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?

Empathic Design
Empathy Circles

  Restorative Empathy Circles
Empathy Tent

Expert Interviews
Obama on Empathy


    Empathy Tests


Culture of Empathy Builder:  Leslie Jamison

Pending - in development



"Leslie Jamison is an American novelist and essayist. Her work has been published in Best New American Voices 2008, A Public Space, and Black Warrior Review. Originally from Los Angeles, she attended Harvard University and the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and is currently finishing a Ph.D. in English literature at Yale. Her father is the economist and global health researcher Dean Jamison." Wikipedia





  The Empathy Exams:

"Beginning with her experience as a medical actor who was paid to act out symptoms for medical students to diagnose, Leslie Jamison’s visceral and revealing essays ask essential questions about our basic understanding of others: How should we care about each other? How can we feel another’s pain, especially when pain can be assumed, distorted, or performed? Is empathy a tool by which to test or even grade each other? By confronting pain—real and imagined, her own and others’—Jamison uncovers a personal and cultural urgency to feel.

She draws from her own experiences of illness and bodily injury to engage in an exploration that extends far beyond her life, spanning wide-ranging territory—from poverty tourism to phantom diseases, street violence to reality television, illness to incarceration—in its search for a kind of sight shaped by humility and grace."



Leslie Jamison "The Empathy Exams"
Leslie Jamison discusses her book with her aunt Kay Jamison at Politics & Prose bookstore in Washington, D.C.

Kay Jamison give introduction.

  • will talk about empathy

  • has bipolar

  • what makes empathy in a medial situation and psychiatric situation

  • you want competence when going to psychiatry

  • empathy can do bad things to your brain if you get it wrong

  • Though empathy?

    • talks about her doctor, psychotherapist

    • lithium and psycho therapy

Leslie Jamison

  • Reads from chapter 1.

  • Q and A

    • Standard patient process, works, was good.

    • Does one learn empathy, teach empathy, is it something that's modeled?

    • Empathy and violent Video games?

    • How  to deal with someone with manic/depression?

    • What's difference between empathy and sympathy?

    • A Doctor: Listening but wanting to be known as well? The need to help, listening and being know yourself?

    • How has the inquiry into empathy feed your creative imagination as a writer?

    • Learning about the author.  Relationship between self disclosure and empathy?

    • How came to write essays?

Never Hurts to Ask The Empathy Exams,’ by Leslie Jamison
 NYT Book Review
Jamison opens with her experience as an actor playing patients for medical students.
“I’m called a standardized patient, which means I act toward the norms set for my disorders.
” Sometimes, working from a script, she plays a mother whose baby’s lips are turning blue,
and sometimes a young woman whose grief over her brother’s death manifests as seizures."


EMPATHY: How we live with each other
The first of a series of roundtables around the topic of Empathy.
Recorded July, 2013 at the Massachusetts Historical Society's Dowse Library.
Hosted by a design company called  SEEK Company.



Dr. Marco Iacoboni

Dr. Mary Hellen Immordino-Yang

Dr. Robert Weller

Dr. Adam Seligman

Leslie Jamison

Ben Doepke & the SEEK company (host)


  • sharing the mental state of another person - emotional or cognitive

  • like all the definitions

  • not a fan of definitional exercises

  • sense of self and other boundary and able to cross it.

  • sympathy and empathy

  • agency - empathy as a feeling or an action

    • emotional contagion

    • vr. perspective taking

Empathy and taking action


Emotional contagion - almost free of culture - you smile I smile.

Perspective taking - heavy into culture

huge conflict in the world - does conflict inhibit emotional contagion?

Neural systems

Empathy can be impeded and strengthened.

  • attention

  • culture

Is empathy sloppy, touchy feely stuff?

  • what crosses boundaries

What can we do to foster empathy?

  • say please and thank you

  • shut up and listen

  • take time to engage in this kind of discussion, and reflection

  • play

  • allow discomfort