EMPATHICA is a software program designed to help people understand and resolve conflicts. It is based on the hope that increasing empathy (mutual understanding of values and emotions) between people can help to overcome impasses in disputes in many domains: organizations, politics, personal relationships, and so on. EMPATHICA uses the idea of Cognitive-Affective Maps (CAMs, Value Maps) developed by Paul Thagard in collaboration with Thomas Homer-Dixon, Scott Findlay, and others. These maps derive from ideas about emotional cognition described in Thagard's book Hot Thought.

The designers and programmers of EMPATHICA are: Alex Bass, Rob Disano, Ian Forneri, James Kendle, and Corey Manning. Eugene Solodkin provided much additional development, as did Philipp Freese and Jakob Willer.

Better, you can download a stand alone version of Empathica by clicking on the link below. After downloading the file, you will need to unzip it and then create an account on your own computer.

To use the Macintosh version, proceed as follows:

  1. Click on the link above, which will download the file Empathica-Mac.zip, which your computer will unzip into a folder called Empathica-Mac.
  2. Open the folder Empathica-Mac folder and click on "web2py".
  3. If your Mac objects that the app is not from an identified developer, go to System Preferences, Security & Privacy, and click to allow use of we2py. You may need to do the same for Empathica.
  4. In the web2py server window, click on "start server". You can ignore the request for a password.
  5. Proceed to use Empathica, which enables you to build, save, and export CAMs.
  6. Scroll down the Export CAM menu to Export to png, which produces a .png graphics file of your CAM that you can use in a document.

To use the Windows version, proceed as follows:

  1. Click on the link above, which will download the file Empathica-Win.zip, which you can unzip into a folder called Empathica-Win.
  2. Open the folder Empathica-Win folder and click on "start.bat".
  3. Set up an account and password that you can use to run Empathica.
  4. Proceed to use Empathica, which enables you to build, save, and export CAMs.

How to Draw a Cognitive-Affective Map:

A CAM is a diagram that shows concepts and beliefs along with the emotional values attached to them. It also shows the relationships between concepts that support each other or conflict with each other. We suggest the following method:

  1. Identify the main concepts, beliefs, goals, and emotions of the person being modeled.
  2. Identify these elements as emotionally positive or negative, and accordingly represent them by ovals or hexagons.
  3. Identify relations between elements that are either complementary (solid lines) or conflicting (dashed lines). 
  4. Show the resulting map to other people to see if it captures their understandings of the person and situation.

Here is a diagram that shows the mapping conventions used:

CAMs can be produced using any drawing program, but we recommend EMPATHICA.

Articles about Cognitive-Affective Maps:

Findlay, S. D., & Thagard, P. (2014). Emotional change in international negotiation:  Analyzing the Camp David accords using cognitive-affective maps. Group Decision and Negotiation, 23, 1281-1300.

Homer-Dixon, T., Maynard, J. L., Mildenberger, M., Milkoreit, M., Mock, S. J., Quilley, S., T. Schröder, and P. Thagard (2013). A complex systems approach to the study of ideology:  Cognitive-affective structures and the dynamics of belief systems. Journal of Social and Political Psychology, 1, 337-364.

Homer-Dixon, T., Milkoreit, M., Mock, S. J., Schröder, T., & Thagard, P. (2014). The conceptual structure of social disputes: Cognitive-affective maps as a tool for conflict analysis and resolution. SAGE Open, 4. doi: 10.1177/2158244014526210.

Thagard, P. (2010). EMPATHICA:  A computer support system with visual representations for cognitive-affective mapping. In K. McGregor (Ed.), Proceedings of the workshop on visual reasoning and representation (pp. 79-81). Menlo Park, CA: AAAI Press.

Thagard, P. (2011). The brain is wider than the sky:  Analogy, emotion, and allegory. Metaphor and Symbol, 26: 131-142.

Thagard, P. (2011). Critical thinking and informal logic: Neuropsychological perspectives. Informal Logic, 31, 152-170.

Thagard, P. (2012). Mapping minds across cultures. In R. Sun (Ed.), Grounding social sciences in cognitive sciences (35-62) Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Thagard, P. (2012). Values in science: Cognitive-affective maps. Ch. 17 of The cognitive science of science:  Explanation, discovery, and conceptual change. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Thagard, P. (2015). The cognitive-affective structure of political ideologies. In B. Martinovski (Ed.), Emotion in group decision and negotiation. Berlin: Springer.

Thagard, P. (2015). Value maps in applied ethics. Teaching Ethics.

Increasing Empathy (Thagard's blog for Psychology Today)

Paul Thagard's home page

Contact: email Paul Thagard

This page updated Oct. 5, 2015