truly believes until you wish for others what you wish
for yourself” (13th of the 40 Hadiths of Nawawi);
•Buddha said, “Treat not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful” (Udana-Varga 5.1);
•and Hillel summarized the entire Torah as, “What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor. This
is the whole Torah; all the rest is commentary. Go and learn it” (Talmud, Shabbath 31a).
•It does not say, treat others as they would like to be treated, there is a recognition that you are an
active participant in the empathic resonance
•Now we can use this knowledge, confident with a basis in scientific fact, to advance the true meaning
of DevOps to everyone
23. Thank you!
Sylvia Morelli, PhD
John VanMeter, PhD
24. Selected Bibliography
● Brain Rules by John Medina
● The Empathic Brain: How the Discovery of Mirror Neurons Changes our Understanding of
Human Nature by Christian Keysers
● Mirroring People: The Science of Empathy and How We Connect with Others by Marco Iacoboni
● Social: Why Our Brains are Wired to Connect by Matthew Lieberman
● Moran, J., Jolly, E., Mitchell, J., 2014. Spontaneous Mentalizing Predicts the Fundamental
Attribution Error. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience 26:3, 569-576.
● Spunt R., Lieberman, D, 2012. An integrative model of the neural systems supporting the
comprehension of observed emotional behavior. NeuroImage 59, 3050-3059.
● Rameson, L., Morelli, S., Lieberman, M., 2011. The Neural Correlates of Empathy: Experience,
Automaticity, and Prosocial Behavior. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience 24:1, 235-245.
● Zaki, J., Ochsner, K., 2012. The neuroscience of empathy: progress, pitfalls and promise. Nature
Neuroscience 15:5. 675-680.
25. Artwork Credits
3: "EdSciFest 2014 (7)" by Vera de Kok - Own work. Licensed under Creative
Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://
5: By Yann (Own work) CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://
creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
7: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/ https://flic.kr/p/6r9WeL
13: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/ https://flic.kr/p/6naSHt
17: By Dirk Ingo Franke (Own work) [CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/
licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
18: https://www.flickr.com/photos/sneuweger/10418151535 https://
19: By Asim18 (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/
26. Additional References
● Morelli, S., Rameson, L., Lieberman, M., 2012. The neural components of empathy: Predicting daily prosocial
behavior. SCAN, 1 of 9.
● Waytz, A., Young, L., 2012. The Group-Member Mind Trade-Off:Attributing Mind to Groups Versus Group Members.
Psychological Science 23 (1), 77-85.
● Cikara, M., Bruneau, E., Saxe, R., in press. Us and Them: Intergroup Failures of Empathy.
● Cikara, M., Eberhardt, J., Fiske, S., 2011. From Agents to Objects: Sexist Attitudes and Neural Responses to
Sexualized Targets. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience 23:3, 540–551.
● Contreras, J. M., Schirmer, J., Banaji M., Mitchell J., 2013. Common Brain Regions with Distinct Patterns of Neural
Responses during Mentalizing about Groups and Individuals. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience 25:9, 1406-1417.
● Hackel, L., Looser, C., Van Bavel, J. J., 2014. Group membership alters the threshold for mind perception: The role of
social identity, collective identification, and intergroup threat. Journal of Experimental Psychology 52, 15-23.
● Gutsell, J., Inzlicht, M., 2012. Intergroup differences in the sharing of emotive states: neural evidence of an empathy
gap. SCAN 7, 596-603.
● Waytz, A., Gray, K., Epley, N., Wegner, D., 2010. Causes and consequences of mind perception. Trends in Cognitive
Sciences 14, 383-388.
● Falk, E., Morelli, S., Welborn, B., Dambacher, K., Lieberman, M., 2013. Creating Buzz: The Neural Correlates of
Effective Message Propagation. Psychological Science XX(X), 1-9.
● Morelli, S., Lieberman, M., Zaki, J., in press. The emerging study of positive empathy. Social and Personality
● Morelli, S., Torre, J., Eisenberger, N., 2014. The neural bases of feeling understood and not understood. SCAN, 1-7.
● Rameson, L., Lieberman, M., 2009. Empathy: A Social Cognitive Neuroscence Approach. Social and Personality
Psychology Compass 3/1, 94-110.