What makes human beings social, able to see another’s point of view, while still remaining ourselves? Where do we get the pleasure of exchanging, helping each other and doing things together? What about the great apes, our closest cousins? And do rats have empathy? Is this ability at the origin of species’ evolution, or even the development of human civilizations?
To find out, we’ll mix several approaches from philosophy, aesthetics, to psychology, neuroscience and natural science. Using the observations from ethnologists or experimental simulations, primatologists will show the social behavior of animals while psychologists will show the ontogeny of this behavior in children.
Using cerebral imaging will allow us to see what is happening in a brain experiencing empathy, such as when we’re having a hard time identifying other people’s emotions and intentions. By filming experimental simulations in primatology, psychology and neuroscience, as well as the spontaneous interactions between children and between primates, we show how empathy is elaborated in its complexity.
Empathy is both the emotional ability to feel that which the other feels and the cognitive ability to understand emotions, desires and intentions in order to adopt a point of view. The film will also demonstrate how empathy issues are present in brains, be they those of adult schizophrenics or street children in Sierra Leone who were the victims of trauma from the war and abandonment. Could behavioral therapies result from this? Could a hormone like oxytocin give us a better understanding of social behavior and re-establish empathy?
Empathy, the Heart's Intelligence travels deep within ourselves to see where we get our taste for others as well as our taste for living.
Researchers featured in this documentary:
Dr. Angela Sirigu, Research Director, Centre for Cognitive Neuroscience CNRS
Bérangère Thirious, Laboratory of Physiology of Perception and Action, CNRS
Michael Tomasello, Director of the Department of Developmental and Comparative Psychology, Max Planck Institute
Malinda Carpenter, Professor of Developmental Psychology, School of Psychology and Neuroscience, University of Saint Andrews, Scotland and Max Planck Institute
Robert Hepach, PhD in developmental psychology and researcher
Maria Plötner, Postdctoral research fellow in developmental psychology
Martina Ardizzi, PhD student, Department of Neuroscience - University of Parma
Vittoria Gallese, M.D. Professor of Physiology, Department of Neuroscience - University of Parma
Peggy Mason, Neurobiology professor, University of Chicago
Philippe Rochat, Professor of Psychology, Emory University, Atlanta