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Dr. Jean Decety

The University of Chicago
Department of Psychology
5848 South University Avenue
Chicago, IL 60637

Phone: (773) 834-3711
Fax: (773) 702-0886

Office: Kelly Hall, 308
Labs: Kelly Hall, 310, 312, 314 & 315
Child Neurosuite: Beecher 302 & 312
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Jean Decety


Dr. Jean Decety is the Irving B. Harris Distinguished Service Professor at the University of Chicago and the College.

Professor Decety received a Ph.D. in Neurobiology from the University Claude Bernard (France) in 1989, and then completed a two-year postdoctoral fellowship in Sweden, at Lund University Hospital and at the Karolinska Hospital in Stockholm in the Departments of Clinical Neurophysiology and Neuroradiology.

Dr. Decety is the Director of the Child NeuroSuite and the Social Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory.

Currently Jean Decety is on sabbatical at the University of Cape Town (South Africa) and will be back in residence at the end of June 2016.


Research Interests and Skills

  • Altruism and prosocial behavior
  • Affective neuroscience
  • Developmental social neuroscience
  • Developmental psychology
  • Emotion and empathy
  • Functional and structural neuroimaging
  • Justice motivation
  • Moral judgment and decision-making
  • Psychopathy
  • Social neuroscience


Selection of Recent Publications

Cowell, J. M., Lee, L., Malcolm-Smith, S., Selcuk, B., Zhou, X., & Decety, J. (2016). The development of generosity and moral cognition across cultures. Developmental Science, epub ahead of print.

Decety, J., Ben-Ami Bartal, I., Uzefovsky, F., & Knafo-Noam, A. (2016). Empathy as a driver of prosocial behavior: Highly conserved neurobehavioral mechanisms across species. Proceedings of the Royal Society London - Biology, 371, 20150077.

Hesse, E., Mikulan, E., Decety, J. Sigman, M., del Carmen Garcia, M., Silva, W., Ciraolo, C., Vaucheret, E., Baglivo, F., Huepe, D., Lopez, V., Manes, F., Bekinschtein, T. A., & Ibanez, A. (2016). Early detection of intentional harm in the human amygdala, Brain, 139 (1): 54-61.

Decety, J., Cowell, J. M., Lee, K., Mahasneh, R., Malcolm-Smith, S., Selcuk, B., & Zhou, X. (2015). The negative association between religiousness and children's altruism across the world. Current Biology, 25, 2951-2955.

Cowell, J., & Decety, J. (2015). Precursors to morality in development as a complex interplay between neural, socio-environmental, and behavioral facets. PNAS, 112 (41), 12657-12662.

Decety, J., & Cowell, J. M. (2015). Empathy, justice and moral behavior. American Journal of Bioethics – Neuroscience, 6(3): 1-12.

Yoder, K. J., Harenski, C., Kiehl, K. A., & Decety, J. (2015). Neural networks underlying implicit and explicit moral evaluations in psychopathy. Translational Psychiatry, 5, e625.

Decety, J., & Fotopoulou, A. (2015). Why empathy has a beneficial impact on others in medicine – Unifying theories. Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience, 8: 457

Cowell, J. M., & Decety, J. (2015). The neuroscience of implicit moral evaluation and its relation to generosity in early childhood. Current Biology, 25(1), 93-97.

Decety, J., & Cowell, J. M. (2014). The complex relation between morality and empathy. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 18(7). 337-339.

Yoder, K. J., & Decety, J. (2014). The good, the bad, and the just: Justice sensitivity predicts neural response during moral evaluation of actions performed by others. The Journal of Neuroscience, 34(12), 4161-4166.

Decety, J., Chen, C., Harenski, C. L., & Kiehl, K. A. (2013). An fMRI study of affective perspective taking in individuals with psychopathy: imagining another in pain does not evoke empathy. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 7:489.

Li, Y., Li, H., Decety, J., & Lee, K. (2013). Experiencing a natural disaster alters children's altruistic giving. Psychological Science, 24(9), 1686-1689.

Decety, J., & Cacioppo, S. (2012). The speed of morality: A high-density electrical neuroimaging study. Journal of Neurophysiology, 108, 3068–3072.

Cheng, Y., Hung, A., & Decety, J. (2012). Dissociation between affective sharing and emotion understanding in juvenile psychopaths. Development and Psychopathology, 24, 623-636.


Selection of Book Chapters

Decety, J. & Knafo, A. (2015). Empathy. In Brain Mapping: An Encyclopedic Reference, (vol. 3, pp. 191-194). New York: Elsevier.

Decety, J. (2014). Social neuroscience meets philosophy: suffering, empathy, and moral cognition. In R. M. Green and N. J. Palpant (Eds), Suffering and Bioethics (pp. 89-105). New York: Oxford University Press.

Decety, J. & Howard, L. (2013). A neurodevelopmental perspective on morality. In M. Killen and J. Smetana (Eds.), Handbook of Moral Development (pp. 454-474). Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Decety, J. (2011). Neuroscience of empathic responding. In S. Brown, L. Perner and R. Brown (Eds.), Self Interest and Beyond: Toward a New Understanding of Human Caregiving (pp. 109-132). Oxford University Press.


Books as an Editor

Social Cognition (2017). J. Sommerville and J. Decety (Eds). Taylor & Francis.

The Moral Brain: A Multidisciplinary Perspective (2015). J. Decety and T. Wheatley (Eds). MIT Press.

New Frontiers in Social Neuroscience (2014). J. Decety and Y. Christen (Eds). Springer.

Empathy: from Bench to Bedside (2012). J. Decety (Ed). MIT press.

The Oxford Handbook of Social Neuroscience (2011). J. Decety and J. T.  Cacioppo. Oxford University Press.

The Social Neuroscience of Empathy (2009). J. Decety and W. Ickes. MIT Press.

Interpersonal Sensitivity: Entering Others' World (2007). J. Decety and C. D.  Batson. Psychology Press.



  • Developmental social neuroscience
  • The empathic brain
  • Functional MRI and EEG/ERPs workshop
  • The Mind
  • Multidisciplinary perspectives on morality
  • Neuroscience and the media: How to separate the wheat from the chaff
  • Windows into the social brain


More Information

Dr. Jean Decety's Social Cognitive Neuroscience Lab and Child NeuroSuite.

Read our Department of Psychology newsletter on the Child Neurosuite.

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