Jamil received his BA from Boston University, his Ph.D. from Columbia
University, and postdoctoral training at Harvard University. Now that he's
in the Bay Area, his hobbies include compulsive hiking, eating avocados,
and trying to remember how to drive again.
Empathy is in short supply. Isolation and tribalism are rampant. We
struggle to understand people who aren't like us, but find it easy to
hate them. Studies show that we are less caring than we were even thirty
years ago. In 2006, Barack Obama said that the United States is
suffering from an "empathy deficit." Since then, things only seem to
have gotten worse.
It doesn't have to be this way. In this groundbreaking book, Jamil Zaki
argues that empathy is not a fixed trait-something we're born with or
not-but rather a skill that we can all strengthen through effort.
Drawing on both classic and cutting-edge research, including experiments
from his own lab, Zaki shows how we can harness this new mindset to
overcome toxic cultural divisions. He also tells the stories of people
who are living these principles-fighting for kindness in the most
difficult of circumstances. We meet a former neo-Nazi who is now helping
extract people from hate groups, ex-prisoners discussing novels with the
judge who sentenced them, Washington police officers changing their
culture to decrease violence among their ranks, and NICU nurses
fine-tuning their empathy so that they don't succumb to burnout.
"Are we born with a certain level of empathy? Stanford
psychology professor Jamil Zaki explores that question in his new book,
"The War for Kindness," which looks at the declining level of empathy in
society. He argues that, like a muscle, empathy must be trained or it
Cris Beam, author of “I Feel You: The Surprising Power of Extreme
Empathy,” similarly provides methods for exercising and improving one's
capacity for empathy. Zaki and Beam join us to discuss the science of
empathy, and ways to recognize and respect the emotions of others. Tell
us: how do you practice empathy in your daily life?"
try to understand what and why they are feeling = cognitive empathy
feel concern for them and desire for their well being. = empathic
Metaphor of the muscle groups.
Empathy levels scores - university student test.
Why empathy going down?
People living on their own
living with a lot of people but it's not deep
22 - people who have experienced deep suffering (trauma) can go open
or closed -
altruism born of suffering
factor is how much support you get
25:34 - empathy double edged sward
Paul Bloom - empathy is parochial
oxytocin - become more ingroup caring
Jamil - we can broaden our empathy
27:30 - The Police and empathy training
(confuses taking sides and empathy)
empathy for ingroup.. making a judgment.
(confuses identifying with empathy)
30:00 - Oncologist - they suffer giving bad news
has a person cost
empathy can be an occupational hazard for the people who give it
Psychotherapist friend, sensitive to depressed patients
will absorb negative, painful feelings of others
also will lose themselves
caring professions - feel they have to turn off their empathy
People avoid situations where they will avoid situations
similar seeing the homeless
34:00 level of the group
we can dehumanize people because we are reluctant to feeling the
pain of empathy for a group
empathy can hurt us,, we can see ourselves in ways we do not like
38:00 Person wants to help
Building Empathy - Gym
41 - VR for identifying with others
feel being homeless
putting ourselves in the story can build empathy
Acting - role taking
actors become more empathic
narrative fiction (most stories are Us v Them,
"they form greater empathy for those groups"
46 - In-groups
soccer fans supporting each other. (why are psychological
researchers so deceptive? does the deception have an effect of the
expand the size of what we consider our group
empathy is the understanding that someone else's world is just as real
THE WAR FOR KINDNESS
The Commonwealth Club
"Are Americans suffering from an "empathy deficit," as Barack Obama
claimed in 2006? Studies do show that we are less caring than we were
even 30 years ago. But Jamil Zaki argues that empathy is not a fixed
trait we're born with. It's a skill we can all strengthen through
effort. Drawing on both classic and cutting-edge research, including
experiments from his own lab, Zaki shows how we can overcome toxic
cultural divisions. He also tells the stories of people who are living
these principles-fighting for kindness in the most difficult of
circumstances. Written with clarity and passion, The War for Kindness is
an inspiring call to action."
in our culture is quickly receding, especially among college students,
the latest findings from Sage Journal show. The report says that the
average American college student in 2009 was less caring than three
quarters of students in 1979. Are people giving up on empathy?"
Believing you can increase empathy - increases empathy
Q and A
empathy goes up and down - feelings come and go
being aware of manipulating
be aware and louder about empathy
crippling empathy - developing communication skills
empathy paralysis in large societies
empathy in the body and chemicals - and VR
empathize with peoples negative qualities
how to empathize with people who are different
contact theory - have connection with the other side
role of touch and empathy
empathize with others and losing sense of self
empathy for non humans
Compassion can be cultivated, argues a psychologist
By Sara Konrath
18 June, 2019
"Google searches for "empathy" have been increasing over the past 15
years, and it's the latest buzzword at companies as diverse as Facebook
and Ford. Joining several recent books on the topic [such as (1-3)] is
The War for Kindness by Stanford psychologist Jamil Zaki, which sets out
to help people increase their empathy in sustainable ways."
"Much like our eye color or our hair's hue, empathy is sometimes thought
of as a trait that's determined by our genes and fixed for life. If you
believe this to be true, you may think that failing to empathize with
another person means this kind of compassion is missing from your
biological makeup. Fortunately studies of empathy suggest this isn't the
case. As Stanford psychologist Jamil Zaki, PhD, explains in a recent
Stanford news story, empathy isn't doled out to us in a fixed quantity
at birth, it's a skill that improves each time we use it."
"Empathy is something like a muscle: left unused, it atrophies, put to
work, it grows."
"A night spent drinking and writing about his parents' divorce uncovered
an urgent need in Stanford professor Jamil Zaki to author THE WAR FOR
KINDNESS: BUILDING EMPATHY IN A FRACTURED WORLD. He and James talk about
how empathy can literally grow parts of the brain, hating the term
hard-wired, facing the problems of the world today, and (sigh) STAR
TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION. Plus Michael Nye returns to talk about
reviving and relaunching STORY.
JUNE 10TH, 2019
BY MELISSA DE WITTE
"While empathy offers numerous social benefits-for example, patients of
empathic doctors are more satisfied with their care-empathy might not be
a good thing, Zaki says. When healthcare professionals care too much,
they are at elevated risk for burnout, depression, and trauma from
over-empathizing with others' suffering, he says.
These are some of the key findings to emerge from Zaki's research into
the various dimensions of empathy. Zaki has brought these insights, many
from his own research, into his new book, The War for Kindness: Building
Empathy in a Fractured World (Crown, 2019)."
How to increase empathy and unite society
Jun 7th 2019
by K.N.C. - The Economist
"We can design institutions and interactions so people get along more,
says Jamil Zaki, a psychologist at Stanford and the author of "The War
IF THERE is one thing that people on both the left and right can agree,
it is that expressions of our political and social differences have
become markedly less cordial-and that this makes it harder to find
common ground and solve common problems. The good news is that science
is on the case."
'A War For Kindness' Favors The Practical Over Polemical
June 5, 2019
"A war for kindness would be a non-violent war for hearts and minds. And
since empathy is really a union of heart and mind, fellow feeling in the
service of understanding, internal struggle and social complication are
inevitable. Empathy can't happen without them.
I had high hopes for Jamil Zaki's The War for Kindness: Building Empathy
in a Fractured World. But after reading, I was left ambivalent."
Stanford scholar examines how to build empathy in an unjust world
BY MELISSA DE WITTE
JUNE 5, 2019
"Stanford psychologist Jamil Zaki examined the different dimensions of
empathy – including its positive and in some cases, negative effects –
and found that through the right practice, empathy can be cultivated in
In an increasingly divisive world, it might seem that empathy for other
people's opinion and views is becoming ever less common. But the trend
is not irreversible, according to new research by Stanford psychologist
"Even when empathy doesn't feel good, we know it can make us look good.
If Mother Theresa, the Dalai Lama, or Jesus are any indication,
compassion and generosity are the clearest signs of virtue. When people
must establish their moral bona fides, they turn to empathic actions.
Individuals are more generous in public than in private, and also act
kindly to convince themselves of
their own goodness. In several studies, psychologists have put people
under "moral threat," for instance asking them to remember times they
betrayed someone else's trust. To compensate, these participants help
strangers, donate to charity, and advocate for environmentally friendly
behaviors more than people who were not threatened."
"If you're sensing that people are less empathetic today than decades
ago, your instincts would be right. We are. Though human beings are
wired to care about each other, we need the right conditions for those
feelings to grow.
Jamil Zaki, author of the book, The War for Kindness: Building Empathy
in a Fractured World, argues that an increase in online interactions and
urban living has made relationships more "…narrow, transactional, and
anonymous." He explains that in this kind of environment, it's "…really
not great soil for empathy to grow." "
Making Empathy Central to Your Company Culture
by Jamil Zaki
May 30, 2019
"Research demonstrates that Cook and other leaders are on to something.
Empathic workplaces tend to enjoy stronger
and their employees bounce
quickly from difficult moments such as layoffs. Still, despite their
efforts, many leaders struggle to actually make caring part of their
organizational culture. In fact, there's often a rift between the
culture executives want from the one they have."
The War for Kindness: Building Empathy in a Fractured World
April 12, 2019
By James R. Doty,
"Jamil Zaki's new book shows us how to "bring light to a world that
seemingly has darkened."
By James R. Doty, M.D., Professor of Neurosurgery and Director of the
Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education (CCARE) at
Stanford University School of Medicine"
People filled the ballroom of the Hilton Austin Downtown Hotel, waiting
to hear about e"mpathy's short supply yet extreme importance. Jamil
Zaki, a psychology professor from Stanford University, spoke at SXSW on
March 12 at the Hilton. Highlighting his upcoming book "The War for
Kindness: Building Empathy in a Fractured World," Zaki discussed empathy
and how society can use it to mend gaps within cultures.
To better understand empathy, Zaki began by taking the crowd back in
time and speaking about how though early humans on earth were
intellectually underdeveloped, the thing setting them apart from animals
was each other."
How do we navigate our differences at work, at home, in politics and in
society? In this enlightening, lightly humorous, and research-based
talk, Dr. Jamil Zaki delivers an astonishing overview of empathy: how it
really works, why it truly matters (especially to work places), why it's
on the decline, and how to build it back up through deliberate practice.
For anyone who works in HR, who leads teams, or is part of one, Zaki
will redefine how you understand, empathize, and work with others-an
issue companies have been debating forever. Zooming out, Zaki's insights
will help you revitalize your connection to your neighborhood, your
community, the world at large. Empathic people are happier, more
creative and productive, in all sorts of ways.
1. Introduction to Dr. Jamil Zaki
2. What got you interested in studying emotion?
3. What are the central discoveries of your work?
4. What do you see in store for the future of emotion?
5. What is your advice to viewers?
About Jamil Zaki
On Empathy and emotion
How did it start?
Grandmother in Peru - a collectivist society
Definition of empathy
complex - multiple definitions
put multiple definitions together - 3 parts
1. emotional response
2. cognitive understanding - TOM
3. motivational piece - understanding you do I have a motivation
to do something?
these are different distinct parts
psychopaths can understand others but don't feel them or help
may manipulate or harm others
5:00 How different for sympathy and pity?
pity - don't' enter into the emotion of the other
What are most interesting science discoveries?
the pieces - components of empathy are separate
Mirror neurons -
TOM - figuring out what people are feeling
understanding the context - full empathic response
9:30 Understanding the context
is it uniquely human?
degrees of empathy in animals
How does this fit into society?
Pinker - society is less violent - maybe has to do with expanding
Is empathy a fixed quality? interventions
it can be changed - with perspective taking interventions
dissolve boundaries between people and groups.
compassion mediation helps
online interventions would be good
4. What do you see in store for the future of emotion?
filed going in 2 directions
1. Fine grain assessment of empathy - math models
2. complex and naturalistic tests - how it unfolds in real life
what are the next steps - the undiscovered teritory.
How to Avoid Empathy Burnout – Issue 35: Boundaries
by Jamil Zaki
"At least in this case, sustainable and deep empathic concern for others
began with that ancient mandate: Love thyself. And self-love is often
the most difficult kind. But helpers, and the rest of us, have a
flexible emotional life and the power to shape our feelings to better
suit our needs. This opportunity is especially important for people who
work in empathy's trenches. To the extent that they can even out their
emotional spotlight, they can benefit immensely. So can the lucky
targets of their kindness."
"In a fractured world, can we hack our own sense of empathy and get
others to become more empathic? Professor, Department of Psychology,
Stanford University Jamil Zaki is an assistant professor of psychology
at Stanford University. His research examines social cognition and
behavior, especially how people understand and respond to each other's
This work spans a number of domains, social influence, prosocial
behavior, and especially empathy (see ssnl.stanford.edu for details). In
addition to studying the mechanics of empathy, Dr. Zaki's work focuses
on helping people empathize better. For instance, new research from his
lab examines how to encourage empathy for people from distant political
and ethnic groups, and also how caregivers and healthcare professionals
can effectively empathize with their patients while maintaining their
own well being."
"If you believe that you can harness empathy and make choices about when
to experience it versus when not to, it adds a layer of responsibility
to how you engage with other people. If you feel like you're powerless
to control your empathy, you might be satisfied with whatever biases and
limits you have on it. You might be okay with not caring about someone
just because they're different from you. I want people to not feel safe
empathizing in the way that they always have. I want them to understand
that they're doing something deliberate when they connect with someone,
and I want them to own that responsibility.
JAMIL ZAKI is an assistant professor of psychology at Stanford
University and the director of the Stanford Social Neuroscience Lab.
Jamil Zaki's Edge Bio Page."
Neuroscience of Fierce Compassion | #skollwf 2016
Apr 29, 2016
"What parts of the brain are stimulated when we feel fierce anger or
compassion? Can compassion be learned or is it innate? Does empathy have
limits, especially for those of us working on the frontlines of social
change? Take an extraordinary visual trip through a real brain and hear
from a new wave of researchers using the methods of social psychology
and cognitive neuroscience to challenge our views on these questions.
Explore how compassion-and its limits-might inform our work as social
FORTHCOMING in Gray, K. & Graham, J. (Eds.), The Atlas of Moral
"More recently, however, a growing countercurrent has questioned the
utility of empathy in driving moral action. This argument builds on the
broader idea that emotions provide powerful but noisy inputs to people's
moral calculus (Haidt, 2001). Affective reactions often tempt people to
make judgments that ar
"We often think of empathy as an automatic process. However, empathy is
often context-dependent. Our willingness to empathize with others
changes with different situations and with different people .A new paper
by Jamil Zaki resolves this tension by underscoring the role of
motivation in empathy. Motives drive our willingness to empathize. In
his paper, Zaki highlights specific motives that drive people to avoid
and approach empathy, illustrates a motivated model of empathy, and
suggests potential interventions to maximize empathy."
"People tend to stereotype psychological phenomena. It's tempting to
think that stress is always bad, resilience is always good, and so
forth. Like other stereotypes, these beliefs help us neaten the world
and extract signal from noise. Also like other stereotypes, such beliefs
are misleading and often harmful. Call me pessimistic, but whenever the
media breathlessly praises a practice or trait-meditation and grit come
to mind-I always wonder about its downsides. Jogging is great for you,
but not always, and not in every way (ask my knees). The same goes for
happiness. My own favorite human characteristic, empathy, is no
"About 250 years ago, Adam Smith famously
described the way observers might feel watching a tightrope
walker. Even while standing on solid ground, our palms sweat and
our hearts race as someone wobbles hundreds of feet in the air (you
can test this out here).
In essence, we experience this person's state as our own.
Centuries later, this definition does a surprisingly good job at
capturing scientific models of empathy. Evidence from across the
social and natural sciences suggests that we take on others' facial
expressions, postures, moods, and even patterns of brain activity.
This type of empathy is largely automatic. For instance, people imitate
others' facial expressions after just a fraction of a second, often
without realizing they're doing so. Mood contagion likewise operates
under the surface. Therapists often report that, despite their
best efforts, they take on patients' moods, consistent with e
vidence from a number of studies."
5 ways to
be a more empathetic person
BY REBECCA RUIZ
"No matter how you struggle with empathy, these 5 strategies can help:
1. Understand that empathy is a skill, not a fixed trait.
Though humans do inherit a genetic predisposition toward empathy and
generosity, Zaki says it's a mistake to believe that one's capacity for
both traits are permanently stuck at a certain level. In fact, research
shows that our experiences influence our empathy. ..
2. Increase your contact with "outsiders....
3. Practice self-compassion...
4. Use the internet wisely. ...
5. Help build empathetic systems. ..."
"The last decade has witnessed enormous growth in the neuroscience of
empathy. Here, we survey research in this domain with an eye toward
evaluating its strengths and weaknesses. First, we take stock of the
notable progress made by early research in characterizing the neural
systems supporting two empathic sub-processes: sharing others' internal
states and explicitly considering those states. Second, we describe
methodological and conceptual pitfalls into which this work has
sometimes fallen, which can limit its validity. These include the use of
relatively artificial stimuli that differ qualitatively from the social
cues people typically encounter and a lack of focus on the relationship
between brain activity and social behavior. Finally, we describe current
research trends that are overcoming these pitfalls through simple but
important adjustments in focus, and the future promise of empathy
research if these trends continue and expand."
James Scott: So one of the things we talk about a lot is empathy and how
it relates to the arts. You believe it's a necessary component, and a
critical building block, in becoming an artist in the first place,
Jamil Zaki: Human beings are not the world champions of many things.
We're not big, strong, fast, or sharp (at least tooth-wise). But we are
the world champions of understanding each other. In a way, art-and
especially narrative art-is the greatest expression of that ability.
Narrative is a way to embody lives and worlds we have yet to experience,
and in almost all cases will never experience. In a way, it's a type of
empathy boot camp: living as many lives as possible without having to
leave a single room."
"HUMANS ARE UNLIKELY to win the animal kingdom's prize for fastest,
strongest or largest, but we are world champions at understanding one
another. This interpersonal prowess is fueled, at least in part, by
empathy: our tendency to care about and share other people's emotional
experiences. Empathy is a cornerstone of human behavior and has long
been considered innate. A forthcoming study, however, challenges this
assumption by demonstrating that empathy levels have been declining over
the past 30 years."
Empathy Fatigue and What the Press Can Do About It 2009-05-07
"An inborn tendency to share the feelings of others -- to feel joy at
their joy, match suffering to their suffering (first labeled "Empathy"
by psychologist and art theorist Theodor Lipps) -- probably forms the
basis of our aversion to distress, and our willingness to help others.
Empathy and altruism are evolutionarily old, as even non-human apes
share emotions and respond to each others' distress: chimpanzees will
forgo a chance to push a button and receive food if pressing that button
also results in another chimpanzee being shocked. Apes in the wild are
similarly prosocial, and will console the loser of a fight by putting
their arm around his or her shoulders like friends buying each other a
beer after a bad breakup. "