Are We The Enemy? The Neuroscience of Conflict and Empathy

Thursday, November 30, 2017 - 6:30pm


Emile Bruneau

Research Associate, Annenberg School for Communications, University of Pennsylvania

Karen Ross

Department of Conflict Resolution, Human Security, and Global Governance at UMASS Boston

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On November 30, we are proud to be partnering with the MIT Museum as we host a provocative and fascinating evening of conversation. Join Dr. Emile Bruneau, Research Associate and Lecturer at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communication, to explore how human cognitive habits encourage bias, separation, and conflict. Can thinking about our own and others' experiences of conflict help us create new neural pathways to support empathy and reconciliation? Learn what happens in our brains in a virtual experience like The Enemy.

Bruneau is a neuroscientist specializing in intergroup conflict, focusing on the psychological processes relevant to intergroup conflict: empathy, dehumanization, and motivated reasoning, and involve target groups that are embroiled in intractable conflict (e.g., Israelis and Palestinians), or subject to extreme hostility (e.g., Muslims in the U.S., the Roma in Europe). Dr. Karen Ross of UMass Boston will offer a response to Bruneau's presentation and join in the discussion.

On October 5th, the MIT Museum will present the North American premiere of The Enemy, a ground-breaking exploration of how we view "the other" or the "enemy". According to the Museum's website, The Enemy, "conceived by acclaimed photojournalist Karim Ben Khelifa and further developed with MIT Professor D. Fox Harrell during a visiting artist residency hosted by MIT’s Center for Art, Science & Technology (CAST)...immerses participants in discussions about violence and humanity by using pioneering VR technology to present interviews with soldiers on opposite sides of conflicts in Israel and Palestine, The Congo, and El Salvador."

Creator Karim Ben Khelifa writes, “I hope the presentation of The Enemy at the MIT Museum creates a truly profound experience where the audience can rethink its notion of the Other,” says Karim Ben Khelifa. “I believe that walking within a VR space allows for tons of other emotions we cannot provoke in more conventional media, and it’s wonderful to have the opportunity to exhibit The Enemy here at MIT, which has been instrumental in the realization of the project.” In addition to creating The Enemy, Karim Ben Khelifa is an award-winning photojournalist and is widely known for his coverage of conflicts, including the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

We highly recommend viewing the virtual reality exhibit prior to the conversation on the 30th of November. Timed entry to The Enemy will be limited (5 per quarter hour) and pre-registration is strongly suggested. Please go here for registration and additional information.