Jean Decety is a French-American neuroscientist. He is the Irving B. Harris Distinguished Service Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry at the University of Chicago and its College. Decety is Director of the Social Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory. His work and teaching focus on social cognition, particularly morality, empathy, social influence, and prosocial behavior. His discoveries have led to new understandings of social-emotional processes in children and adults, as well as in incarcerated criminal psychopaths. His research uses neuroimaging techniques (structural and functional MRI, and high-density EEG), coupled with methods from cognitive psychology and behavioral economics to determine how biological and social factors dynamically interact in contributing to decision-making and the motivation to care for the welfare of others. Jean Decety currently explores the impact of extreme ethnic violence on children's distributive justice decisions, and considerations of justice and fairness. This research is being conducted in different African countries. Decety also examines how and why strong moral convictions can facilitate engagement in violent actions.
Behavioral economics, Developmental psychology, Morality, Neurobiology, Sociality, Social decision-making
Building bridges between social sciences and biological sciences: The scope of social neuroscience
When interdisciplinary analyses integrate approaches from the social sciences and biological sciences, they significantly expand theoretical knowledge. The theoretical insights gleaned also have the potential to improve social and material living conditions. Social neuroscience is an academic discipline that examines how the brain mediates social cognition and behavior. It provides an overarching paradigm to investigate human behavior, and to determine where we, as a species, fit within a broader biological context. Many biological processes, rather than being fixed, immutable mechanisms that consign people to particular life outcomes, are instead fluid, dynamic responses to features of the social and physical environments humans inhabit. The emphasis of social neuroscience is on the functions that emerge through the coaction and interaction of conspecifics, the biological mechanisms underlying these functions, and the commonality and differences across social species. It is a complex inter-disciplinary perspective that demands theoretical, methodological, statistical, and inferential rigor to effectively integrate knowledge across levels of analysis, from cells to societies. The aim of this collaborative research project is to contribute to the interaction between the biological sciences and the social sciences, trace causation across levels of organization, identify fertile paradigms and areas of future inquiry, all while illuminating the societal implications of that knowledge beyond academia.
Decety, Jean (Ed), The Social Brain – A Developmental Perspective, MIT Press, 2020, 440 p.
Decety J., Wheatley T., (Eds), The Moral Brain: A Multidisciplinary Perspective, MIT Press, 2015, 338 p.
Decety, Jean, Cacioppo, John T. (Eds), The Oxford Handbook of Social Neuroscience, Oxford University Press, 2011, 1128 p. http://doi.org/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780195342161.001.0001
Decety, J. (2021). Why empathy is not a reliable source of information in moral decision making. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 30(5), 425-430.