Jean Decety

Jean Decety
University of Chicago | UC · Department of Psychology and Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neuroscience

Master of Science and Ph.D. in Neuroscience

About

438
Publications
307,844
Reads
How we measure 'reads'
A 'read' is counted each time someone views a publication summary (such as the title, abstract, and list of authors), clicks on a figure, or views or downloads the full-text. Learn more
54,865
Citations
Introduction
Dr. Jean Decety investigates the cognitive and neural mechanisms underpinning affective and emotional processing, moral reasoning and social decision-making, empathy, and more generally interpersonal processes in both healthy individuals and atypical populations such as children with aggressive conduct disorder and psychopaths.
Additional affiliations
January 2011 - present
Favaloro University
January 2010 - present
September 2005 - present
University of Chicago
Position
  • Professor (Full)

Publications

Publications (438)
Article
Full-text available
Human social existence is characterized by an intuitive sense of fairness, concern for others, and the observance of cultural norms. This prosocial sensitivity is the foundation for adult morality, emanating from the sophisticated integration of emotional, motivational, and cognitive mechanisms across development. In this article, we discuss how an...
Article
Full-text available
While it is well established that individuals with psychopathy have a marked deficit in affective arousal, emotional empathy, and caring for the well-being of others, the extent to which perspective taking can elicit an emotional response has not yet been studied despite its potential application in rehabilitation. In healthy individuals, affective...
Article
Full-text available
Neuroscience research indicates that moral reasoning is underpinned by distinct neural networks including the posterior superior temporal sulcus (pSTS), amygdala, and ventromedial prefrontal cortex, which support communication between computational systems underlying the affective states, cognitions, and motivational processes. To characterize real...
Article
Full-text available
The ontogeny of human empathy is better understood with reference to the evolutionary history of the social brain. Empathy has deep evolutionary, biochemical, and neurological underpinnings. Even the most advanced forms of empathy in humans are built on more basic forms and remain connected to core mechanisms associated with affective communication...
Article
Full-text available
Empathy dysfunction is one of the core characteristics of youth with callous-unemotional (CU) traits. How such a dysfunction is associated with abnormal neural processing, however, remains to be determined. This study combined assessment of Hare Psychopathy Checklist Youth Version, pressure pain threshold, and event-related brain potentials elicite...
Article
Full-text available
Background Spontaneous cessation and reduction in smoking by pregnant women suggest that concern about others, or empathy, could be a malleable target for intervention. We examined various empathy-related processes in relations to reported and biochemically assessed smoking during pregnancy. Methods Participants were 154 pregnant women (M = 12.4 w...
Article
Full-text available
The ability to share and understand the distress of others is critical for successful social interactions and is a fundamental building block of morality. Psychopathy is a personality disorder that includes lack of empathy and concern for others. In the present study, functional MRI was used to examine neural responses and functional connectivity a...
Article
Moral conviction has the potential to inspire activism and change, but can also instigate divisiveness and great harm. Moreover, attitudes held with moral conviction are experienced as universal objective truths and are less likely to demonstrate social conformity. Some evidence suggests that holding strong moral views may be a consequence of a cog...
Article
Full-text available
Previous studies with men suggest that certain psychopathic traits vary with age. Specifically, younger men score higher on psychopathic traits measuring impulsive-antisocial behavior, including impulsivity, irresponsibility, and criminal versatility, compared to older men. On the other hand, younger and older men score comparably on psychopathic t...
Article
Identity, injustice, and group efficacy are key motivations for collective action engagement. However, little work has examined factors that influence their emergence. Across 3 studies (Total N = 938), we test whether exposure to different actions (i.e., radical or conventional) and the perceived legitimacy and efficacy of those actions (“the means...
Article
Full-text available
Middle childhood seems to be crucial for the emergence of a moral identity, that is, an evaluative stance of how important it is for someone's sense of self to be moral. This study investigates the effects of moral identity on the neural processing of moral content in 10-year-old children. Participants were presented with scenes portraying prosocia...
Article
Full-text available
Emotional intelligence (EI) is defined by the ability to perceive, manage, and reason about emotions in oneself and others. Studies have reported deficits in EI abilities among certain antisocial populations such as individuals with psychopathy, and enhanced performance among sexual offenders. Despite EI's relevance to offending behaviour, the asso...
Article
Empathy reflects the ability to perceive and be sensitive to the emotional states of others, often eliciting a motivation to care for their well-being. It plays a central role in prosocial behavior and inhibition of aggression. While the development of empathy has traditionally been examined with behavioral and observational methods, a growing body...
Article
Full-text available
One means by which humans maintain social cooperation is through intervention in third-party transgressions, a behaviour observable from the early years of development. While it has been argued that pre-school age children’s intervention behaviour is driven by normative understandings, there is scepticism regarding this claim. There is also little...
Article
Previous studies have associated adult men with elevated psychopathic traits with reduced endorsement of certain moral foundations measured with the Moral Foundations Questionnaire (MFQ), including Harm/Care (measuring one's concern for protecting individuals from harm) and Fairness/Reciprocity (measuring one's concern for the rights of individuals...
Article
Full-text available
Although empathy drives prosocial behaviors, it is not always a reliable source of information in moral decision making. In this essay, I integrate evolutionary theory, behavioral economics, psychology, and social neuroscience to demonstrate why and how empathy is unconsciously and rapidly modulated by various social signals and situational factors...
Article
Full-text available
Empathy reflects the ability to perceive and be sensitive to the emotional states of others, often associated with a motivation to care for their well-being. Empathy plays a pivotal role in motivating prosocial behavior. While the development of empathy has traditionally been examined with behavioral methods and observations, a growing body of work...
Article
During the COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen that people can adapt quickly to ensure that their social needs are met after being forced to isolate and socially distance. Many individuals turned immediately to music, as evidenced by people singing from balconies, watching live concerts on social media, and group singing online. In this article, we sho...
Article
Full-text available
Human social preferences are the product of gene-culture coevolution, and rely on predispositions that emerge early in development. These social preferences encompasse distinct motivations, mechanisms, and behaviors, that facilitate social cohesion and cooperation. Developmental social neuroscience critically contributes in elucidating the proximat...
Article
Full-text available
This study examined individual influences on child empathy, the relationship between child and parent empathy, and the relationship between empathy and prosociality across seven countries. A large sample of children (N = 792, 49% female) from the ages of 6–10 years completed a situational empathy task, as well as a dictator game to assess prosocial...
Article
Résumé L’empathie est un phénomène complexe dont la compréhension est améliorée par la distinction de ses dimensions émotionnelle, cognitive et motivationnelle, qui interagissent entre l’individu et son l’environnement dès le plus jeune âge. Des déficits précoces dans les processus empathiques peuvent conduire à des difficultés de socialisation qui...
Article
Full-text available
To understand when, how, and why people cheat, the ability to detect cheating in a laboratory setting is crucial. However, commonly used paradigms are confronted with a conflict between allowing participants to believe they can cheat unnoticed and allowing experimenters to detect cheating. This project aimed to develop and establish a new nonverbal...
Article
Full-text available
Much of social cognition requires making inferences about the mental and emotional states of others. Moreover, understanding the emotions of others is an important foundation for moral decision-making. Psychopathy is associated with both aberrant emotional understanding and atypical hemodynamic responses when viewing and evaluating morally laden so...
Article
Full-text available
The identification of human violence determinants has sparked multiple questions from different academic fields. Innovative methodological assessments of the weight and interaction of multiple determinants are still required. Here, we examine multiple features potentially associated with confessed acts of violence in ex-members of illegal armed gro...
Article
Full-text available
People are motivated by shared social values that, when held with moral conviction, can serve as compelling mandates capable of facilitating support for ideological violence. The current study examined this dark side of morality by identifying specific cognitive and neural mechanisms associated with beliefs about the appropriateness of sociopolitic...
Article
Full-text available
Social factors play a significant role in the health outcomes of those struggling with mental or physical health issues. People with mental illness experience more social stigmatization and receive less concern for their welfare than do those with physical illness. However, the cognitive and neural mechanisms by which such a bias in attitude arises...
Article
Full-text available
The Islamic State (ISIS) was uniquely effective among extremist groups in the Middle East at recruiting Westerners. A major way ISIS accomplished this was by adopting Hollywood-style narrative structures for their propaganda videos. In particular, ISIS utilized a heroic martyr narrative, which focuses on an individual’s personal glory and empowerme...
Article
Full-text available
Homicide is a significant societal problem with economic costs in the billions of dollars annually and incalculable emotional impact on victims and society. Despite this high burden, we know very little about the neuroscience of individuals who commit homicide. Here we examine brain gray matter differences in incarcerated adult males who have commi...
Article
Full-text available
Psychopathic individuals are notorious for their callous disregard for others' emotions. Prior research has linked psychopathy to deficits in affective mechanisms underlying empathy (e.g., affective sharing), yet research relating psychopathy to cognitive mechanisms underlying empathy (e.g., affective perspective-taking and Theory of Mind) requires...
Preprint
Full-text available
People are motivated by shared social values that, when held with moral conviction, can serve as compelling mandates capable of facilitating support for ideological violence. The current study examined this dark side of morality by identifying specific cognitive and neural mechanisms associated with beliefs about the appropriateness of sociopolitic...
Preprint
Forgiveness - a shift in motivation away from retaliation and avoidance towards increased goodwill for the perceived wrongdoer - is vital for restoring social relationships and positively impacts personal wellbeing and society at large. Parsing the psychological and neurobiological mechanisms of forgiveness contributes theoretical clarity, yet has...
Article
One hallmark of human morality is a deep sense of fairness. People are motivated by both self-interest and a concern for the welfare of others. However, it remains unclear whether these motivations rely on similar neural computations, and the extent to which such computations influence social decision-making when self-fairness and other-fairness mo...
Article
Full-text available
Expressions of emotion represent an important and unique source of information about the states of others. Being able to effectively understand expressions of emotions to make inferences about others' internal mental states and use these inferences to guide decision-making and behavior is critical to navigating social relationships. Loneliness, the...
Article
Forgiveness-a shift in motivation away from retaliation and avoidance towards increased goodwill for the perceived wrongdoer-is vital for restoring social relationships and positively impacts personal wellbeing and society at large. Parsing the psychological and neurobiological mechanisms of forgiveness contributes theoretical clarity, yet has rema...
Article
Full-text available
Résumé La psychopathie correspond à un cluster de traits de personnalité caractérisé par des symptômes de détachement émotionnel, un manque d’empathie, de culpabilité et de remords, une irresponsabilité, combinés à une propension à avoir des comportements impulsifs. Cet article évalue de façon critique la contribution de la neuro-imagerie anatomiqu...
Article
Résumé L’empathie a bonne presse. Elle est reconnue pour avoir un impact positif dans la pratique clinique. Cependant, la profession médicale se débat pour parvenir à un équilibre entre la distance clinique et l’empathie. Trop de sensitivité aux émotions exprimées par les patients, sans régulation appropriée, peut conduire à de l’anxiété, au stress...
Article
Humans are social beings, and acts of prosocial behavior may be influenced by social comparisons. To study the development of prosociality and the impact of social comparisons on sharing, we conducted experiments with nearly 2500 children aged 3-12 years across 12 countries across five continents. Children participated in a dictator game where they...
Article
It is acknowledged that empathy plays a critical role in the physician-patient relationship and has a positive impact on health outcomes. However, as the field of empathy expands, the lack of conceptual coherence challenges advances in medicine. In fact, in some cases there is little added theoretical or clinical value in applying the all-encompass...
Article
How does feeling hungry affect children's sharing and evaluations of others' moral decision making? To examine this question, we gave 4- to 9-year-old children the opportunity to share resources with an anonymous other child and to evaluate third-party resource allocation decisions between hungry and full recipients. We also measured children's sub...
Chapter
Full-text available
The neuroscience of empathy is an active area of research that has led to fundamental contributions to our understanding of its cognitive mechanisms and neural circuitry. However, these contributions to knowledge do not constitute a new “brain-based ethics” or the like. Rather, we argue that, situated within an interdisciplinary neuroethics framewo...
Article
Full-text available
Psychopathy is a personality disorder defined by antisocial behavior paired with callousness, low empathy, and low interpersonal emotions. Psychopathic individuals reliably display complex atypicalities in emotion and attention processing that are evident when examining task performance, activation within specific neural regions, and connections be...
Article
Humans are motivated by justice concerns, yet vary in their reactions to observing or experiencing injustice. At a proximate level, approach and avoidance represent core fundamental motivational systems which have been proposed to be involved in two independent moral systems: a prescriptive system responsive to obligations (“shoulds”) and a proscri...
Article
Full-text available
There is extensive evidence of an association between early adversity and enduring neural changes that impact socioemotional processing throughout life. Yet little is known about the effects of on-going social discrimination on socioemotional functioning. Here we examined how cumulative experiences of social discrimination impact brain response dur...
Article
Full-text available
There are many different ways that people can express their support for the animals that exist in factory farms. This study draws on insights from the social identity approach, and adopts novel methods (latent profile analysis [LPA]) to examine the qualitatively different subgroups or profiles that comprise broader community positions on this issue...
Article
The ability to distinguish between mere equality in resource distributions and fairness based on a broader range of contextual factors is of paramount importance in social decision making and is a critical component of morality. Children's developmental shift from viewing inequality as a dichotomous moral issue toward a more nuanced understanding o...
Article
Full-text available
Empathy is known to motivate prosocial behavior. This relationship, however, is complex and influenced by the social context and the type of prosocial behavior. Additionally, empathy is a complex psychological capacity, making it important to examine how different components influence different prosocial behaviors. The current study uses a unique l...
Article
Full-text available
Studies have used resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging (rs-fMRI) to examine associations between psychopathy and brain connectivity in selected regions of interest as well as networks covering the whole-brain. One of the limitations of these approaches is that brain connectivity is modeled as a constant state through the scan duratio...
Article
Adults demonstrate aesthetic preferences for natural environments over urban ones. This preference has influenced theories like Biophilia to explain why nature is beneficial. While both adults and children show cognitive and affective benefits after nature exposure, it is unknown whether children demonstrate nature preferences. In the current study...
Article
Full-text available
Moral identity, or moral self, is the degree to which being moral is important to a person’s self-concept. It is hypothesized to be the “missing link” between moral judgment and moral action. However, its cognitive and psychophysiological mechanisms are still subject to debate. In this study, we used Event-Related Potentials (ERPs) to examine wheth...
Article
Social interactions require the capacity to understand both our and other’s internal states. These semi-independent skills, the ability to understand oneself and others, seem to rely on the same type of representations and recruit similar brain areas. In this study, we looked at the neural basis of self and other processing in the context of an int...
Article
Affective and Interpersonal Psychopathic Traits Associated with Reduced Corpus Callosum Volume among Male Inmates – Retraction - Nathaniel E. Anderson, J. Michael Maurer, Prashanth Nyalakanti, Keith A. Harenski, Carla L. Harenski, Michael R. Koenigs, Jean Decety, Kent A. Kiehl
Article
Full-text available
We examined explicit and implicit processes in response to third‐party moral transgressions in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Twenty 4‐ to 7‐year‐old children with ASD and 19 typically developing controls evaluated dynamic visual stimuli depicting intentional or accidental harm to persons or damage to objects. Moral evaluations, eye...
Preprint
Full-text available
Adults demonstrate aesthetic preferences for natural environments over urban ones. This preference has influenced theories like Biophilia to explain why nature is beneficial. While both adults and children show cognitive and affective benefits after nature exposure, it is unknown whether children demonstrate nature preferences. In the current study...
Article
Full-text available
Differences between males and females have been extensively documented in biological, psychological, and behavioral domains. Among these, sex differences in the rate and typology of antisocial behavior remains one of the most conspicuous and enduring patterns among humans. However, the nature and extent of sexual dimorphism in the brain among antis...
Article
Background Psychopathy is a personality disorder associated with severe emotional and interpersonal consequences and persistent antisocial behavior. Neurobiological models of psychopathy emphasize impairments in emotional processing, attention, and integration of information across large-scale neural networks in the brain. One of the largest integr...
Article
Full-text available
A concern for fairness is a fundamental and universal element of morality. To examine the extent to which cultural norms are integrated into fairness cognitions and influence social preferences regarding equality and equity, a large sample of children (N 2,163) aged 4–11 were tested in 13 diverse countries. Children participated in three versions o...
Article
Full-text available
Despite the automaticity of affective sharing, many studies have documented the role of top-down effects and such as social categorization on people's empathic responses. An important question, largely ignored in previous research, concerns empathy to ingroup and outgroup members' pain in the contexts of ongoing intergroup conflict. In the present...
Article
Full-text available
Age is one of the best predictors of antisocial behavior. Risk models of recidivism often combine chronological age with demographic, social and psychological features to aid in judicial decision-making. Here we use independent component analyses (ICA) and machine learning techniques to demonstrate the utility of using brain-based measures of cereb...
Article
Full-text available
Background: Psychopathy is a personality disorder characterized by interpersonal and emotional abnormalities (e.g., lack of empathy and guilt) and antisocial behavior. Psychopathy has been associated with a number of structural brain abnormalities, most notably in orbital frontal and anterior/medial temporal regions, that may underlie psychopathic...