Center for Building a Culture of Empathy

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

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Culture of Empathy Builder:   Video and Links:  Carolyn Zahn-Waxler


"Throughout her career Carolyn has studied the origins and development of empathy and caring behaviors beginning in the first years of life. These longitudinal studies have focused on the role of genes, temperament, family life and socialization experiences that foster or impede compassion and altruism in children. She has also conducted longitudinal studies on (a) the role of emotion in the development of psychopathology in adolescents and (b) risk and protective factors in the development of conduct problems."
Center for Investigating Healthy Minds

2011-06-11 - TEDxGoldenGateED - Carolyn Zahn-Waxler


  • 0:00 Origins of Compassion

  • Slide 1 Definition of Compassion:

    • Definition of Compassion: A deep Awareness of others' suffering and desire to alleviate it.

    • Concern for others is already present in the first years of life.

    • This is the time to teach and nurture it.

    • great time of brain plasticity

  • 1:40 Slide 2 Concern for Others

    • Empathic Emotions

      • voice

      • face

    • Prosocial Actions

      • helping, 

      • caring

      • comforting

      • defending

    • Cognitive Understanding

  • 2:00 Concern for Others: Central Issues

    • Development

    • Biology - nature

      • inheritable capacity

    • Environment

      • gene and environmental

    • Nature and nurture Interact

  • 3:20 -  Empathy and how it developed

    • we share empathy with other animals

    • developed in response to the infants

    • mothers needed to learn to take care of infants. (they need empathy to read the emotions of the infants.)

  • 4:20  contagious crying

    • a new born cries, other infants that hear it will start crying

    • they cry not just because the hear a aversive sound, but because of the contagion effect.

    • there's a build in social quality in us, that we pick up on the distress of others

    • this changes in the first year

  • 5:15 Infants Concern for Others

    • after a year children starts to reach out.

    • subtitle emotions

    • skills are building

  • 6:30 Spontaneous helping behavior in 1-2 year olds.

    • story of parents in distress - child helping

      • child mirroring mothers pain

    • 18 month old Child helps infant

    • Child contorts distressed mother

  • 10:26 this is a time a lot can be learned for empathy

    • Empathy in empathic concert chart by months old

  • 11:15 Development of Empathy: Feelings and Cognitions

    • 3rd year life

    • Cognitive develops

    • Concern levels off

  • 12:30 Concern for Others: Parenting and Family Climate
    There are things parents can do to heighten empathy in children/

    • Model the actions

    • Reward - not sure if it's so helpful

    • Teach

    • Discuss Feelings

    • Sensitivity and Warmth with Child

    • Family Affect and Low conflict

  • Depression and hostility parents experience

  • Most important may be self compassion

  • Preschool Curriculum - Teaching loving-kindness at University of Wisconsin

    • introducing these ideas into curricula in early development

    • daily intension