My research interest lies in understanding why we feel empathy for some but not for others. Our ability for empathy is contingent on individual aptitude, interpersonal relations, and personal context. My research engages with the clinical study of trauma, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and developmental psychology as well as critical approaches to the study of film and performance. The combination of these different disciplines gives me the insight to isolate the specific circumstances that influence the way we perceive the “other” and ourselves, which lies at the heart of empathy.
In a first project on vulnerability and identification, I argue that vulnerability is a key aspect to be able to identify with others in pain. I use examples of contemporary art to show how art can create conditions for a viewer to experience this vulnerability within the identification process. In a second project, I compare the circumstances of a “perpetrator-system” with techniques appropriated by individual perpetrators when coercing others into acts of abuse. I found that extreme and isolated circumstances demoralize individuals and lead to violent behavior. Currently, my research focusses on identifying conditions that enhance empathy and on understanding how art can play a vital role in achieving this.