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.
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 them.
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 empathy
Is empathy a fixed quality? interventions
it can be changed - with perspective taking
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?
in 2 directions
grain assessment of empathy - math models
and naturalistic tests - how it unfolds in real life situation
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."
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
"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 different. "
"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 evidence from
a number of studies."
"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. "