Message from Project Leader

Toshikazu Hasegawa

The theme of research in this innovative area is “The Empathetic Systems”.

Empathy, or sympathy, has been discussed for a long time as one of the most fundamental and primitive moral feelings that enables the high level social lives of human beings. In “The Theory of Moral Sentiments”, Adam Smith argued that social order resulted from the behavior of sympathizing with others and attracting the sympathy of others. In “The Descent Of Man”, Charles Darwin says, “It can hardly be doubted” that sympathy “was originally developed through natural selection as one of the most important elements of the social instincts.”

The progress of modern sciences has been steadily building up the positive proofs that back up the thinking of these predecessors, so we decided to face a challenge of scientifically understanding of the empathy in this project.

Empathy of course is the main subject of our project, but we decided to handle not only empathy alone but the empathetic systems which covers wider and successive range of empathy, from emotional contagion stretching across the origins of empathy, to sympathy influenced by higher cognitive functions. We believe that this trial will enable us to uncover the evolutionary origin and neural basis of the empathetic systems we are aiming at, and to promote interdisciplinary joint research much easier.

Fusion of the humanities, social sciences and life sciences is one of the typical examples of a saying “Easy to say but hard to do.”

While social neuroscience has been rapidly progressed in recent years by achieving considerable understanding down to the level of systems in the human brain related to social emotions and social decision-making, it has not extended beyond correlational studies to the research on causal relationship between systems and neural networks or molecules.

In this project, we intend to identify theories and proofs combining micro and macro, animals and human through in-depth investigation of the Empathetic Systems expanding to the research on animals. Consequently, we believe that our findings could further clarify the distinctive character of human society and propose solutions for various social issues brought by group emotion and social emotion.


Since we are challenging of creating an innovative research area “The Empathetic Systems”, we welcome your frank comments or suggestions. Thank you.

August 2013
Toshikazu Hasegawa