LSAN alum Katie O’Connell has been awarded the 2023 Harold N. Glassman Distinguished Dissertation Award in the Social Sciences from Georgetown for her dissertation, “From Perception to Social Connection: Assessing Deficits and Modulation of Empathic Processes to Study Human Social Behavior,” which she defended in December 2021.
Katie’s dissertation was supported by a prestigious Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (F31) from the NIH’s National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Her work represented a seminal social scientific inquiry into the roots of empathy, and was completed during an unprecedented global pandemic that required Katie to reconfigure essential components of her dissertation research as she was conducting it–and also highlighted the essential nature of the questions she was addressing.
Katie’s dissertation combines social science with neuroscience, applying computational modeling and machine learning to better understand the interrelationships between aspects of empathy and social behavior.
The first study in her dissertation investigates the impacts of stroke on empathic accuracy, showing that the lower levels of social connectedness and social well-being commonly experienced by people with right-hemisphere strokes are associated with their increased difficulty reading others’ emotions. The second study explores whether a meditation training intervention can increase empathy and social connectedness in neurologically healthy adults.
Read more about it here.