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Join the International Conference on: How Might We Build a Culture of Empathy and Compassion?


Empathic Design
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Empathy Tent

Expert Interviews
Obama on Empathy


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The Empathic Brain - Chapter by Chapter Book Review
Christian Keysers

Christian Keysers is professor and group leader of the Social Brain Lab at the University Medical Center Groningen in the Netherlands. The lab explores the biological nature and neuroscience of empathy.

Christian is author of 'The Empathic Brain: How the Discovery of Mirror Neurons Changes our Understanding of Human Nature'.

In this interview, Christian gives a chapter by chapter narration of the book, which explores the nut's and bolts neuroscience of empathy. In the book, he illustrates the science with his own experiences and with stories. The journey starts at the lab in Parma, Italy where mirror neurons were first discovered and where he also worked.
Sub Conference: Science: Neuroscience.

 Dialogs on How to Build a Culture of Empathy
George Lakoff

George Lakoff is a cognitive linguist and professor of linguistics at the University of California, Berkeley. He is academically most famous for his 'ideas about the centrality of metaphor to human thinking, political behavior and society.' He says empathy is a foundation of morality and of progressive values.

George is the author of many academic and politically related books.  His latest book is The Little Blue Book: The Essential Guide to Thinking and Talking Democratic. 'A compact handbook on partisan political discourse, with a blueprint for how liberals can switch from playing defense against conservatives to launching a stronger offense.' Basing the discourse on the foundational value of empathy. "America was founded on a moral system and that system starts with empathy."
Sub Conference: Science
: Neuroscience.

Daniel Batson & Edwin Rutsch: The Definitions of Empathy

Dan Batson is Professor Emeritus at the University of Kansas. His main research interests are in prosocial emotion, motivation, and behavior. He has conducted a number of experiments on empathy, on perspective taking, and on various forms of prosocial motivation.

His chapter titled, '
These Things Called Empathy', in the book, 'The Social Neuroscience of Empathy', explores eight ways the word and concept of empathy is used. We walk through and discuss each of these in depth.
Sub Conference: Science


Happy the Movie - Director Roko Belic talks with Edwin Rutsch about
how Empathy is a Foundation of Happiness


(Movie Trailer) The core of human nature, I think, is based on empathy and compassion. It's extremely rare to find someone that does not empathize in some way or form naturally. The Dalai Lama said it best, it's not a religious thing, it's not a political idea, this is the way we are born, this is in our blood.

Empathy, compassion, living by the golden rule, all of those things are so critical to, not only to your own personal happiness, but to the sustainability of our societies and of the human race. So empathy is, I think, one of the core ingredients, not only for a happy life, but of a happy world.
On Vimeo - Youtube

Sub Conference: Arts

 How to Build a Culture of Empathy with Photography
George Lewis

George Lewis is a photographer exploring the nature of empathy. He says, "For me, one of the greatest challenges of the 21st century is to make people more visible to one another, to find ways for people to engage, empathize, and learn of each other’s deepest values and concerns. We need to lay the foundations for a new global human identity, one that transcends differences and is predicated on mutual understanding and respect, celebrating the beauty of difference. In short my art is all about Empathy. "
Sub Conference: Arts

How to Build a Culture of Empathy Without Pain in Healthcare

Issidoros Sarinopoulos

Issidoros Sarinopoulos (Sid) is Assistant Professor of Psychology at Michigan State University where he is director of the Lab for Social and Affective Neuroscience. Sid's research interests include the psychological and neural underpinnings of emotion, judgment, decision making, and social behavior.

His work integrates the theories and methods of affective and social neuroscience on the one hand, and more traditional disciplines in the social sciences on the other.

Sid was part of a study looking at how an empathic doctor-patient relationship reduces patients pain.  Listen up, doc: Empathy raises patients’ pain tolerance "A doctor-patient relationship built on trust and empathy doesn’t just put patients at ease – it actually changes the brain’s response to stress and increases pain tolerance, according to new findings from a Michigan State University research team."
Sub Conferences: Health Care and Science

How to Build a Culture of Empathy with Fiction
 Ron MacLean

Ron MacLean is author of the novels Headlong and Blue Winnetka Skies and the story collection Why the Long Face? His fiction has appeared in GQ, Fiction International, Best Online Fiction 2010, and elsewhere. He is a recipient of the Frederick Exley Award for Short Fiction and a multiple Pushcart Prize nominee. He teaches at Grub Street in Boston.

 Ron wrote the article, Is Fiction Empathy’s Best Hope? We discussed his article and the relationship of empathy and fiction writing.   He writes, "What I do care about is the loss of our ability to identify with others. Empathy is a muscle that must be exercised lest it atrophy. It’s a seed that must be cultivated in order to grow—to live. And in a sped-up society in which connection is increasingly fleeting and often virtual, we can’t take empathy for granted anymore.....


 It’s paradoxical, even absurd—this idea that made-up stories can develop in us an essential human quality. The idea that reading about people who don’t exist could expand our capacity to care about, and act on behalf of, people who do. But it’s true."
Sub Conference: Arts


Panel 22: Empathy and Yoga: Yoga is a tool kit for Empathy

Nixa De Bellis
Michael Hewett
Elena Brower
Edwin Rutsch
Yoga is a tool kit for Empathy. In its methods we cultivate a feeling sense of ourselves and the world. We both take measure of our own person and revel in the multitude of relationships through an awareness practice of deeper than ordinary looking and listening. The logic of our differences, our similarities and our sameness is not evident without practice, and so we have the yoga technologies for actively engaging ourselves, our families, our communities and our world.
Sub Conference: Yoga

How to Build a Culture of Empathy with Yoga
Suzanne Jones

Suzanne Jones is a professional yoga instructor concerned by the disparity in access to yoga practice as a powerful tool for empowerment and recovery. YogaHOPE was created to facilitate access to yoga and meditation education specifically for women experiencing debilitating life transitions – those establishing independence from domestic violence, self-sufficiency from homelessness, recovery from drug addiction, or rehabilitation after mental illness. Sue recently wrote an article about empathy and yoga titled, Exercise Your Empathy.

She writes, "...when I was in the darkest time of my life and planning my one shot at doing something right (ie. removing myself from the world via swallowing a butt load of pain killers) I happened to stumble into a yoga class. And as I learned how to really breathe and concentrated on how to move my body in class and pay attention to how my body was feeling inside, I activated these brain regions. I exercised my empathy...

Because without empathy, we begin to stop being kind to ourselves. And when that happens, we begin to withdraw from others and the cycle of insidious self-destruction begins. Our brains are social organs and in isolation they begin to suffer."
Sub Conference: Yoga & Empathy


Panel 17: How to Build a Culture of Empathy with Aikido?

Jerry Green
Nick Walker
Quentin Cooke
David Weinstock
Edwin Rutsch
Representatives of Aiki-Extensions, Inc from California, Washington State, England and the Center for Building a Culture if Empathy discuss and demonstrate how principles of Aikido entrain compassion and embody empathy around the world.

Bringing somatic attunement (embodied presence) to conflicted situations. Finding ground and center under pressure. Learning to listen to the different languages of the head, the heart and the wisdom of the belly.
Sub Conference: Aikido & Empathy

Dialogs on How to Build a Culture of Empathy and Compassion
Jennifer Mascaro

Jenny Mascaro wrote her PH.D dissertation at Emery University on "A Longitudinal Investigation of Empathic Behavior and Neural Activity and Their Modulation by Compassion Meditation."  She studied the effectiveness of Cognitively-Based Compassion Training, which was developed by Geshe Lobsang Negi at Emory,  on deepening empathy.

Jenny says, "My interests center on the study of emotion and social cognition, particularly those emotions related to prosocial behavior.  I'm currently using various neuroimaging modalities including functional MRI and diffusion tensor imaging to explore the neurobiology related to empathy and compassion." 

Sub Conference: Science

Dialogs on How to Build a Culture of Empathy and Compassion

Geshe Lobsang Negi

Geshe Lobsang Negi serves as Co-Director of the Emory-Tibet Science Initiative and Co-Director of the Emory Collaborative of Contemplative Studies. " In addition, he has contributed to the development of a number of programs linking Emory University with Tibetan institutions of higher learning in India. 

His career has focused on the potential of mind to affect well-being on physical, emotional an mental levels and is now centered in three areas: Clinical research on the behavioral, immune and stress impacts of contemplative practices; Developing and implementing a science curriculum for Tibetan monastics; and Teaching Tibetan Buddhism both at Emory University and Atlanta's Drepung Loseling." He is also the developer of the Cognitive-Based Compassion Training (CBCT) which draws on the the lojong tradition of Tibetan Buddhism to foster compassion. This training was studied to determine it's effectiveness in fostering empathy by Jennifer Mascaro at Emory University.
Sub Conference: Science

 How to Build a Culture of Empathy in Business
John Wenger

 John Wenger works at Quantum Shift in New Zealand.  He says, "As a sociatrist, I’m passionate about people in business developing greater ability to stand in each others’ shoes.

 It’s one of the cornerstones of the work we do at Quantum Shift and is central to nurturing greater health in organizations. This is often given the name “empathy...

There is an embodied knowing that comes via the act of role reversal, beyond mere thought and cognitive understanding, which facilitates a deeper ability to live in someone else’s skin. Getting this at a head, heart and gut level changes our world beyond what we thought possible. It becomes harder to switch off our empathy and behave as if people are mere resources when we have a full experience of what it’s like for them."

 How to Build a Culture of Empathy-Compassion with Education
Joshua Aaron Ginzler

Joshua Aaron Ginzler is a Psychologist with a focus on Mindfulness-Based Psychology which teaches that thoughts simply exist & are your brain's attempt to make sense of your emotional state & the external world. 

He says, "I am establishing the only private center to bring a cadre of evidence-based Mindfulness Psychology programs to the community in order to better prepare the community to support the individuals and families that they contain. "
Sub Conference: Science

 How to Build a Culture of Empathy with Buddhism
Thubten Chodron

Thubten Chodron is an American Tibetan Buddhist nun and a central figure in reinstating the ordination of women. She is founder and Abbess of Sravasti Abbey, a Buddhist monastery near Newport, Washington.

Thubten is active in interfaith dialogue and does Dharma outreach in prisons  She is the author of many books, including, Cultivating a Compassionate Heart: The Yoga Method of Chenrezig.

How to build a culture of empathy and compassion?

1. Education in schools (how to identify emotions, how to work with them inside, how to express them, how to empathize, non-violent communication)

2. Media (influence what the media reports, what constitutes entertainment? show examples of healthy conflict resolution)

3. Individuals familiarizing themselves with empathy and compassion on a daily basis

4. Workplace (the feeling in the company depends a lot on the leader, talks or courses an working with anger)
Sub Conference: Interfaith

How to Build a Culture of Empathy with Circle Process
 Kay Pranis

Kay Pranis is an independent trainer and facilitator for peacemaking circles, as well as, an advocate and leader in Restorative Justice and Circle Process movements. Kay has been involved in the development of circle processes in criminal justice, schools, neighborhoods, families and the workplace. She is author of, The Little Book Of Circle Processes: A New/Old Approach To Peacemaking.

"We have raised an entire generation without the prerequisites for developing empathy and then are outraged when they seem not to care about the impact of their behavior on others. We did not consciously decide to raise them without empathy, but that is the result of significant changes in our social behavior.  The development of empathy requires:

1. regular feedback about how our actions are affecting others, respectfully communicated
2. relationships in which we are valued and our worth is validated
3. experience of sympathy from others when we are in pain"

Sub Conference: Justice

How to Build a Culture of Empathy and Compassion
Russell Kolts

Russell Kolts is a professor in psychology at Eastern Washington University. His current research and professional work is focused upon Compassion Focused Therapy (CFT) and the application of CFT in working with emotional difficulties, particularly anger and attachment disturbances.

Russell is author of 'The Compassionate Mind Approach to Managing Your Anger.' The Compassionate-Mind Guide to Managing Your Anger will show you how to take responsibility for your anger and your life by cultivating a new strength: the power of compassion. 


Russell hosts the website, which is the online hub of the Inland Northwest Compassionate Mind Center. The center is committed to the development and application of evidence-based practices utilizing the purposeful cultivation of compassion and mindfulness to promote wellbeing.
Sub Conference: Science

Shyness, Anxiety & How to Build a Culture of Empathy
Lynne Henderson

Lynne Henderson is director of the Shyness Institute and Director of the Stanford Shyness Clinic for over 25 yrs.  Lynne is author of Building Social Confidence: Using Compassion-Focused Therapy to Overcome Shyness and Social Anxiety. The book offers a supportive program based in compassion-focused therapy for moving past social anxiety and the self-critical thoughts that propel it. 

How to build a culture of empathy?

1. Each of us practicing mindfulness and empathy ourselves consistently. Making mindfulness part of daily life, continuing to increase the number of classes/groups that have formed around mindfulness, disseminating these from elementary school on.

2. Increasing funding for research related to mindfulness and empathy, focusing on the beneficial results of empathy on the well being of self and others.

3. Increasing the focus on and conducting more research on compassion based psychotherapies such as my Social Fitness Training for shyness, Gilbert’s Compassion Focused Therapy, and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. My book,

4. Increasing the understanding and practice of compassion throughout the world through internet information dissemination and putting psychological interventions online
Sub Conference: Science

 How to Build a Culture of Empathy-Compassion with Science
Daryl Cameron

Daryl Cameron is a social psychology doctoral candidate at UNC Chapel Hill. "I work at the crossroads of social psychology and philosophy. My research examines the relationship between implicit social cognition and moral decisions: how do automatic affective reactions and deliberative reasoning interact to shape our moral lives?" Daryl's research focuses on the causes and consequences of compassion regulation; and how implicit emotional processes contribute to moral decision-making.

"Psychological studies show that people feel more compassion for a single victim than for multiple victims, a finding that has been called "the collapse of compassion." The collapse of compassion should strike you as shocking. Most people predict that they would -- and should -- feel more compassion if more people are suffering. Yet people's emotional responses to actual victims tell otherwise. " Daryl says, one way to increase empathy and compassion is to make helping easy and not overwhelming. Create small easy steps that people can do. Also develop trainings that build empathy and compassionate resilience.

Sub Conference: Science

How to Build a Culture of Empathy with Science
Piercarlo Valdesolo

Piercarlo Valdesolo is an Assistant Professor of Psychology and head of the Moral Emotions and Trust Lab at Claremont McKenna College. "I study the role of emotions in social and moral decision making.  My research program investigates the role of emotion in social judgment, with a specific focus on how affective processes shape moral decisions and prosocial/antisocial behavior at both the individual and intergroup levels."

Piercarlo has two main lines of research. One focuses on the role of synchronous movement in arousing prosocial emotional responses.  Two is on the psychological biases that contribute to unethical decision making and corruption within institutions and organizations. One way Piercarlo says we can build empathy is by being more open and revealing more of ourselves.
Sub Conference: Science

 How to Build a Culture of Empathy with Kinesthetic Empathy
 Dee Reynolds

Dee Reynolds is professor of French at the University of Manchester.

Dee is editor/author of, among other books, Kinesthetic Empathy in Creative and Cultural Practices.  A key interdisciplinary concept in our understanding of social interaction across creative and

cultural practices, kinesthetic empathy describes the ability to experience empathy merely by observing the movements of another human being. 

Dee is a founder of the 'Watching Dance: Kinesthetic Empathy' project that uses audience research and neuroscience to explore how dance spectators respond to and identify with dance. It is a multidisciplinary project, involving collaboration across organizations and four institutions. The project has a website, Ning group and held a conference.
Sub Conference: Arts


Panel 18: The Intersection of Conflict Resolution and Empathy

Cinnie Noble

Kenneth Cloke

Eileen Barker 

Lorraine Segal
Edwin Rutsch




How do conflict resolution professionals describe empathy? What are the connections between empathy and healing conflict? How do coaches and mediators build empathy for their clients and themselves? How do forgiveness and empathy connect? These eloquent, distinguished experts in the field have a free ranging discussion of these and other related questions.
Sub Conference: Justice

 How to Build a Culture of Empathy and Compassion
Helen Weng

Helen Weng is currently a doctoral student in clinical psychology studying the Department of Psychology, Waisman Laboratory for Brain Imaging and Behavior, and Center for Investigating Healthy Minds at the University of Wisconsin - Madison.  Her long-term goals include studying how interventions that increase love and compassion impact both psychological and physical health in patients, and how training these qualities in health care providers can prevent burnout and improve patient outcomes.


Helen conducted a study titled,  Compassion Training Alters Altruism and Neural Responses to Suffering. "Compassion is a key motivator of altruistic behavior, but little is known about individuals’ capacity to cultivate compassion through training. We examined whether compassion may be systematically trained by testing whether (a) short-term compassion training increases altruistic behavior and (b) individual differences in altruism are associated with training-induced changes in neural responses to suffering. "

Sub Conference: Science

How to Build a Culture of Empathy in Education
Hunter Gehlbach

Hunter Gehlbach is Associate Professor of Education at Harvard Graduate School of Education. He is an educational psychologist who brings social psychological principles to bear on educational challenges. His research focuses on improving educational settings through enhancing the social interactions of teachers and students. His specific interests within social psychology focus on social perspective taking – how people discern the thoughts and feelings of others within the classroom.


Hunter says, "Education is a fundamentally social act. Almost all classroom learning (and much of the learning that occurs outside of schools) involves social interaction – even reading entails communication between author and reader. Our lab group’s research strives to enhance these social interactions. Primarily through bringing social psychological principles to bear on educational problems, we aim to impact students’ (and teachers’) learning, motivation, behavior, and psychological well-being.

Our group focuses particularly on social perspective taking – the capacity to figure out the thoughts, feelings, and motivations of others – which we view as the core aptitude that people employ to navigate their social world. By helping teachers and students improve their social perspective taking and better understand where each other are coming from, we aspire to improve the classroom experience for both students and teachers."

Sub Conferences: Education and Science


Simon Fraser University’s Centre for Dialogue
(in Vancouver, BC, Canada) uses dialogue to generate non-partisan and constructive communication around difficult topics. They partner with government, business, and community groups to explore critical issues that impact the social, economic, environmental, and cultural well-being of their communities. I interview three instructors from the University to hear about how they see that dialog relates to empathy.

Shauna Sylvester: Dialogs on How to Build a Culture of Empathy

Shauna Sylvester is a Fellow at Simon Fraser University’s Centre for Dialogue and is the Executive Director of SFU’s Carbon Talks, a national initiative focused on increasing Canada’s global competitiveness by shifting to a low carbon economy. Shauna is also the Executive Director of the SFU Public Square – a signature project of SFU’s commitment to engagement which convenes serious and productive dialogues on issues of public concern to Canadians.   

Alisdair Smith: Dialogs on How to Build a Culture of Empathy

Alisdair Smith is the co-managing director of the Greater Vancouver Compassion Network. He also works extensively in the Canadian credit union system in Leadership Development and Governance, supporting people in the vital work of changing their minds! He serves as one of the clergy at the Anglcan (Episcopal) Cathedral here in Vancouver, which is known internationally for our work in reconciliation. 

Herb Barbolet: Dialogs on How to Build a Culture of Empathy

Herb Barbolet has been active in community development for more than 30 years - Working in community planning, energy conservation, citizen participation, cooperative housing, and food and agriculture. He is an Associate at both the Dialogue Centre and the Centre for Sustainable Community Development at Simon Fraser University.

Dialogs on How to Build a Culture of Empathy
 Wynn Schwartz

Wynn Schwartz a clinical psychologist and psychoanalyst offering psychotherapy, consultation and supervision in Boston for more than thirty years. He is professor on the core faculty of the Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology and on the faculty of Harvard Medical School. He supervises trainee psychotherapists at The Cambridge Hospital.


Wynn has written several articles about empathy. He says, "Empathy involves the accurate communication of an appreciation of another person's ongoing intentional actions in a fashion that the other person can tolerate. This appreciation requires understanding the other person's view of their world and of their place in it. Empathy is an ordinary feature of life, a natural aspect of the unfolding improvisation of our linked behaviors. We act together from our understanding of what the other is trying to do." Sub Conferences: Science

 A Narcissistic Psychopath Responds to the Paul Bloom
'Against Empathy' article in the New Yorker.

Sam Vaknin

Sam Vaknin interviewed and in dialog with Edwin Rutsch about the Paul Bloom article in The New Yorker: The Baby in the Well - The case against empathy. Sam Vaknin tested as a Narcissist with Psychopathic tendencies. Sam describes himself as a person devoid of empathy. He is author of Malignant Self Love: Narcissism Revisited.
Sub Conference: Pathologies

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