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Culture of Empathy Builder:   Matthew P. Winslow


Matthew Winslow & Edwin Rutsch: Dialogs on How to Build a Culture of Empathy

Matthew Winslow is Associate Professor in the Psychology Department at Eastern Kentucky University. He teaches a class on empathy in the filed of psychology.

Matthew says empathy is like being an actor and the best Halloween costume ever.  He sees empathy as a skill that can be developed with practice. People need both the motivation to empathize and the ability to do so. Narcissism is the opposite of empathy because itís the narrow focus on the self. The opposite of empathy is wearing mirrored sunglasses on backwards so you only see yourself.
Sub Conference: Science



Matthew Winslow & Edwin Rutsch: How to Build a Culture of Empathy



  • 00:00 Introduction

  • (transcription pending)

  • (Video Transcriptions: If you would like to take empathic
    action and create a transcription of this video, check the volunteers page.
      The transcriptions will make it easier for other viewers to quickly see the content of this video.)







My research is now about creating an app (for smartphones, eventually) that will make people better perspective takers. We are really at the start of the development process, but the initial testing weíve done is promising. Our goal is that people would play our ďgameĒ the same way they do Angry Birds. We hope it will enjoyable and entertaining, all the while making them better empathizers. I can explain to you in more detail how we plan to do it. I also describe it a bit in my Chautauqua lecture.

This is my current plan for saving the world. The other two ideas I presented in my lecture were to reduce the division ini the world (us/them), and to make people see themselves as more similar to others, and others as more similar to everyone. Perceived dissimilarity has been a barrier to empathy in much research. Both are tall orders.

What is your metaphor of what empathy is like?
Iím not sure this counts as a metaphor, but I see empathy as a skill that can be developed with practice. People need both the motivation to empathize and the ability to do so. My game will address the ability part, and the motivation part if I can get it in there. My idea is to appeal to self-interest. Being more empathic will help you in your life, relationships, workplace, etc.
If you want a more poetic answer, I would say that empathy is like the best Halloween costume ever.

Describe your personal felt experience in your body of empathy?
Not sure what you mean here. I like the behavioral mimicry research (we unconsciously mimic the posture of people we are talking to), but I donít think thatís what you mean. Maybe you can help me understand your question better.

What is the opposite of empathy and what is your metaphor for that?
Narcissism is the opposite of empathy because itís the narrow focus on the self. Itís tempting to say that facebook is a killer of empathy because itís broadcasting yourself to everyone, but I donít think thatís quite correct. You CAN read about others on facebook, so itís not one-way only. The opposite of empathy is wearing mirrored sunglasses on backwards so you only see yourself.


Matthew P. Winslow - Eastern Kentucky University. April 26, 2012
Presentation: Walking a Mile
Video: Chautauqua lecture;
psychology professor will address the subject of empathy.


See Slide show:


Part 1: Talk Begins at 8:30

  • Introduction

  • Look under your seat for paper, with questions

    • answer the questions

Walking a Mile -- Part 2


  • answer the questions

  • raise hands

    • running red lights

    • tailgating

    • cell phones

    • litter out of car

    • parking illegally

    • merging

  • trick question

  • we do annoying things, not empathic

  • empathy breaking down and not working well?

  • 3:30 - School for Indians - turn them into whites

    (he wanted to help people, is not empathizing)

    • kill the Indian culture - make them look like white people

      •  a failure of empathy

  • 6:00 - Davis CA - pepper spraying

    •  a failure of empathy to not empathizes with the police sprayer

  • These are example of where there is a failure of empathy

  • What is empathy, what are the barrios

Walking a Mile -- Part 3



 What is empathy?

  • Carl Rodgers -

    • understanding how other people think and feel without losing your sense of self

    • not sympathy -

  • Level 1:

    • test 1: child -perspective taking

    • test 2:  point to candle the other person can't see

    • test 3: a difference perspective

    • test 4: Packard perspective

  • Level 2:

    • test:

    • Test:

    • Test: E on for head test

    • Test: Theory of mind - Sally box test

    • test: understand others emotions with proper response

      • reading the mind in the eyes test

  • Us and Them - Judgment

    • think of us - we

    • think of commonality

  • Empathy is a skill - how to develop it

    • create a phone app


Walking a Mile -- Part 4


  •  People with good empathy can read emotions from eyes

  • why is empathy important?

    • cure for social ills

    • reduces aggression, conflict, prejudices, bias,

    • good for helping others.  empathy altruism hypothesis

    • Martha Nussbaum - on humanities

      • critical thinking

      • respect for differences

      • compassion - empathy - essential for democracy

    • Simon Barron empathy

      • zero empathy

      • key to evil - is lack of empathy

  • Barriers to empathy

    • us and them - separate people

    • merging of you and me

    • Arnold - thinkers about race - us and them

      • feeling separateness - block to empathy

  • We are the same

    • examples

    • not Mars and Venus

Walking a Mile -- Part 5

  • self other a problem

  • perceived dissimilarity - I am unique

    • red and blue states

    • Men -Mars - Woman - Venus


Walking a Mile -- Part 6

  • how to create more empathy

  • Address barriers

    • 1. self others

      • common ingroup identity model

      • me good - you not good

      • think of us. focus on commonalities

    • 2.  dissimilarity problem

      • you are not unique


    • Empathy is a skill

    • how to develop

  • games - that teach perspective taking

    • working on a game

  • drug that has great effect??

    • Empathy