About the project

Until recently, research on social cognition has been dominated by the view that interpersonal understanding is either theoretical in nature or comes about through some form of simulation.

During the last 5-10 years this view has been challenged by a new paradigm which claims that there are more basic and direct forms of interpersonal understanding than those employing theoretical inferences and/or internal simulations. Frequently the importance of empathy has been highlighted, and some even refer to the possibility of a form of direct social perception.

The aim of the research project "Empathy and Interpersonal Understanding" is to contribute to this current debate by investigating two questions:

1) What is empathy and what role does it play in interpersonal understanding?

2) To what extent does interpersonal understanding presuppose a common social and cultural background?

In its treatment of these questions, the research project will at the same time consider a number of very recent objections that have been made against the new proposal and thereby contribute to a critical reassessment of this research paradigm.

Is it a real alternative to the traditional Theory of Mind positions?

Is it able to counter the objections?

The research project is interdisciplinary in nature and will involve collaboration between philosophers, developmental psychologists, psychiatrists, neuroscientists and anthropologists.

Individual projects

Read about the individual projects which are a part of the research project "Empathy and Interpersonal Understanding".