The role of past experiences in empathy

  • Tue 20 Oct 20

    16:00 - 17:00

  • Online


  • Event speaker

    Dr Federica Meconi

  • Event type

    Lectures, talks and seminars

  • Event organiser

    Psychology, Department of

  • Contact details

    Dr Matteo Lisi

How is empathy related to our own past experiences? Find out more from Dr Federica Meconi

Empathy is a rich and multifaceted process; it encompasses the ability to mirror (i.e. experience sharing) and to explicitly infer others’ inner states (i.e. mentalising). It is at the basis of our ability to bond with other people and interact in a meaningful way.

Since we cannot fully experience what someone else is feeling, a big challenge in psychological research is to understand how empathy occurs.

Over the last decade, the field has focused on the characteristics, be they of the perceiver, i.e. the person who experiences an emotion in first-hand, or of the observer, i.e. the person who experiences empathy, that influence the neural response associated with the empathic processes.

Theoretical accounts suggest we use our own mind and experience as a model to represent others' inner states. Neuroimaging studies have shown that empathic abilities and autobiographical memory (AM) partly share a brain network of fronto-parietal areas, suggesting that the two cognitive functions might be related.

In this talk, Dr Meconi will first present studies that investigated the functional dissociation of experience sharing and mentalising and the characteristics, either of the perceiver or of the observer, that influence the neural response associated to these processes. She will then present the results from her recent research project, which showed direct evidence of memories reactivation when participants are asked to judge their empathy awareness for others’ inner states.


Dr Federica Meconi is a Senior Research Fellow at the University of Birmingham.

How to attend

This seminar will be held on Zoom. To receive a Zoom link please email Dr Giulia Poerio (g.poerio@essex.ac.uk) or Dr Matteo Lisi (m.lisi@essex.ac.uk) with the date and title of the seminar you wish to attend.

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