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Culture of Empathy Builder: Simon Baron-Cohen 

Simon Baron-Cohen
Professor of Developmental Psychopathology and Director of the Autism Research Centre at Cambridge University. Author: Zero Degrees of Empathy: a New Theory of Human Cruelty UK Title
The Science of Evil: On Empathy and the Origins of Cruelty U.S. Title

'Including research, this title presents a way of understanding what it is that leads individuals down negative paths, and challenges us to consider replacing the idea of evil with the idea of empathy-starvation.'



Live chat with Edwin Rutsch and Simon Baron-Cohen: Empathy and the Science of Evil


We talk with Simon Baron-Cohen, Professor of Developmental Psychopathology and Director of the Autism Research Centre at Cambridge University.  The Live Chat will take place in a open Google Document at this URL:  

In his new book;
Zero Degrees of Empathy:  The Science of Evil: On Empathy and the Origins of Cruelty (US), he calls for a redefinition of Evil as a lack of empathy.
Sub Conference: Science




The best books on Empathy
recommended by Simon Baron-Cohen
"The autism expert tells us about the links between empathy and language, and says our acts of cruelty to one another have at their root a failure to empathise"




Only empathy can break the cycle of violence in Israel-Palestine
Simon Baron-Cohen

I’ve spent my career studying empathy. It’s a vital first step in conflicts where both sides have dehumanised each other
Tue 22 Jan 2019

"Empathy is all about imagining other minds, appreciating that different people have different perspectives, and responding to their thoughts and feelings with an appropriate emotion. After a career studying autism and the nature of empathy, I see empathy as one of our most valuable natural resources. It has particular promise as an approach to conflict resolution, one that has advantages over viewing a problem through a chiefly military, economic or legal lens."



Empathy in the Israel-Palestine Conflict
Why Might some people choose this as a new approach to peace?

]Written by: Professor Simon Baron-Cohen, Professor of Developmental Psychopathology, University of Cambridge
First published at the Empathy Neuroscience Conference, Rome, October 15th 2017

" I’m going to argue that there are at least four (4) different conditions under which someone might choose the empathy route.

  • First, shared grief, that is, realizing that the grief you are feeling is the identical grief the enemy is feeling.

  •  The second is personal ethical discomfort, that is, feeling uncomfortable at treating a person as someone potentially dangerous or as someone who must be subjugated or attacked.

  • The third is a rational approach to building a more inclusive society

  • And the fourth is a reflective phase of questioning after bitter experience of seeing how armed conflict has failed.

We will look at examples that embody each of these in turn, which demonstrate these approaches can work, and how urgent it is that these are scaled up."


Simon Baron-Cohen: 'Zero Degrees of Empathy' - The Forgiveness Project 2013

On 17th September 2013 we held our fourth annual lecture, "Zero Degrees of Empathy: Exploring explanations of human cruelty & kindness". Simon Baron-Cohen, Professor of Developmental Psychopathology at the University of Cambridge delivered the keynote speech, and the lecture was followed by a panel discussion with Mary Foley, Peter Woolf and Marina Cantacuzino, chaired by Simon Fanshawe.


Simon Baron-Cohen

  • 11:30 - cruelty the result of Evil.. Evil is defined as the absence of good. Did something bad because they are not good.  Empathy is a better term.

  • cognitive and affective empathy

  • 20:00 cruelty is the loss of effective empathy -

  • goes back to Martin Buber - see people as people or as object

  • 21:00 empathy bell curve.

  • How to lose empathy

    • due to obedience to authority

    • ideology

      • like terrorists and their beliefs

      • eugenics is USA

    • in-group and out-group - Ie Rwanda

  • Psychopaths - Ted Bunde

    • 29:00 psychopaths don't' have empathy

    • Autism - difficulty with cognitive empathy

    • 32:00 John Bolby studies childhood causes of psychopaths

    • genes and environment

  • Genes and testosterone

  • 35:00 location of empathy in the brain - brain regions

    • person with brain damage

    • Jeane Decety - pain studies

  • 37:30 - teaching empathy

  • 38:30 high empathy people

    • Swedish diplomat

    • Mandela

    • building friendship across the political divide

  • 42:00 Discussion

    • is empathy fixed? feel empathy for people who lack empathy

1:00:00 - Peter, A excriminal who reformed with Restorative Justice and empathy (very good)






A political system based on empathy
"Imagine a political system based not on legal rules (systemizing) but on empathy. Would this make the world a safer place?

....Empathizing politicians would perhaps follow Mandela and De Klerk's examples, who sat down to try to understand the other, to empathize with the other, even if the other was defined as a terrorist. To do this involves the empathic act of stepping into the other's shoes, and identifying with their feelings.

The details of a political system based on empathizing would need a lot of working out, but we can imagine certain qualities that would have no place."



The erosion of empathy: Simon Baron Cohen at TEDxHousesofParliament


  • Nazi Scientists - unempathic test

    • systematic measurements until death

  • how can we treat people as objects

  • the concept of evil -

    • possession by a supernatural force

    • argument is circular, evil is absence of good,

    • he did something bad because he's not good

  • instead - concept of empathy is scientifically helpful

    • can measure it

    • can study it

  • two kinds of empathy

    • cognitive - imagine someone's thoughts and feelings

    • affective -  drive to respond with an appropriate emotion.

  • low affective empathy leads to cruelty

  • empathy is a bell curve

  • why do we have low empathy?

    • 1. obedience to authority - Milgram Experiment

    • 2. ideology  like 911 terrorists

    • 3. in group - out group relationships - dehumanize a group - Rwanda

    • 4. Ted Bundy -  psychopaths

      • Had high cognitive empathy

      • Had low affective empathy

    • 5. Autism

      • have affective empathy - are confused by others

      • low cognitive empathy

  • Where do psychopaths come from?

    • nurture: childhood emotional neglect

    • nurture: childhood maltreatment

    • nature: carrier of MAO- gene

    • nature: hormone Testosterone -

    • nature: empathy circuit in brain can be damaged

    • pain study

  • Positive side of empathy

    • end of Apartheid.

    • empathy is important for a healthy democracy

    • no empathy - no democracy

    • conflict resolution

  • 12:11  "Empathy is our most valuable natural resource for conflict resolution."

  • We can all use our empathy.





2012-07-08 - Simon Baron-Cohen -Evolution of Empathy

Abstract: Empathy is the drive to identify another person's thoughts and feelings and to respond to these with an appropriate emotion. Empathy comes by degrees, with individual differences evident in the traditional bell curve. We now know quite a lot about which parts of the brain are used when we empathize and how empathy develops in children. We also know that early experience affects empathy, but so does biology: hormones in the womb, and specific genes. There are several ways in which one can lose one's empathy, clearly seen in psychiatric conditions such as the personality disorders, including the psychopath. We discuss how people with autism and psychopaths show opposite empathy profiles. Finally, the discovery that there may be 'genes for empathy' implies that empathy may be the result of our evolution.



  • Work of collaborators

  • Presenting Research relevant to empathy

    • psychology of it

    • neuroscience

    • social and biological basis

    • hormones and genes

  • 00:49 Consciousness of what? (different kinds)

    • outside world

    • own mind

    • consciousness of other minds (theory of mind/empathy)

  •  02: 26 - What is Empathy?

    • Cognitive: the drive to identity other's thoughts and feelings

    • Affective: drive to respond appropriately to another's thoughts and feelings.

  • 03:40 Empathy as degrees - the bell shaped curve

    • story of Nazi ver. Schindler

  • 06:00  Measuring empathy

    • self reporting

    • performance test - 0 eyes test

  • shutting down empathy

    • Milligram test of shocks - authority

    • dehumanizing  people

    • psychopaths - had cognitive empathy but no affective mpathy

  • 12:00 where does reduction in affective empathy come from?

    • john bowlby - abuse and lack of love leads to losing empathy

    • role of biology - genes

    • gene - environment interaction

  • 15:00 empathy in animals

    • food sharing

    • helping

    • consolation

    • reading emotions

  • Study: monkey refused pulling chain for food it it cause shock of other monkey.

  • 17:15 - Study: Genes for empathy

  • Study: role of testosterone

  • Autism - difficulty with cognitive empathy - trouble with understanding others motives, beliefs, feelings,

    • with draw from people,

  • 24:20 neuro science - many areas of the brain deal with empathy.

    • brain damage makes person loses empathy

    • Studies: woman and empathy

    • Studies: pain studies

    • callousness is associated with reduced response to fearful faces

  • 28:45  conclusion review




2011-12-27 - Empathy and the Origins of Cruelty

 How important is our brain’s empathy circuit and what happens to society when it doesn’t work properly? We explored the subject in July with University of Cambridge psychologist Simon Baron-Cohen. His recent book is “The Science of Evil: On Empathy and the Origins of Cruelty” .
Definition of empathy: two components,
Cognitive: recognition of someone  else's thoughts and feelings, that's about putting yourself into someone else's shoes, to imagine what they might think or feel.
The second component is called affective, and that's the emotional reaction, that when you recognize what someone's thinking or feeling, that it should be accompanied by an appropriate emotional reaction. Not just recognizing that someone is in pain, but caring about it. Wanting to alleviate their distress.


2011-09-30 - Could A Lack Of Empathy Explain Cruelty? Talk of the Nation - NPR
Can neuroscience and psychology explain cruelty? In his new book, The Science of Evil, Cambridge University professor Simon Baron-Cohen explains the empathy spectrum we all lie on and that an erosion of empathy can explain why some commit cruel acts.


Facebook: LIVE CHAT here with Simon Baron-Cohen: Empathy & The Science of Evil
Simon Baron-Cohenwill be here ONLINE for a LIVE Text Chat with you. On Sunday, July 31,
10:00-11:00 AM, California PST - 6:00-7:00 PM, London, UK Time

2011-06-29 - Evil and empathy: Scientists shed light on hearts of darkness

When Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg spoke to his grieving nation in the wake of a rampage that killed 77 people, he said, “Evil can kill a person, but it cannot conquer a people.” That quote, in slightly different translations, zoomed around the world.


Simon Baron-Cohen on Empathy
The autism expert tells us about the links between empathy and language, and says our acts of cruelty to one another have at their root a failure to empathise . You are well known for your research into autism. Recently you have been exploring the concept of empathy. Can you explain how the two are linked?

2011-06-04 - RSA Keynote Zero Degrees of Empathy
Join Simon Baron Cohen as he presents a new way of understanding what it is that leads individuals down negative paths, and challenges all of us to consider replacing the idea of evil with the idea of empathy-erosion.
Listen to audio Please right-click link and choose "Save Link As..." to download audio file onto your computer.

  • Examples of human cruelty

    • Nazi scientists testing on people

    • Bar fight

    • parents being mean to children

    • soldiers raping

  • Old theory is this is evil

    • for science evil is not explanatory

    • is circular - the absence of good, did evil because he is evil.

  • Explain cruelty as Empathy Erosion

  • Empathy is more scientific

    • measureable

    • make predictions

    • test predictions

  • What is empathy?

    • 2 parts

      • cognitive

        • drive to identify what they are thinking or feeling

      • Affective -emotional reaction

    • need both parts

    • i.e. psychopath can do first part but not proper response.

  • Empathy on a spectrum - bell curve

    • (who are the people at the upper end? the empathy superstars)

  • Various Empathy tests

  • Martin Buber -

    • I - You relationships

    •  treating people as objects - dehumanize

  • Empathy Disorders - with low empathy

    • borderline personality disorders

    •  psychopathy - anti social

    • narcissism

    • (see below for more details)

  • Where empathy resides in the brain?

    • Phineas Gage brain - loses his empathy

    • Empathy Circuit in the brain

      • pain experiments

  • Is zero empathy always bad?

    • autism spectrum

      • recognize detail and patterns

      • have better systematizing skills

  • Empathy in animals and evolution?

    • yes, Franz De Waal

      • moneys-apes

        • share food

        • helping after injury

        • consolation behavior

        • read each others faces

    • 1964 Jules Masserman  - monkeys study, food and pain

  • Empathy affected by

    • genes

    • environment

    • culture

  • Empathy is valuable for humanity - most valuable

    • has power to resolve conflict

      • personal

      • interpersonal

      • international

  • Q and A

    • Theory of pathology or  social?

      • no hard and fast line

    • Empathy kin selection - in group and out group?

      • cultural ways to lose empathy

    • Social empathy

      • cultural factors

      • fluctuation of empathy

    • Danger of empathy - feeling versus cognitive

      • empathy is feeling and cognitive

    • Narcissistic Boss - less empathy maybe good?

      • self advantage

    • Hormones Testosterone - after pregnancy was more empathy

      • Oxytocin - more empathy

    • Low empathy is rewarded?

      • focus on what's good for you and the group

      • (cynical moderator - an empathic world would be hopeless)

    • Conflict Resolution

      • what grows empathy

        • no single method to grow empathy

        • drama,

      • self empathy

    • Empathy and criminals

      • justice system - empathy disorder

      • crime empathy has been switched off

    • Empathy and political ideology

      • politics and empathy scores -tests would be good

    • Empathy switch - Nazi and family (in-out group)

      • we all switch off out empathy

      • empathy is always fluctuating

    • College students empathy drops - less reading of fiction

      • need to more closely look at the study

    • Conduct disorder and moral development

      • where do you get you moral compass

        • morals from empathy

        • morals from bible or rules - legal system

    • Every religion has the golden rule



2011-07-17 Philosophy talk: The Psychology of Evil
  "True evil seems easy to recognize: the killing of innocent children; assigning whole populations to death by gassing, or napalm, or aerial bombing. These acts go beyond the criminal, the mean, the bad. But what is the psychology of evil-doers?..  John and Ken probe the evil mind with Simon Baron Cohen from Cambridge University, author of The Science of Evil: On Empathy and the Origins of Cruelty."
  • 00:00  Introduction

    • People can do horror

    • Pervasiveness of evil

    • Religions - why does god let evil exist

    • Philosophers - are they irrational?

  • Will look at evil from the perspective of psychology and neural science

    • What are the character traits of evil?

    • wonton disregard for the well being of someone else

    • an evil person does evil acts

  • Calling a person evil is not scientific

    • it condemns and does not explain

  • 3:00 Simon Baron-Cohen

    • evil comes from diminished empathy.

    • Philosophy

      • cruelty by malfunctioning brain chemistry

  • 4:50 Kaitlin Ash and her friends 

    • empathy friends comments

    • Thomas Luis UCSF psychiatrist - empathy expert

      • many think empathy means niceness

      • empathy is a skill - like music, drawing

      • a skill for knowing what other people think and feel

      • and can be measured

    • Empathy questionnaire

      • people are poor judges of their own traits

      • practice can make you improve on the score.

  • 8:00  Simon Baron-Cohen

  • How did Evil peak your scientific interest.?

    • how is it possible that people are capable of cruelty

    • evil don't explain much

    • is a curricular argument

  • 9:30 Diminishment of empathy - Where does the science come in?

    • Science is about measurements and predictions

      • Empathy can be measured

      • Empathy Quotient questionnaire

        • test results show a bell curve

        • if it's measurable it's useful to science

  • 10:30 The Science of Evil - What about the title?

    • this is about the science of the term empathy, empathy erosion

    • the empathy scale

  • 12:00 Some people are good at empathy and use it to manipulate?

    • cognitive empathy - recognize what someone is thinking or feeling

    • affective empathy - respond with an appropriate emotion with someone's state of mind.

  • 13:20 Isn't that sympathy?

    • sympathy is a subset of empathy

    • empathy is any state they're in - happiness, etc.

    • have an appropriate emotional response (as if you were that person)

  • 14:00 Where does evil or empathy come from?

    • definitional - when someone does a cruel act, it is low empathy

  • 16:30 - Can I be empathetic to one person and not another? slaveholder and family

    • empathy is between two individual

  • 17:30 Someone has harmed someone you care about and then you want to hurt them? the empathy drives the lack of empathy?

    • empathy is for the victim and not the perpetrator

    • empathy is not condoning Hitler

  • 19:15 People that have empathy turned off or damaged.?

    • movement by moment fluctuations of empathy

    • people that are generally low in empathy

    • personality disorders - low in empathy

  • 20:01 What happens in the brain when you have empathy for one person and not the other?

    • test psychopaths - under activity in the empathy circuits

  • 23:0 Empathy erosion

    • tired - low empathy

    • blind spots

  • 23:45 - Aspergers and low empathy.

    • low empathy doesn't lead to cruelty

    • they withdraw

  • 24:030 Nina - autism and Aspergers. Societal view of the norm.

  • 26:07 Cultural standards.

  • 26:00 Analogy of mass and weight?

    • values may shift in time

  • 28:30 Keith - applying empathy differently toward different people.

  • 30:00 In and out-group

    • our own beliefs influence us

  • 31:00 Is it better to be more empathic?  Nietzsche, Any Rand, said 'do gooders' are the problem?

  • What is the right amount of empathy for happiness and a productive society?

    • you can imagine that you can never have enough empathy. the more the better

    • most of us are in the average range, maybe that is the optimal level

    • empathy keeps you functioning in social network

    • too much may not take care of yourself

  • 33:30 - Some people don't deserve our empathy. Hitler.

  • I'd delight in his pain and I would be doing morally good. The treat of losing empathy if you step outside of certain bounds

    • Used to feel the same as you.

    • doing the book has changed him

    • low empathy because of the background: genetics, environmental.

  • 35:00 Instead of punishing wrong doers - treat them?

    • treat them -  the logical result

  • 36:00 Why can't we say a whole culture is evil?

  • 37:15  force of arms versus persuasion?

    • military methods are not very effective,

    • use empathy for conflict resolution

  • 38:30 Freewill versus biology. freewill is an illusion?

    • that's close to what I'm arguing

    • we have a hospital for psychopaths - treatment

  • We're a very vengeful people

    • people make mistakes and we should condemn them forever

    • restorative justice

  • 40:15 Banality of evil.

    • not all acts of cruelty require clinical intervention

    • maybe more education

  • 41:45 Cruel people who empathized with their victims could live with themselves?

    • perpetrators may feel bad afterwards

    • neurochemistry

  • 42:45 Complicated empathy regulation with in and out groups?

    • is complicated by should shy away from complexity

    • generation ago Europe was divided now there's more unity.




2011-06-04 - An Interview With Simon Baron-Cohen On Zero-Empathy, Autism, And Accountability
Simon Baron-Cohen "sat down with me" this week via email and graciously took the time to answer my questions stemming from my review of  his new book, The Science of Evil, that appeared on my blogs last week. What follows is a response that is every bit as thorough as my original review;

2011-05-30 - Psychologist Simon Baron-Cohen on Empathy and the Science of Evil,
interview By Maia Szalavitz
Baron-Cohen's new book, The Science of Evil: On Empathy and the Origins of Cruelty, examines the role of empathy, the ability to understand and care about the emotions of others, not only in autism but in conditions like psychopathy in which lack of care for others leads to antisocial and destructive behavior.
What do you mean when you write about "zero negative" empathy?


2011-05-11  - Simon Baron-Cohen, Gwen Adshead, Julian Baggini, Val McDermid   (download mp3)

Radio Show: Andrew Marr explores how far empathy, or the lack of it, can explain cruelty.

Simon Baron-Cohen proposes turning the focus away from evil and says we should understand human behaviour by studying the 'empathy circuit' in the brain.

Gwen Adshead, a forensic psychotherapist at Broadmoor Hospital and the crime writer
Val McDermid question whether this would help in their line of work, and the philosopher Julian Baggini tries to pin down what we mean when we talk about the self

  • Simon Baron-Cohen - brain  empathy circuit

    • regions of the brain used in empathy

    • is Jewish, wondered about how people can be cruel

    • neuroscience has been studying brains

    • empathy is distributed in at est 10 areas

      We all have degrees of empathy, it's not all or none

      • it's a bell curve

      • looking at what determines where you end up on the bell curve

      • Up bringing help determine it.

        • damaging

          • neglect

          • abuse

        • internal pot of gold - attachment theory

          • better attachment

          • secure, trusting relationships with parents help develop empathy

          • trust relationships through your life

  • Group think, Nazi?

    • many ways to lose your empathy

    • 2. Biology

    • 3. Culture

      • the prevailing cultural ideology

  • What would it mean to stop using evil and talk empathy?

    • set aside the word evil - has no explanation

    • empathy is measurable, determinants

  • Gwen Adshead, do you think  the word evil is useful?

    • yes, a lack of empathy might be treatable

    • hospital for treatment services

    • evil has formative quality, word of power

    • judges us the work

    • We cant bare this- state of mind we are in

  • Are they 0 degrees people treatable?

    • people who have done terrible things

  • Val McDermid author, is the word useful?

    • ordinary people use this

    • as opposition of good

    • he was born evil or bad

    • empathy is a useful term

  • Julian Baggini the pot of gold? a notion of self

    • evil is completely the other,

    • dismisses a person

  • Evil is uses as the opposite of good

    • is circular

  • Simon What outcomes would you like?

    • science can be for predictions

    • empathy can be measured

    • tests

      • MRI

      • genes

      • gene environment interaction

  • We should think more of how we bring up the young?

    • geneticists say, callousness is about 30 factor

    • environment - 70%

  • Attachment theory - very important

    • trust builds up in the brains

    • no attachments become risky

  • Identity? the self

    • Perl view -  core essence

    • bundle view - we are collect of thoughts, etc

    • dementia - person is gone

  • We are the stories?

    • the capacity to create a coherent narrative

    • etc.

  • Idea of evil, in religions, soul,

  • Empathy is a funning thing

    • if your low on empathy you may be the last person to know it.

    • getting a clear picture

    • looking at yourself through someone else's eyes

    • mirror neurons

    • if difficult seeing others, may be difficult to see yourself.

  • Back to Stories?

    • driven by situation

    • circumstances affect us (social structure)

    • empathy circuit can fluctuate

    • affected by bad day, being drunk, situation stress

    • Nazi Germany,  society sanctioned racism

    • people around us are the people who effect us.

    • may come from  powerlessness - fear of loss of power

      • if you are secure it helps

  • Our moral views?

    • bring in a more human justice system

    • mental health has changed

  • Is it possible to improve empathy?

    • empathy is a skill like others

    • people who have low empathy we should use the health service

    • love will redeem us.

2011-05-05 - Scientist seeks to banish evil, boost empathy - Mother Nature Network
Simon Baron Cohen says evil can be understood as a lack of empathy, a condition that can be measured and is susceptible to treatment. As a scientist seeking to understand random acts of violence, from street brawls to psychopathic killings to genocide, he has puzzled for decades over what prompts such acts of human cruelty. And he's decided that evil is not good enough.

2011-05-11 - The End of Evil - American Spectator  By Christopher Orlet
In Waterloo, Illinois a man stands accused of strangling to death his wife and two small children.
For an expert witness, the defense could do worse than recruit Simon Baron-Cohen, author of Zero Degrees of Empathy: A New Theory of Human Cruelty. While the casual observer would insist that Chris Coleman is merely evil, Baron-Cohen would contend that the sick videos prove Coleman suffers from a disability, i.e., a severe lack of empathy. Naturally, a man with "eroded empathy" cannot be found guilty of homicide. He may, however, be treated. Perhaps with a combination of hormone injections, gene therapy, and counseling.



2011-04-28 - Scientist seeks to banish evil, boost empathy

As a scientist seeking to understand random acts of violence, from street brawls to psychopathic killings to genocide, he has puzzled for decades over what prompts such acts of human cruelty. And he's decided that evil is not good enough. "I'm not satisfied with the term 'evil'," says the Cambridge University psychology and psychiatry professor, one of the world's top experts in autism and developmental psychopathology.

2011-04-28 - Science Weekly Extra: Simon Baron-Cohen on empathy and evil
Simon Baron-Cohen talks to Ian Sample about his proposal that we should redefine 'evil' as an absence of empathy, outlined in his book Zero Degrees of Empathy: A New Theory of Human Cruelty

  • Simon Baron-Cohen Director of autism research at Cambridge

  • Why did you writer book?

    • wanted scientific explanation of cruelty

    • bad events are called evil and it's not an explanation

    • it's circular, the opposite of good

    • they did something bad because they are bad.

  • Discussions with your father?

    • Nazis had turned Jews into Lampshades

    • turning people into objects

    • how can people turn off their empathy

  • No good explanation for evil? science and religion

    • psychopaths have been studied by science

    • what are the ways you can loose your empathy

  • Losing empathy, the shades of losing it?

    • shift away from evil to empathy.

    • empathy is more explanatory

    • we all have empathy \

    • 5:00 empathy bell curve

  • Is there validity to empathy?

    • MRI has limitations

    • have gotten some consistent results

    • a growing consensus in science

  • Unempathic person vrs. empathic?

    • low empathy is not necessarily cruel

    • low empathy my just available people

    • or be socially clumsy

    • low empathy you don't have brakes on your actions

    • ways to lose empathy

      • get tired or stressed,

  • 9:40 - Childhood experiences  factors?

    • one set of risk factors

    •  John Bowlby attachment theory

    •  receiving affection and  nurturing in the first years of life

    • that protects them from difficulties

    • in contrast - neglect and abuse risk factor to losing empathy

    • delinquency - one thing thy had was a lack of a reliable caregiver

  • 11:00 Personal responsibility?

    • freewill - be held responsible for there actions

    • if a person didn't have nurture etc affects their empathy

    • a person in a wheelchair. we don't hold them responsible

    • use the criminal justice system

    • take a compassionate view of the offenders

    • maybe use the health services instead of justice system

  • 12:50 Is there a shortage of empathic people at the top?

    • empathy is a neglected resource

    • it's most important - resolves conflict

    • Desmond Tutu - his empathy

    • difficult to tell

    • our political system would look different if we used empathy for resolving conflict

  • 14:50 Any thoughts  on creating more empathy in society?

    • a historical perspective -

    • classrooms area changing.

      • teacher was authority

      • now more social

      • nurturing empathy in children and adults

  • 16:15 - Is empathy higher in different societies?

    • as a scientist those studies haven't been done as far as I know

    • one generation or ethnic groups

  • 17:00 How does your work on autism affect your empathy work?

    • people with autism have difficulty with empathy

    • one common factor is the empathy circuit in the brain

    • autism focus on details or patterns

    • social world is hard to reduce to a system

  • How are you on the empathy spectrum?

    • we're all on a empathy spectrum

    • women  tend to score slightly higher

    • scientist score lower than the humanities.

2011-04-19 -
Zero degrees of empathy: a new theory of human cruelty  
Audio 90min: Royal Institution of Great Britain,
Putting empathy under the microscope he explores four new ideas: firstly, that we all lie somewhere on an empathy spectrum, from high to low, from six degrees to zero degrees. Secondly that, deep within the brain lies the ‘empathy circuit’. How this circuit functions determines where we lie on the empathy spectrum. Thirdly, that empathy is not only something we learn but that there are also genes associated with empathy. And fourthly, while a lack of empathy leads to mostly negative results, is it always negative?
Power Point Slide Show Evolution of Empathy

Empathy and Cruelty - Outline

  • Why and how humans begins are capable of hurting each other

  • A work of collaboration

  • Cruelty

    • Nazi Scientists - Freezing water experiment on prisoners

      • how is it that the scientist can do this cruelty?

    • Fight in Club -

    • Mother Screams at Child

    • War - a soldier commits rape

  • How can they do this?

    • Society says they are doing Evil.

      • Evil is not explanatory.

      • can't study it scientifically

  • Replacing the word Evil with empathy erosion

    • Empathy is measurable, quantifiable

    • can have predictions

  • Empathy Definition

    • 2 components at least - need both parts

      • cognitive -

        • understanding, imagine thoughts and feelings

        • psychopaths may be able  do this part,

      • affective - the response

        • psychopaths don't do this part

        • don't want to alleviate peoples distress

    • individual differences - not on and off

      • a spectrum zero - to high

      • on a bell curve

      • there are 6 degrees of empathy

  • Ways to measure empathy

    • EQ - Empathy Quotient - social sensitivity

      • self reporting

      • did studies and shows a social bell curve

      • men and woman score differently

        • woman are slightly higher

    • Face- Eye Photo test

      • Shown photos

      • reading subtitle cues

      • woman are slightly higher

  • Philosophy

    • Martin Buber

      • I - It - relationships, cruelty when we see a person as a object

      • I - You relationships

  • In Physiology - 3 ways to loose empathy

    • Borderline personality

      • Marylyn Monroe

      • I hate you, please don't leave me

    • Psychopathic personality disorder

    • Narcissistic  personality disorder

      • self preoccupied

  • Causes

    • Childhood abuse

      • Insecure attachment

    • Genes

    • Testosterone

      • More Testosterone less empathy

      • Measured in amniotic fluid

  • Location of Empathy in the Brain

    • where in the brain does empathy take place?

    • Phineas Gag story - brain damage and social skill - empathy affected

    • 10 brain regions associated with empathy

    • antisocial behavior

      • pain and amygdala

      • reward center  of brain form pain

    • callousness measurements

      • low callousness less activity in amygdala

  • Is Zero empathy bad?

    • autism

      • difficulty with change, empathy

      • like systems

      • they have strengths - spotting patterns.

      • low empathy doesn't lead to cruelty

      • DVD helps teach empathy

        • empathy can be taught

  • monkeys and empathy - De Waal

    • consolation behavior

    • in humans empathy has taken off.

    • monkeys don't want to cause pain to other monkeys

  • Empathy is perhaps the most unique and valuable human resource

    • has great potential for conflict resolution

      • domestic

      • international

    • need to develop empathy

  • Q and A

    • Man is nice at work but beats up his wife?

      • can empathy fluctuate, yes

      • tired, stressed. situation factors

      • Nazi empathic at home, no empathy for minorities

    • Ramachandran and Mirror neurons - activating them in ASD?

      • empathy involves mirror neurons.

      • Agree, but there are other parts of the brain

      • how to stimulate this in autism

        • psychotherapy

        • teach empathy

    • PSD, documentation, restoration and reconciliation?

      • dehumanization and reconciliation

      • reconciliation helps

      • is rehabilitation of abuser possible

      • if you've lost empathy - is it permanent

    • Systems of punishment and empathy?

      • if crime is a physical disability

      • should we be compassionate to people with low empathy

      • the criminal may be a product of abuse

      • should we think about the health aspect

      • free will and self responsibility - but  free will is not as free as you think

    • Twin studies:  Environmental and biological of child and empathy?

      • twin studies - environmental and biological

      • there's an interplay

      • gene's are not the only factor

    • Evolutionary significances of empathy and the selfish gene?

      • is low empathy beneficial - politicians

      • females and caring for infants, reading them empathically

    • Adolescence and prison - uses an old system?

      • science and crime

      • laws may not be based on new science

      • legal system needs to develop compassion

      • adolescence and developing brain and developing empathy

        • empathy is developing

    • Personality types, Munchausen's syndrome and empathy?

      • a parent takes child from one doctor to another for their own attention

      • some adults loose empathy for Childs needs

      • more concerned with own needs

      • depression results in loss of empathy

      • many routes to loss of empathy

    • Narcissisms, to much codling and attention?

      • a theory: child may have been given too much attention

        • the theory is that too much attention causes self centeredness

      • I don't think there is too much attention to a child

    • Can you fake empathy?

      • actors do it.

      • there probably are limits

    • Can you make people less empathy?

      • what can you do to people to reduce empathy

      • gave women testosterone - had less empathy

    • Can you be too empathic?

      • people with high empathy probably don't suffer from it.

      • can you become overwhelmed by others empathy

    • Across the generations, trans-generational empathy?

      • thinking of others for social security, etc,

    • Is it possible to think of indirect empathy, the bomber empathy?

      • levels of empathy - when you don't see the victims


2011-04-14 - Zero Degrees of Empathy by Simon Baron-Cohen – review
Carole Jahme reviews two new books about the science of empathy, Zero Degrees of Empathy by Simon Baron-Cohen, and Pathological Altruism edited by Barbara Oakley. Where you sit on the empathy spectrum will have an effect over the sorts of things that make you cry. More significantly, how much or how little empathic understanding you possess will shape the course of your life. Empathy is a powerful ability that most mammals possess to a greater or lesser extent. Strange then that science only started tuning in to empathy in the 1960s. Simon Baron-Cohen is one of a few scientists who have continually focused on the genetic and environmental factors involved.

2011-04-17 -
PBS's Autism Now And Simon Baron-Cohen's The Science Of Evil
On Friday, Baron-Cohen wrote about his new book and his theory of empathy erosion in the Financial Times. A reviewer there used Baron-Cohen's work as a launching point to discuss his own beliefs regarding evil, charging that Baron-Cohen's work reveals "a certain philosophical naivety." And perhaps it does, but that misses the point, as did the reviewer on Baron-Cohen's definition of empathy.

2011-04-15 - Lessons in empathy
Children like David develop empathy effortlessly, and the benefits are both immediate and enduring. They tend to be more popular, better at communication, have higher self-esteem and do better academically. Throughout their lives they find socialising and relationships easier. The benefits of empathy affect others as well. Those in their orbit feel understood, appreciated, valued and included. Further down the spectrum, children like Thomas have trouble developing empathy, and difficulties ensue.

2011-04-15 - Zero Degrees of Empathy - Review | A book that gets to the heart of man's inhumanity
Baron-Cohen has made a major contribution to our understanding of autism. Autistic people lack any comprehension that other people have feelings. They do not understand what empathy is. Like most psychologists, he loves categorising and measuring. He describes how our degree of empathy can be measured, and how our scores form the familiar shape of the bell curve. If you want to find your Empathy Quotient (EQ), the questionnaire is in the book.

2011-04-15 - Zero Degrees of Empathy - Review | A book that gets to the heart of man's inhumanity
Baron-Cohen has made a major contribution to our understanding of autism. Autistic people lack any comprehension that other people have feelings. They do not understand what empathy is. Like most psychologists, he loves categorising and measuring. He describes how our degree of empathy can be measured, and how our scores form the familiar shape of the bell curve. If you want to find your Empathy Quotient (EQ), the questionnaire is in the book.

2011-04-05 - Why a lack of empathy is the root of all evil  -  The Independent, UK
In his latest book, Zero Degrees of Empathy: A new theory of human cruelty, Baron-Cohen, argues that the term evil is unscientific and unhelpful. "Sometimes the term evil is used as a way to stop an inquiry," Baron-Cohen tells me. "'This person did it because they're evil' – as if that were an explanation."

2011-04-01 - Zero Degrees of Empathy: evil as empathy erosion
 As a scientist, Baron-Cohen dislikes the term “evil” and proposes “empathy erosion” as an alternative. One has to confess that it doesn’t quite have the same resonance. “The empathy-eroded Count Dracula sank his fangs into her neck” lacks a certain elan. Why swap terms anyway? Because empathy erosion is more measurable than evil, and thus more congenial to the white-coated technicians of the mind. But why should being able to measure something in the laboratory be the key factor?

2011-04-01 - Zero Degrees of Empathy - Review by Terry Eagleton
There is, then, a certain philosophical naivety about this attractively humane study. As a psychologist, the author provides us with some fascinating information about the relation between degrees of empathy and the state of our brains, though he does not pause to reflect on how his moral discourse relates to his scientific idiom. There are some compelling case studies of men and women with little capacity for empathy or none at all, from which Baron-Cohen draws some typically illuminating conclusions.


2004 - The Empathy Quotient: An Investigation of Adults with Asperger Syndrome or High

"Empathy is an essential part of normal social functioning, yet there are precious few instruments for measuring individual differences in this domain.   In this article we review psychological theories of empathy and its measurement. "

2011-03-31 - Medical diagnosis of malfeasance
WICKEDNESS has long been the preserve of religion. For an act to be evil, it must be significantly wrong, embarked upon with full knowledge of its wantonness and embraced wholeheartedly by the person doing the deed. In “Zero Degrees of Empathy” psychologist and psychiatrist Simon Baron-Cohen argues for a scientific explanation of why some people act in a way that appears to be evil. He thinks that they are sick and that they can be treated.

Article: The science of empathy
'Unempathic acts are simply the tail end of a bell curve, found in every population on the planet. If we want to replace the term "evil" with the term "empathy", we have to understand empathy closely. The key idea is that we all lie somewhere on an empathy spectrum. People said to be "evil" or cruel are simply at one extreme of the empathy spectrum. We can all be lined up along this spectrum of individual differences, based on how much empathy we have. At one end of this spectrum we find "zero degrees of empathy".'

Book: Zero Degrees of Empathy: a New Theory of Human Cruelty
'Including research, this title presents a way of understanding what it is that leads individuals down negative paths, and challenges us to consider replacing the idea of evil with the idea of empathy-starvation.'

2010-03-03 -'Empathic Civilization': Do We Have Empathy Or Are We Just Good Rule Followers?
In the movie "Blade Runner," the earth becomes populated by a species that looks and behaves just like humans, except they lack empathy. The problem becomes how to identify who is truly human, and who is an impostor. In the movie there was an empathy test. If you took a photo of the person's iris, when presented with an emotional stimulus (a loving phrase, an expression of pain), the true human showed a pupil-dilation reflex only visible using a sensitive camera. The human impostor did not.

 2010-09-24 - Empathy and the human brain (audio 1hr 15 min)
 Royal Institution of Great Britain,
Prof Simon Baron-Cohen, Professor of Developmental Psychopathology at the University of Cambridge, presents recent advances in our understanding of empathy – the capability to share another being's emotions and feelings – and its links with autism.

Topic: Empathy and the Human Brain

  • Overview

    • Importance of empathy

    • List of Collaborators

    • Probe it's nature

      • how it varies in population

      • examine people who lose their empathy

    • How brain enables us to have empathy

    • The roots of Empathy

  • Definitions - my 2 components - need both

    • cognitive - identify another's thoughts and feelings

      • a mental operation

    • affective-emotional -

      • drive to respond appropriately

      • do you have an appropriate response?

  • Notion of the Empathy Bell Curve

    • dimmer switch of empathy

  • Dachau Concentration Camp story

    • scientist lacked of empathy. why?

  • Martin Buber had interest in empathy

    • Idea of Ich und Du I and you relationships

    • vr I and Object

    • when you treat people as objects, you loose your empathy

  • Under what conditions do you loose your empathy?

    • At least 4 ways to lose your empathy

      • 1. Personality disorders

        • borderline personality disorder

        • Marilyn Monroe

      • 2. psychopaths - traits,

        • superficial charming, no guilt, lie, egocentric

        • don't learn from punishment.

        • can't look inwards and see themselves from others point of view.

        • etc.

      • 3. narcissist

        • feelings of grandiose

        • sense of entitlement

        • preoccupied with self

        • need for excessive adoration

        • exploit others

      • high rate of early abuse and neglect

      • loving parenting is important for development

      • 4. neuro development

        • Autism - Aspergers - loss of empathy to some degree

          • autism - difficulty with empathy

          • difficulty developing relationships and others perspectives

    • Testing for Empathy

      • Reading the eyes

      • EQ - Empathy quotient

        • Women score slightly better than men

      • Performance tests

        • look at peoples brains with MRI, etc.

    • Brain region for empathy

      • no single empathy section

      • a network of regions - the empathy circuit

    • 48:00 Various tests on autism and brain, empathy training, etc.

      • what they can do well - very good at systemizing

    • 52:00 men have stronger system value than woman

      • MRI - woman read emotions/empathy better

    • 54:50 Origins of empathy

      • newborns shown faces tests

      • hormones and genetics - may be part of explanation

        • testosterone in amniotic fluid

        • more testosterone less able to read empathy at 8yrs.

    • 59:00 Relationship of genes

  • 1:00 end of talk

  • Q and A 15 min

    • The data with Aspergers?

    • Slide with Nazi doctors.  A philosophy that guides them. Possibility to grow in empathy.

      • yes, the nature of politics, belief systems

      • do we have choice,

      • some may not have choice, genetically blunted.

    • 1:06 Can mathematically test for Aspergers? yes

    • 1:07 Children seeing violence in games, etc,

    • 1:09 Can psychopaths be helped?

      • they are difficult to treat

      • maybe find earlier signs and treat then

    • 1:11 - Role of empathy in the political system?

      • empathy may biologically have evolved

    • 1:13 - Do people lose empathy?

      • brain damage example

      • other's have signs from early age

    • 1:14 Hormone imbalance?

      • genes determine about of hormone produced

      • how used

      • environmental effects.

      • etc,

2010-10-00 - Empathizing and systemizing in the Autism Spectrum Conditions (Part 1/3) (youtube)


2010-10-00 - Empathizing and systemizing in the Autism Spectrum Conditions (Part 2/3)
audio is good

  • woman score higher that men in self reported

  • amygala - active when seeing others in pain

    • some brains get rewards

  • Ten Brain Regions in the 'empathy circuit'

  • Prenatal Sex steroid hormones and empathy - testosterone

    • test amniotic fluid

    • higher fetal  testosterone the more difficult reading faces

  • 7:30 Genetic correlates - various genes have effects

  • 9:30 Systemizing

    • children with Aspergers understand systems better

'In this Edge Video, psychologist Simon Baron-Cohen looks at one test he's developed to see if there are differences between males and females in the mind. "It turns out that when you test newborn babies—this experiment was done at the age of 24 hours old, where we had 100 babies who were tested looking at two kinds of objects—a human face and a mechanical mobile.'




2010-10-00 - Empathizing and systemizing in the Autism Spectrum Conditions (Part 3/3)


  • Autism spectrum and math

  • 1:50 fetal testosterone and systemizing

    • higher testosterone more interest in system

  • various tests

    • corpus callosum bigger with testosterone

  • Empathy and Systemizing Bell Curves

  • 8:30 Transporters DVD - machines with faces to teach empathy

    • way to teach empathy

  • 9:40 Conclusions

    • autism spectrum

    • biological basis

    • testosterone





The Science of Evil: On Empathy and the Origins of Cruelty

Book Chapters

  • Acknowledgements

  • 1. Explaining Evil and Human Cruelty


  • 2 The Empathy Mechanism: The Bell Curve


  • 3 When Zero Digress of Empathy is Negative


  • 4 When Zero Degrees of Empathy is Positive


  • 5 The Empathy Gene


  • 6 Reflections on Human Cruelty


  • Appendix 1: Empathy Quotient (EQ)


  • Appendix 2: How to spot Zero Degrees of Empathy (Negative)




Prof. Simon Baron-Cohen: Zero Degrees of Empathy



The Science of Evil