The Death Of Poverty Pornography: The Start Of An Empathic Revolution - Zac
Whyte I feel that my only true strength comes from
being empathic – sensing myself in everything makes me want to care for it
deeply to honour my own life. To serve the world is to serve yourself and when
cheap attempts of guilt evoking marketing material make me feel bad, the world
is worse, not better. Poverty porn breeds animosity and fortifies a subconscious
us and them mentality that is harmful. An empathic lifestyle on the
other hand, is sustainable because it nurtures everyone involved – it builds
strong bonds essential for a secure community. Thankfully, there is evidence
everywhere in our communities that empathy is on the rise.
The Cry for Democratic Moral Leadership and Effective
George Lakoff What are those values? They are
the values that won the 2008 election for Barack Obama -- and they were not just
hope and change. Candidate Obama made the case that American is, and has always
been, fundamentally about Americans caring about each other and acting
responsibly on that care. Empathy, which he proclaimed over and over was the
most important thing his mother taught him, and is the basis of our form of
government. Responsibility is both personal and social. "I am my brother's
keeper," as he said over and over in the campaign. And thirdly, excellence --
doing everything as well as we can, individually and as a nation. That is why we
have life, freedom, fairness, equality -- and quality -- as fundamental values.
Liberals lack intellectual empathy?
posted numerous times before about the need for critical thinkers to
practice intellectual empathy — the ability and willingness to
examine issues from others’ viewpoints in a fair and open-minded manner. A
person who fails to practice intellectual empathy often unfairly
mischaracterizes an opposing viewpoint (committing the
straw man fallacy) and
snarkily ridicules its holder (committing various forms of the
ad hominem fallacy).
"Leftists have Autism" say conservative bloggers that misread
study There is a new type of
demagoguery in cyberspace occuring whereby the political left is equated with
lacking empathy and being on the Autistic spectrum. First of all, I need to
refute the ignorance that people with Autism have no empathy. Such a blanket
statement about people with Autism encourages society to disregard people with
Autism as having no set of feelings, either for themselves or others, leading to
discrimination against them.
Neurodevelopment of Empathy in Humans. Jean Decety
Empathy, which implies a shared interpersonal experience, is implicated in many
aspects of social cognition, notably prosocial behavior, morality and the
regulation of aggression. The purpose of this paper is to critically examine the
current knowledge in developmental and affective neuroscience with an emphasis
on the perception of pain in others. It will be argued that human empathy
involves several components: affective arousal, emotion understanding and
emotion regulation, each with different developmental trajectories
Should We Emphasize Empathy? What is empathy? Do you value
empathy? Is empathy a strength or weakness? These questions are a few queries
about what I think is an important intellectual trait or virtue.
How Did Humans Become Empathic?
Rick Hanson, Ph.D. Empathy is unusual in the animal kingdom. So
empathy must have had some major survival benefits for it to have
evolved. What might those benefits have been? Empathy seems to have
evolved in three major steps. First, among vertebrates, birds and
mammals developed ways of rearing their young, plus forms of pair
bonding – sometimes for life. This is very different from the pattern
among fish and reptile species, most of which make their way in life
alone. Pair bonding and rearing of young organisms increased their
survival and was consequently selected for, driving the development of
new mental capacities.
For some of us in the human realization game, the high water mark of our
development is empathy. Some may fear that this is some new crackpot liberal
conspiracy idea to make sure that the Taliban take over America and get rid of
Dick Cheney and the Tea Partiers.
Others might claim that empathy is a value held in high regard in that old
canard, our Judeo-Christian ethics. As religious philosopher Karen Armstrong
tells us, it is the unifying idea in every religion. It is popularly
known as the Golden Rule.
Yet though just about anyone would agree that Jesus was one compassionate
dude, empathy is being looked on with suspicion by certain upstanding
Americans. On June 28th, Elena Kagan was vetted by the United
States Senate to determine if she was suitable to join the Supreme Court of
our land. In his
opening remarks at those hearings, our honorable white, male, and good
Christian Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama said,
examples of a growing trend in responding to harmful actions and building trust
between individuals and communities called Restorative Justice. Restorative
Justice (RJ) is a philosophy that incorporates a diversity of tools to restore
safety and connection through voluntary dialogue and mutual agreement. Often
these meetings lead to transformational changes in people’s lives. ..
views conflict as something to engage with and fully express rather than
“resolve.” He explains the difference: “Implicit in the idea of conflict
resolution is that conflict is a problem. I view conflict as a message and
really the choice is to either receive the message or ignore it. If we label
conflict or violence as bad, then politically that is so handy because what we
do is condemn the frustrated expressions of anger and powerlessness by those who
are most marginalized.”
good article about Restorative Justice and Restorative Circles. I took a
workshop with Dominic Barter who has developed the Restorative Circles process
and I found it to be the most effective process I've come across. He
calls the process a series of empathy hot tubs.
You can see my interview of Dominic on the nature of empathy )
Empathy Is The Secret To Networking
An interviewer was once giving a lecture on the art of the the Q&A. He shared
question strategies, tips and techniques he had carefully collected over the
years. The overarching advice he offered to the intently listening crowd was
empathy. That’s it – that’s all it takes to be a good interviewer.
Empathy & Neuropolitics
Mirror neurons, the brain cells believed to be the basis for empathy, have
recently been identified in the human brain.And yet we’re
left to explain the disjuncture between this deep-seated, pre-reflective, moral
intuition and the paucity of actual empathic behavior, especially in certain
cultures.I suggest that answers may be found in the
bidirectional connection between culture and brain development.
Hagerty - A Neuroscientist Uncovers A Dark Secret - Part 1 - sociopaths http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=127888976
As for the psychopaths he studies, Fallon feels some compassion for these people
who, he says, got "a bad roll of the dice."
"It's an unlucky day when all of these three things come together in a bad way,
and I think one has to empathize with what happened to them," he says.
But what about people who rape and murder — should we feel empathy for them?
Should they be allowed to argue in court that their brains made them do it?
Enter the new world of "neurolaw" — in which neuroscience is used as evidence in
Marsha Lucas -
Empathy Promotes Emotional Resiliency – Survival of the fittest is out and
caring is in Empathy is strength, and an asset towards
surviving and thriving in any environment. It promotes genuine curiosity about
others, which facilitates a desire to teach and learn. It allows a would be
bully the opportunity to gain insight into how his behaviors would affect others
negatively- in regards to both the potential victim and witnesses and it also
affords the would be bully the ability to enlist the help of his peers in
getting his needs met in healthier ways. With empathy, a potential bully victim
wouldn’t be a victim of bullying.
Sara Konrath -
The End of Empathy?
Recently Fox News covered our study on declining empathy in
American college students with this alarming title: "The
End of Empathy." Is this true? Are we now living in a society entirely
devoid of the basic glue of human connection and interaction?...
news is that empathy is not "destroyed" or "under siege," as the author of the
Fox News post suggests. Instead, empathy may be sick. Not "you have 6 months
to live" sick, more like "you need to spend a few days in bed"
sick. In other words, although there has been a decline in empathy, there are a
few key things to consider about the data before declaring a state of emergency
moral health of the nation.
Academy Award-winning director complained that it was becoming increasingly
difficult to find an actress who could use her face to express the range of
human emotion, especially anger. It may be worse than the famed director
suspected. New evidence is now suggesting that Botox may harm not only the
expression of emotion, but also its comprehension. The facial paralysis that
does away with unwanted frown lines may cripple a crucial ability to process
Pundits are writing off the Obama Administration. Say he's to
Does Obama really lack empathy?
Sally, you think the president is an empathetic guy, why?
I think he is empathetic...
He went to the gulf and showed sympathy...
Letting a giant conglomerate call the shots, is that
Obama is coming across as a cool technocrat and I think
it's hurting him.
Obama is authentic.
Authentic about what though?
He looks cold blooded.
It's clear he cares...
Peggy Noonan on Wall Street Journal says Obama is done because of a
lack of empathy.
I disagree with that. I think he is empathetic, he's not dramatic
and I don't' think his presidency is done.
It is widely believed that empathy is a good thing,
from a moral point of view. It is
something we should cultivate because it makes us better people. Perhaps that’s
true. But it is also sometimes suggested that empathy is somehow necessary for
morality. That is the hypothesis I want to interrogate and challenge. Not only
there little evidence for the claim that empathy is necessary, there is also
think empathy can interfere with the ends of morality. A capacity for empathy
might make us better people, but placing empathy at the center of our moral
may be ill‐advised. That is not to say that morality shouldn’t centrally involve
emotions. I think emotions are essential for moral judgment and moral motivation
(Prinz, 2007). It’s just that empathetic emotions are not ideally suited for
The point of these remarks has not been to
criticize empathy so much as bring out some limitations. When we look for moral
systems that have placed greater emphasis on empathy, we can see that empathy is
a double‐edged sword:
it can promote compliance and
complacency. Of course, empathy can also promote
moral concern, and that, one might think, is a good thing.
I invite the reader to reflect on whether these
worries threaten all species of fellow‐feeling.
First, as we have seen, empathy is not very
Second, empathy may lead to preferential
Third, empathy may be subject to unfortunate
biases including cuteness
Fourth, empathy can be easily manipulated.
Fifth, empathy can be highly selective.
Sixth, empathy is prone to in‐group biases.
Seventh, empathy is subject to proximity
Eighth, empathy is subject to salience
In sum, empathy has serious shortcomings. It is
not especially motivating
and it is so vulnerable to bias and selectivity that it fails to
provide a broad umbrella
of moral concern. A morality based on empathy would lead to preferential
treatment and grotesque crimes of omission. Empathy may do some positive work
in moral cognition, such as promote concern for the near and dear, but it
be the central motivational component of a moral system.
Empathy is usually thought of as purely an emotional
experience, one of feeling with another as best as we can sense being in their
shoes, skin and heart. This is not sympathy in feeling sorry or pity for
another, their feelings and situation. This is not exactly compassion either, a
deeper sense of affective empathy that means "to suffer" another's troubles and
feel another's sorrow. Being able to empathize is actually three interrelated
abilities: to perceive and be aware of another's situation (perceptual empathy);
to take another's point of view through thinking (cognitive empathy); and to
feel with what another is feeling (affective empathy). Each of these forms of
empathy taps the ability of "taking perspectives," that is, putting yourself
inside of another's experience, whether it is in what that other person sees and
hears, thinks and feels.
As a graduate student
in psychology, Lockwood had an interest in human-animal interactions and the
role of animals and education in the development of empathy in children. This
inevitably led him to consider the flip side of the equation: the origins of
cruelty to animals and what such behavior might indicate about an individual’s
capacity for empathy and his or her possible future behavior....
Such children are also
often driven to suppress their own feelings of kindness and tenderness toward a
pet because they can’t bear the pain caused by their own empathy for the abused
animal. In an even further perversion of an individual’s healthy empathic
development, children who witness the family pet being abused have been known to
kill the pet themselves in order to at least have some control over what they
see as the animal’s inevitable fate. Those caught in such a vicious
abuse-reactive cycle will not only continue to expose the animals they love to
suffering merely to prove that they themselves can no longer be hurt, but they
are also given to testing the boundaries of their own desensitization through
various acts of self-mutilation. In short, such children can only achieve a
sense of safety and empowerment by inflicting pain and suffering on themselves
The matter of empathy,
of course, goes to the heart of most of our inquiries into the nature of cruel
acts and their possible causes. There seems to be little doubt anymore about the
notion that a person’s capacity for empathy can be eroded; that someone can
have, as Lockwood put it to me, “their empathy beaten or starved out of them.”..
Neuroscientists are now beginning to get a fix on
the physical underpinnings of empathy. A research team at the
University of Chicago headed by Jean Decety, a neuroscientist who
specializes in the mechanisms behind empathy and emotional self-regulation, has
performed fMRI scans on 16-to-18-year-old boys with aggressive-conduct disorder
and on another group of similarly aged boys who exhibited no unusual signs of
June 13, 2010 -
Crushed Empathy Hard to read in parts (I skipped
them, I'm not ashamed to admit) but superb and well overdue in a national
paper is this
New York Times article on the connection between violence towards animals
and violent, unempathetic behavior in general.
Alan Bean -
Empathy and Empire are Antithetical
I am inclined to see the empathy gap as an indication that the dominant
political message has branded empathy as futile, weak, and counterproductive.
There is no sense trying to help people, we are told — it just makes them
dependent and pathetic. This being the case, the best strategy is to pursue
naked self-interest, leave the less fortunate to suffer the consequences of
their laziness, and this will become the best of all possible worlds....
Why is having empathy
for both sides the same as having no empathy at all? Universal empathy was the
heart and soul of the beloved community King and others pursued. The Wendy Longs
of this world believe that compassion begins and ends with the family and the
clan. In the early 1960s, America was still deciding if the enormous military
and geographical reach fashioned out of World War II necessity would be
dismantled or sustained. The decision to get serious in Vietnam was a
resounding vote for imperial hegemony.
There are many reasons
why parents should consider putting an emphasis on teaching empathy and
fostering emotional intelligence in children. Empathy is the ability to
articulate and understand another person's feelings. People who lack empathy do
not care for other people's feelings in the way their opposite number does,
Understanding the importance of caring for other people's feelings and emotions
is essential for living in a healthy society.
Empathy is an essential, and often undervalued, life skill. Emotional
intelligence affects the degree to which an individual can control and regulate
their own behaviour out of consideration to others. Empathy should be taught as
an essential social skill because of its importance in preventing one person
bullying another. Kids that have high levels empathy are more likely to have
happy, productive relationships with others
http://www.dailykos.com/story/2010/5/29/11641/2451 I'm against Empathy as the
new political buzzword. It's not that I don't think the world could use a lot
more empathy: the golden rule is the most human and civilized ethical guideline
the world will ever have. What I'm against is staging Empathy as the political
pose du jour when our institutions do not support empathy as everyday praxis.
2010-06-06 - Mitchell Rosen -
There is some controversy about whether empathy, the ability to understand the
world from another person's point of view, can be taught.
I have a sinking feeling when parents tell me they wonder if their child lacks
the capacity to empathize with others. They may notice their son or daughter
seems to be indifferent to hurting others or may act in a manner that suggests
they can be downright mean and not care......
said, I would not overlook early signs of indifference to the suffering of
others or disregard for conventional rules. Life presents us with moral dilemmas
every day, and the ways in which we respond define who we are ethically. In last
week's newspaper, an article described how officers pulled over a police chief
who appeared to be driving while intoxicated. That dilemma would be a great
question for the next edition of Scruples.
2010-xx-xx - Anna Conlan -
3 Quick Ways to Get Control of Overactive Empathy
You know when you get a glimpse into someone else’s
emotional experience or their pain? You can really feel it for a moment and
sometimes it might bring you to tears or motivate you to help someone. That’s
empathy. Overactive empathy, on
the other hand, is when you have that experience of opening up to someone else’s
emotions and experience, but then instead of coming back to yourself afterwards
and being centered in your own needs and feelings, you remain ‘out there’ –
absorbed in everyone else’s ’stuff’. In social situations, you can sense what
everyone else is feeling and thinking. Even walking past people in the street,
you can feel and sense what is going on with them.
2010-xx-xx - Anna Conlan -
Is Overactive Empathy Ruining Your Life? As a very empathic person, I have spent a lot of energy over
the last few years learning how to manage my empathy and establishing better
energetic boundaries with those around me. I have noticed that many other people, especially
clairsentient, sensitive, intuitive and lightworker types often have similar
problems with their empathy and energetic boundaries. For such people, I have
always recommended Rose Rosetree’s book
Empowered by Empathy : 25 Ways to Fly in Spirit for this.
Our prisons and jails are full…and getting fuller…of people in pain. Emotional
pain is one of the prime motivators for addiction and criminal behavior. Being
in pain does not excuse someone for committing a criminal act, but it does help
explain why so many of us do the dumb things we do....
People in pain need empathy, not sympathy. They
need relationships with emotionally stable and spiritually mature people, who
have the God-given ability to put themselves in the shoes of a hurting person
and understand in their hearts how that person feels.
When empathy meets pain, it wants to get
involved; it wants to facilitate healing. But it doesn’t give credence to bull
stories, either. Empathy wants to get to the heart of the matter and work the
problem. That is what empathy does.
Unlike empathy, sympathy operates at arms’
length. For any number of reasons, it does not really want to be involved.
Sympathy pats someone on the shoulder and says “there, there,” but what a person
in pain needs to hear is “here, here.” Empathy says here is where you will find
what you need to become free and stay free....
A number of
recent books have been concerned with the importance and prevalence of human
goodness and empathy. These include Dacher Keltner’s Born To be Good,
Jeremy Rifkin’s The Empathic Civilization, Frans de Waal’s The Age of
Empathy, and The Compassionate Instinct, edited by the editors of
Given my own background
in animal behavior and cognitive ethology, I’ve written about goodness and
empathy and its relationship to fairness and moral behavior from the nonhuman
animal’s point of view in The Emotional Lives of Animals, The Animal
Manifesto: Six Reasons For Expanding Our Compassion Footprint, and, with
Jessica Pierce, Wild Justice: The Moral Lives of Animals.
2010-05-21 - Richard Lopez -
Explaining Empathy How do I know that I know what I
know – about you? This is clearly a question about epistemology, about
knowledge. But it’s a special kind of knowledge, about others....
So far there doesn’t seem to be a definite consensus on how we empathize with
others, but there are two prominent theories on the table that try to explain
the phenomenon of empathy. The first one, called Simulation Theory. (other) - is
known as Theory of Mind—the ability to understand what another person is
thinking and feeling based on rules for how one should think and feel.
Ending racism starts with accepting bias
A study found that when we watch someone from our own race do something our
brain simulates the action mentally as a form of empathy,
known as 'mirroring'. But when we see someone of a different race do the same
thing we make much less effort to empathize.
Heading Into Mother's Day With Compassion Fatigue? Me Too Compassion fatigue is
thought to be the result of dealing with too much bad news or having prolonged
time periods confronting difficult issues such as terminal illness, anger or
death. Charles Figley, PhD, scholar and author writes in 2002: "Compassion
fatigue is a phenomenon that occurs when a caregiver feels overwhelmed by
repeated empathic engagement with distressed clients."
2010-05-07 - Mark Olmsted -
Immigration and the American Decline in Empathy
Arizona's "Paper's Please" law is the latest in a series of recent political
events that underline the decline in empathy in the United States. Americans
increasingly resist the simple act of imagining themselves in the shoes of
others. This resistance is serious business; its natural consequence is
dehumanization. When you don't quite believe others think or feel quite like you
do, it's much easier to jail or even torture them. The contempt for empathy came
out of the closet during the hearings of Sonia Sotomayor. I suppose it undercuts
the rightwing attachment to American exceptionalism--the idea that we are
inherently superior just by virtue of nationality.
2010-05-05 - The art of mindreading - empathy or rational
The ability to infer what another person is thinking is an essential tool for
social interaction and is known by neuroscientists as 'Theory of Mind' (ToM),
but how does the brain actually allow us to do this? We are able to rationally
infer what someone knows, thinks, or intends, but we are also able to 'slip into
their shoes' and infer how they feel, and it seems that the brain processes
these different types of information in different ways, as confirmed by a new
report in the June 2010 issue of Elsevier's Cortex (http://www.elsevier.com/locate/cortex).
In this study
psychiatrists have the highest mean empathy score on The Jefferson Scale of
Physician Empathy. They were folowed by Internists, general pediatrics,
emergency medicine and family medicine. The differences in empathy scores among
psychiatrists and physicians in internal medicine, pediatrics, and emergency
medicine were not statistically significant, but physicians in all other
specialties scored significantly lower than psychiatrists. In the middle were
physicians in general surgery, obstetrics and gynecology. Anesthetists scored
the lowest followed by orthopedic surgery, neurosurgery, radiology and
cardiovascular surgery. These differences might reflect the notion that
different individuals have different empathy scores and are attracted to
different specialties. These differences might also be explained by differences
in training for each specialty.
2009-09-08 - Dr.
Empathy during Medical Education
There is a significant decline in empathy occurs
during the third year of medical school. This decline occurs during a time when
the curriculum is shifting toward patient-care activities.
There is a significant decline in empathy during third year
of medical school, regardless of gender or specialty interest.
Every year women scored significantly higher than men.This
seems to be regardless of population studied. It also appeared in Italian
Physicians and Japanese medical students.
Except for scores at baseline, students interested in
people-oriented specialties scored significantly higher than students
interested in tech-oriented specialties.
The magnitude of the decline (effects) was much smaller for
women and students interested in people oriented specialties.
2010-05-02 - Lou Sexson -
Empathy helps us make our best decisions As human beings, we make an infinite amount of
mistakes. Many of those wrongs require an apology. The ability to apologize and
be sincere is born out of empathy.
By definition, empathy is “the ability to understand and share the feelings of
another.” It is more than just another nice sentiment. It is the emotion that is
the basis for the conscience.
In fact, without it, there is no Jiminy Cricket.
Empathy lays the foundation from which we make many of our best decisions.
For example, let's say that I think my friend's new hairdo is not the best look
for her. What keeps me from telling her exactly what I think?
Empathy, at its most basic level, is
epistemic. It is sometimes discussed as though it is identical to love, respect
or regard for others, but really it precedes that. It is what makes such love,
respect or regard for others possible -- what informs it. Empathy is a
way of seeing, and therefore a way of knowing. To avoid empathy is to limit
one's own perspective to only one's own perspective -- to choose not to see and
therefore to choose not to know. Worse than that -- it is to choose not to be
able to know.
Empathy, in other words, makes you
smarter and wiser. Rejecting empathy makes you dumber and more foolish. To
choose not to see what empathy shows us is to choose stupidity.
Northwestern University study suggests that on a neurological level, race
matters when it comes to empathy for African-Americans in distress. The study
led by Assistant Professor Joan Chiao determined blacks showed greater empathy
for African-Americans facing adversity as victims of Hurricane Katrina than
whites demonstrated for Caucasian-Americans in pain. "We found that everybody
reported empathy toward the Hurricane Katrina victims," Chiao said. "But
African-Americans showed greater empathic response to other African-Americans in
the ways I've been thinking about balancing this sense of extension and empathy
without letting other people become tools is with aikido. An aikido class is
basically about two people taking turns throwing one another on the ground with
a good amount of power, but ideally no force. Empathy and listening are part of
this, but the fundamental idea is to use the force that the person you're
throwing is giving you, and to keep that force separate from yourself.
One of the teachers at my dojo puts this idea in terms of posture. He says,
"See, I am the one throwing. I am standing up straight and my feet are on the
ground. My partner is the one who's back is contorted and whose feet are moving
all over the place."
In a recent search for the latest research and popular media
references about empathy, I was stopped in my tracks when I found the video
below, in which Glenn Beck expounds on empathy: (see video) Yes, you heard it:
Beck states that empathy "leads you to very bad decisions" (and, yes, he said
that it was empathy on the part of Hitler that led to mass genocide).
brain, Batman. I'm opting to spare myself (and you) a rant about all that's
wrong about this, or from saying much about what is (or isn't) wired in Beck's
brain. Instead, I'll use it as a launching point for understanding empathy from
the point of view of healthier relationships, and potentially a healthier world.
What most of us mean by empathy....
Giving empathy a boost From the standpoint of
creating a greater capacity for healthy empathy, there are many paths. One which
I've found to be very helpful, and easily accessible, is the simple practice of
Empathy is a feeling we experience when we share
another’s pain and sorrow. It is a reflexive response and, as such, it cannot be
Empathy can motivate acts of caring and compassion, such as comforting, helping,
sharing, and offering sympathy—however, empathy does not always lead to
prosocial acts, and these acts are not always accompanied by empathy. These
emotions and behaviors are present even in the first years of life; for example,
an 18-month-old coos and sympathizes while trying to comfort a crying infant by
hugging and patting him, bringing him a bottle, and getting the mother to help.
Many of these responses arise naturally (though more so in some children than
others). But nurture can coax their expression and provide examples of ways to
care for the needs of others.
I carefully read every page of
Rifkin's doorstopper (616 pages, not counting footnotes). I marked it up
extensively. I re-read some sections. Next, I listened to the audiobook
Frans de Waal's take on the deep evolutionary roots of human (and mammalian)
empathy. Nearing its end (his discussion of "The Dark Side"), I was moved to
tears more powerfully than by any other book I can remember.
Empathy" is becoming the new classroom buzzword,
pressed into wide service to signpost a valuable sensitivity at the heart of
social and emotional accomplishment.
Not only in school: the online newspaper
The Huffington Post lately made a splash of The Empathic Civilization
by the "social and ethical prophet" Jeremy Rifkin.
Rifkin's meditation on the "race to global
consciousness in a world of crisis" reminded Post editor Arianna Huffington of
her own 2003 essay on altruism The Fourth Instinct> which she described
as "the call to soul" – not to be confused with any call to survival, power or
Clif Cleaveland - Cleaveland:
Empathy is antidote to violence One sad headline follows
another: murders at Fort Hood, Texas; faculty shootings at the University of
Alabama at Huntsville; a deliberate crash of a private airplane into an office
building in Austin, Texas. Less dramatic but no less deadly outbursts of
violence occur frequently across our country, including in our community. Is
violence so much a part of our DNA that we must arm ourselves and retreat into
Noted biologist Frans de Waal provides an alternative vision in "The Age of
Empathy: Nature's Lessons for a Kinder Society" (Harmony Books, New York).
Professor de Waal directs the Living Links Project at the Yerkes National
Primate Research Center at Emory University. The biological division of primates
includes chimpanzees, bonobos, orangutans and humans.
It's not that the Obama is flawless or that the conservative
Republican Party is fatally flawed. Obama's escalation of the war in Afganistan
is not exactly worthy of a Nobel Peace Prize. But then again, neither is the
fear mongering of the Tea Party worthy of killing a national health care
bill. That fear kills love, empathy and caring is self-evident in our private
lives. That fear kills love, empathy and caring in our public lives is not as
clear. But what is clear is that a mean-spirited ethos pervades our society.
2010-01-28 - When
Have you ever known someone who was SUPER empathic? I mean not just like "hey
man, be kind to animals because they're our fellow travelers on this space ship
called Earth" but more like, "Yes, I do identify with (insert the worst movie
you have ever seen here) because I think that the artist is entitled to their
own vision and I think the people who worked on it worked very hard and
criticizing the quality of the movie might hurt their feelings."
Empathy: An Antidote to
I’ve been thinking a lot about empathy lately, and it ties in with something you
referred to in your December 1 letter — the concept of “othering.” I guess I’ve
been thinking about empathy (or the lack of it) for many reasons. On the one
hand, I think of the tremendous outpouring of compassion for the suffering
people of Haiti after the earthquake; and on the other hand, I think about the
callous attitudes of many powerful leaders of large financial institutions and
corporations who seem unable or unwilling to mentally put themselves in the
shoes of millions of people who have had to deal with job loss, mortgage
foreclosures, and lack of health care in the midst of the current economic
2010-01-28 - Joseph
Empathy and Compassion
Standing in our shared sameness and accepting people as they are carries us to
the threshold of empathy and compassion, wherein we allow others' joys and
sufferings, as well as the basic fact of their being, to touch us directly. We
willingly enter the experience of other people, celebrating their successes and
suffering their setbacks. This is the place of heartfelt prayer and charitable
acts for others' welfare. The walls of separation grow thin and ready to
Perverse Lutheran - Empathy
The guy on NPR with a book to push was saying that humans and other higher
primates are wired for empathy, to think along with one another, to be socially
cohesive. I believe (though I'm not sure since I was calculating whether or not
I'd make it through a green light at this point)--I believe he pronounced the
end of the era of original sin and the beginning of an era where we would begin
to understand that history should be written by the common folk who all get
along with one another. Not by the powerful.
Lou Agosta, Ph.D -
EmpathyInTheContextOfPhilosophy . You are invited to
participate in this conversation about empathy, not only in the context of
philosophy, but whatever aspect or dimension engages you, the reader. A
substantial amount of research has been devoted to the concept of empathy.
However, empathy remains poorly understood, under-theorized, and subject to
conflicting and opportunistic uses. Its systematic role in human experience has
not been analyzed and interpreted from top to bottom.
When Dr. Perry and I set out to write about empathy, we knew
it was a hot topic in
neuroscience and we knew it had wide-ranging implications. But I had no idea
just how big a task we'd set for ourselves. Every day, new studies and new
stories about empathetic or extremely un-empathetic behavior appear. There are
new books and intriguing results in
psychiatry and education-and many others. It's almost impossible to keep up.
In this blog, we want to highlight some of the data and ideas
we couldn't include in our book,
Born for Love: Why Empathy is Essential-and Endangered, which comes out in
April. We want to point out important new research and connect it to our ideas
about why empathy is so important to everything from
child development to economic growth. We'd also love to hear from others
interested in this topic-and start a discussion about the aspects of empathy
that matter most.
2010-02-19 - Peter G. Vajda -
it's not about cognition
In his recent book, "Empathic Civilization: The Race to Global Consciousness in
a World in Crisis," Jeremy Rifkin concludes in one of his chapters: "...what is
needed is a more transparent public debate around views of freedom, equality and
democracy…a moratorium on the hyperbolic political rhetoric and incivility...and
begin a civil conversation around our differing views on human nature."..
But love and empathy are
matters of the heart, not the mind, and here is where Rifkin and so many others
who posit intellectual, social and cognitive solutions for social ills come up
As a child psychologist, it is clear to me that the quickest
route to a more empathic civilization is to stop beating, belittling and in
other ways psychologically scarring boys when they are young. Boys from
traumatized backgrounds with brutal fathers can grow up to be tyrants and
murderers--think about Adolf Hitler and Slobodan Milosevic of Serbia--while boys
who have been raised with emotional support almost certainly will not.
We need to raise loved and loving boys who have the capacity
to grow into empathic leaders and partners. Across cultures, if we want to
change the world quickly, our best option is to raise emotionally literate boys
who value understanding.
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. Is there an unambiguous test to identify if someone has
empathy? Empathy seems straight-forward to identify because,
countless times each day, we observe surface behaviour that we
take to be empathy.
Marc Bekoff -
'The Empathic Civilization': Why Animals Deserve Our Empathy Too A number of recent books in
addition to Jeremy Rifkin's "The Empathic Civilization" have been concerned with
the importance and prevalence of human empathy. These include Dacher Keltner's
"Born To be Good," D. Keltner et al. "The Compassionate Instinct: The Science of
Human Goodness," and Frans de Waal's "The Age of Empathy.".......
Many animals are far more empathic and fair than many people realize. Even mice
are empathic beings and capuchin monkeys and domestic dogs expect to be treated
fairly. Individuals who are short-changed during a bartering transaction by
being offered a less preferred treat refuse to cooperate with researchers.
2009-08-19 - Article -
Jared Gniewek -
Die By the Pen: Empathy Part 3 Might Just Save the World Empathy is needed to write And empathy begins with clothing. This week should bring my musings to a close on
the subject of empathy. I’m sure I’ll return to it at a later date as my
conviction remains that it is our brightest blade as writers and as human beings...more
2007-04-25 - Philoctetes Center -
Acting and Mirror Neurons
Roundtable discussion featuring Blair Brown, Vittorio Gallese, Joe Grifasi,
Robert Landy, Adam Ludwig, and Tom Vasiliades
Mirror neurons as source of empathy and how it relates to acting.
A panel of scientists and actors talk about empathy from their
different points of view.
2010-05-13 - Suze Orman:
Defying the Standards/Empathy Tradeoff A common pattern among leaders is
to adopt a persona that's either excessively tough or overly empathetic. The
assumption at the root of this pattern is that these positions must somehow
tradeoff on each other — you can either hold people accountable or support them,
but not both. Drill sergeant or grandparent.
love. Pick one. We've found that exceptional leaders often defy these
54% of contact centre managers put empathy as top must-have agent skill
“Empathy is a characteristic which is hard to learn, and which is
ripe for identifying in the recruitment phase through personality testing, for
example. Empathy is important for an agent to display in order to make the
caller feel that someone is listening to and understanding them, and that they
are trying to solve their issue, rather than just seeing the caller as a
nuisance. As such, empathy is vital for improving customer satisfaction and
loyalty, cross-selling and up-selling.”...more
2009-09-21 - Article -
Why Small Companies Are Better at
Customer Service . I believe that a small business
is likely to deliver better customer service than a large company because of its
innate common sense and understanding of the power of empathy. For
my money, the two best customer-service practices are sincere empathy over
indifferent calmness and common sense over standard operating procedure. These
two simple guiding principles remind us how easy it can be to transform the
customer experience, and how unfortunate it is that more businesses have not
done so. ...more
2009-09-21 - Article -
Building Trust through Empathy: A Practical Guide Empathy is the ability to
place ourselves in another’s situation, experiencing their emotions and
perspective. If you’re worried that you aren’t good at empathizing, don’t. We
actually have specific neurons in our brains, called mirror neurons,
that help us with empathy. So we all have the tools to empathize, we just need
to start working them out. So here are a couple tips
to cultivating empathy within yourself; a fair warning that these things need to
be practiced every day, as often as you can. Yes, they are soft and
2010-05-16 - Andy Kaufman
Wired to Care, with author Dev Patnaik What comes to mind when you think of empathy?
Do you think of someone who is highly sensitive and compassionate--maybe even
too much? Or does that description sound more like sympathy, where empathy isn't
quite as emotional?
2010-01-22 - Article -
Wired To Care
Yesterday we helped a big client run an off-site meeting about empathy.
Empathy with consumers, that is. Sincerely understanding the people who buy,
rent, use or refuse your product or service.
Empathy is critical if you work in marketing and advertising. The one main
lesson of my career (learned and relearned) has been know your consumer. Knowing
your consumer permits you to invent the right product, find the right message to
sell it, choose the right media to engage consumers with it, and design the
right ads for each medium.*
For individuals, empathy affords the ability to step outside
their own perspective to see the world as other people do. For organizations,
empathy is a shared intuition for the people who buy your products and services.
That goes far beyond market research. Companies that create a widespread sense
of empathy for the people they serve see new opportunities faster, have the
courage to take a risk on new ideas, and make better decisions on all levels.
2009-06-22 - Article - Eve Tahmincioglu - Empathy can go a long way in at
There’s been a lot of talk about the merits and drawbacks of empathy lately
following the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court. Many have
questioned whether a judge with empathy for others, something President Obama
has touted as a virtue, would hinder how well she can perform the job of
justice. But does empathy make sense in any job? What about in Corporate
America, especially given the tough economy and the cutthroat competition?
It's not ‘all touch-feely’ “Empathy has gotten a bad rap in the last 25 years in
business,” says Dev Patnaik, author of “Wired to Care: How Companies Prosper
When They Create Widespread Empathy.” The best organizations and the ones that
survive economic tsunamis, he says, are those with empathetic cultures and
managers who are able to step outside themselves and walk in someone else’s
shoes. It’s not about being all touchy-feely. “It’s about having intuition and a
gut feeling for other people,” he explains. Turns out, there are positives and
negatives when it comes to empathy at work.
2009-08-19 - Article -
For Leaders: Sixteen
Ways of Developing Empathy
Empathy, one of the competencies of emotional intelligence, is defined as the
ability to be aware of, to understand and to appreciate the feelings and
thoughts of others. We expect family and friends to empathize as they listen to
us. We pay therapists to skillfully listen with empathy. What should we expect
of our leaders? As a quality of leadership, empathy is critical to success. Empathy may,
indeed, prove to be the most significant skill of leadership. Try this
Think about the leader you most admire. Describe what you admire
about him or her. Does the following description fit that individual?
People for whom empathy is a strength will generally interact well with
others one-on-one, and they also work effectively in cooperative efforts. They
will probably avoid hurting others’ feelings.
2009-11-22 - Article -
Dr. Dustin Ballard: How to avoid a 'hardened' heart
http://www.marinij.com/lifestyles/ci_13845182 According to a study in Academic
Medicine, the "hardening" of physician's hearts begins in medical school. Using
a standardized questionnaire, the vicarious empathy (spontaneous empathetic
response) of 419 University of Arkansas medical students was measured at the
beginning of each school year. Over time, researchers found a significant
decline in student empathy scores, especially after the first and third year.
There are a number of potential explanations for these findings: academic
workload and stress, poor clinical role models, and, especially after medical
rotations begin in the third year, a need for an emotional defense system...
In a get-rich-fast, quick fix, "me" time, bottom-line driven society such
as ours, it is awfully difficult to expect a different ethos from medicine. So,
while individual physicians can and should (and do) attempt to bring greater
empathy to their care, as we enter the holiday season, we might each consider
how we can bring greater empathy into our society at large.
“disciplinary empathy” – the ability to get out of one’s
acculturated box and see problems from the point of view of other peoples’
expertise and training. I made the observation that people I’ve run across with
high disciplinary empathy are remarkably innovative in teams. Because they get
that there is more than one way to look at the world, they can see a problem
from multiple perspectives, and see solutions that integrate multiple
approaches. I’d like to talk about a related kind of empathy here –
Empathy, said veteran social entrepreneur Bill Drayton in a talk delivered at
the Friend Center on the Princeton University campus last Thursday.
”There hasn’t been a time since the agriculture revolution that bigger, more
fundamental, more hopeful changes are afoot” in the structure of society, said
Mr. Drayton, founder, chairman and CEO of Ashoka: Innovators for the Public, a
global association of 2,700 social entrepreneurs.
Innovative ideas for improving the human condition are originating from all
sectors of society and rapidly being tested and implemented, superceding the
traditional top-down mode for society, which has existed for 10,000 years since
the agricultural revolution, where a small elite dictated what everyone else
did, Mr. Drayton said.
Empathy is an emotional skill and is necessary to
both understand and practice if you are going to be one of the great ones.
The best way to understand empathy is to recognize it. The following are
a few example of empathy in motion.
Another question was about what happened with
gang members when they went to jail, and if there were any ways that were being
implemented that separated them. McAuliffe said that sometimes the gangs in
prisons mirrored those on the outside, and other times they fell along racial
lines. What troubled him and other attorneys prosecuting the cases, he
explained, was the lack of empathy that was evident among the offenders.
Many of them were youngsters who committed the crimes in their late teens and
early twenties, but many of them seemed to have no compassion or empathy,
meaning they did not know or care about the person they hurt, and they had no
concept of what it was like to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes. Once a
youngster began going down that road, he continued, it was hard to turn him or
her around, and it was very to rehabilitate someone like that. The best thing to
do, sadly enough, was to take them off the streets, and to keep them from
“If I were king of the world for a day,” said McAuliffe, “I would give everyone
a safe and loving family, and a dose of empathy. You see this lack of
empathy, and an inability of them to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes or to
see it from their perspective. We are dealing with extremely violent
behavior of some young offenders. The idea of rehabilitating some of these folks
tends to be very low. By the time, you are shooting people, robbing folks and
killing folks when you are 16, what do you policy wise with these folks. My
answer is you hold them fully accountable. You remove them from the ability to
hurt someone else for as long as possible.”
The Scottish government made a miscalculation as
it weighed justice and mercy in the case of this terrorist. The Scots forgot to
temper mercy with empathy for the victims' loved ones. How must the families and
friends of the victims have felt, seeing the pictures of the "hero's" welcome
for al-Megrahi at the airport in Libya? Cold comfort that this unseemly
demonstration violated a condition for his release.
I believe Scotland failed to take empathy into
account in adjudicating its civic values of justice and mercy.
2009-09-21 - Article - Empathy is the Key to Creating a Positive Experience lasvegassun.com
I had a recent experience that illustrated the point that it does indeed take
empathic listening and understanding to create the appropriate experience. My
mother was recently diagnosed with lung cancer after a long bout of pneumonia.
This experience brought back the memory of being in a similar position with my
father 13 years ago.
There is a difference between empathy and sympathy. Empathy allows you to
feel for the patient in a way that helps you to understand their fear and
concern about what they are going through. Sympathy is just feeling sorry for
them but not extending you past that point. Empathy in nursing is very crucial
because nurses spend a majority of time with their patients and sometimes it’s
the only interaction that patients have with another person. Empathy is
communicating to a patient that you feel for them and want to help them through
their hospital stay or through their time while dealing with medical issues.
Empathy is the ability to put oneself in the shoes of another person.
The positive psychology definition is: The quality of feeling and understanding
another person's situation in the present moment - their perspectives, emotions,
actions (reactions) -- and communicating this to the person. So you know what
they are feeling, or at least you suspect you know what they are experiencing,
and you communicate that to elicit further discussion or clarification.
Empathy is an Emotional Intelligence (EI) competency. In the field of
Emotional Intelligence, there are four clusters of competencies and 18
competencies. The four clusters are:
Empathy falls under Social Awareness. This skill reflects a person's ability
to connect with others and to relate to them which is essential skill in
building and managing healthy relationships.
Going to a doctor who understands how you feel
and encourages you to get better can do more than boost your spirits. It can
also be good for your health.That's the message of a study by a team of
researchers at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health
and the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute in Tampa, Fla.
Patients with colds whose clinicians showed empathy toward them in an office
visit suffered one fewer day of misery than did patients whose clinicians took a
just-the-facts approach. The research was published in the July/August issue of
the journal Family Medicine. ..The study is important for another reason, Mercer
said. "It adds significantly to the literature that practitioner behavior does
have health consequences."
2009-11-19 - Article -
Empathy, Immunity, and
the Common Cold
The results of Reference 1 are part of a larger study, called
the PEP trial, which stands for Physician, Empathy, and Placebo. Six clinicians
(five family physicians and one nurse practitioner) and 350 patients
participated in this part of the study. The measure of empathy was a
questionnaire called CARE (Consultation And Relational Empathy), about how well
the clinician paid attention to the patient and communicated helpfully.
Eighty-four patients reported perfect CARE scores. These patients were sick for
an average of 7.10 days, compared to the remaining patients, who were sick for
an average of 8.01 days.
2009-11-23 - Article - Connecting with
Ask Dr. Amy N. Ship to define compassion and she hesitates, reluctant to reduce
its complexity to a greeting-card sentiment. She has just won the Compassionate
Caregiver Award from the Kenneth B. Schwartz Center, a Boston-based foundation
that honors clinicians for humanizing medical care. Ship practices internal
medicine at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, where her patients and their
families say her warmth and loyalty have helped them cope with chronic illnesses
through the years.
Q. Can you teach empathy?
A. I don’t know if you can teach empathy, but I think you can encourage
connecting with people. Empathy comes from finding a piece of oneself in
2009-12-02 - article -Jack
http://medhum.med.nyu.edu/blog/?p=222 Many authors who write about empathy in medicine
are careful to draw a bright line between sympathy and empathy. For example,
Hojat in his excellent survey of research on Empathy in Patient Care, considers
the two concepts as almost dichotomous, albeit with a small area of overlap...
Arguing that the process of medical education tends to diminish our openness to
others' feelings and experience, Spiro believes that enhancing clinical empathy
is more of a restoration project, rather than a pedagogical one....
I take sympathy to mean an emotional state in
which we desire to "feel another person's emotions better" (Hojat's language, 1,
p. 11). In clinical medicine this translates to "connect with" another person's
suffering. In other words, to have sympathy for a patient is to have genuine
care or compassion for that patient.
1. Hojat M. Empathy in Patient Care. New York,
Springer, 2009, pp. 10-15
2. Halpern J. Empathy: Using resonance emotions in the service of curiosity.
Spiro H et al (Eds.) Empathy and the Practice of Medicine, New Haven,
Yale University Press, 1992, pp. 160-73.
3. Halpern J. What is clinical empathy? J Gen Intern Med. 2003; 18:
4. Spiro H. What is empathy and can it be taught? In: Spiro H et al (Eds.)
Empathy and the Practice of Medicine, New Haven, Yale University Press,
The Nicholls State University nursing faculty developed “Take
a Walk in My Shoes,” which takes volunteer nursing students into the community
at large to teach caregivers and others how to help and relate to elderly
The tight vest and the bright yellow jumpsuit teaches the
wearer about some of the problems her patients face every day.
“It’s not about making these people feel sorry for the older
adults,” said Lacey Eschete, a 22-year-old from Thibodaux. “It’s about being
2010-01-05 - The Empathic Pediatrician
Charity, Haiti, and The Teachable Moment
Empathy isn’t a course you can sign up for. It’s a way of looking at other
people and trying to imagine what it would be like to be them. This is a
teachable skill. Empathy is a particularly human ability, and those that don’t
show much of it are not well liked. We are born with our brain chemistry wired
for a particularly great amount of it, or maybe a lesser amount in some people.
Some have an intuitive skill and some don’t. I’ve seen this in children: some
find it easy to sense a playmate’s feelings, and some seem oblivious. Can we
The Cleveland Clinic is hoping to increase
empathy among its physicians. Studies have shown that doctors who are more
empathic are less likely to face malpractice lawsuits and more likely to have
patients that comply with their treatments. Doctors who agree to participate in
this pilot project will take part in reflective writing exercises. If it's
successful it's a program that could be used at hospitals across the country.
Eric Wellman sat down with Dr. Anita Misra-Hebert who's heading up this project
at the Cleveland Clinic.
But what about empathy? Can teenagers who are more empathetic
intentionally succeed? If so, why? Also, how can students be taught to be
empathetic? The very nature of being empathetic, involves looking past one's own
perspective in any given situation and understanding as best as possible the
needs and experiences of another person. Teenagers who are empathetic tend to be
more purpose driven and they intentionally succeed in their academics not
because they are looking to make good grades, but in most subjects their goal is
to understand the subject material and to utilize the knowledge as one of their
ever increasing tools. Teenagers who struggle with being empathetic, tend to be
more self absorbed and less caring towards others, and ironically themselves
"Teaching Empathy" anti-bullying program is helping kids to understand each
other at one city school. Part of a program to prevent school bullying is simply
talking about it. David Levine created the weekly program, which he runs at
P.S./M.S. 20 and at several other schools in the city and the suburbs. He
calls it, "Teaching Empathy". "Empathy is the capacity to imagine what someone
else is going through, as a first step, and then making a choice to offer
support," said David Levine, a behavior specialist.
Increasingly, neuroscientists, psychologists and
educators believe that bullying and other kinds of violence can indeed be
reduced by encouraging empathy at an early age. Over the past decade, research
in empathy — the ability to put ourselves in another person's shoes — has
suggested that it is key, if not the key, to all human social interaction
Without empathy, we would have no cohesive
society, no trust and no reason not to murder, cheat, steal or lie. At best, we
would act only out of self-interest; at worst, we would be a collection of
2010-03-26 - Julie
Smith - Teaching children empathy
One of the best gifts a parent can give a child is to teach
them to have empathy. Empathy is the ability to understand what another person
is feeling in order to get along better. It requires a person “put their self in
another’s shoes.” Not only does is help an individual understand another’s
feelings, it helps a person understand his or her own feelings.
Research has shown that children who are empathetic and able
to emotionally connect in more positive, loving ways are more likely to succeed
in life. They are better equipped to get along with people. As a result, they
tend to do well in school, handle negative moods effectively and have fewer
Empathy is a complex skill that is learned over time. It
involves a constant process that lasts throughout childhood. The most powerful
ways to teach children empathy is to be empathetic yourself in your parenting.
2010-03-31 - Virginia Prescott - No More
Bullying, Teaching Kids Empathy - Audio
(schools implement empathy curriculums, good to listen to!) http://nhpr.org/node/31824
Nine high school students were indicted Monday on felony charges in the suicide
case of a 15-year-old Massachusetts freshman.
Phoebe Prince and her family had moved to the country from Ireland last
year. The young teen hanged herself in January after relentless bullying from
So what does an empathy curriculum look like?
Dr. Marc Brackett these questions last spring.
the least-praised pleasures in life -- and yet one that is probably most likely
to bring lasting happiness -- is the ability to be happy for others. When we
think about empathy, we tend to think of feeling other people's pain -- but
feeling other people's joy gets short shrift That must change if we want to have
a more empathetic society. While working on our forthcoming book,
Born for Love: Why Empathy Is Essential -- and Endangered (my co-author is
leading child trauma expert Bruce Perry, MD, PhD), one of the most common
questions I've gotten is, "What can parents do to raise more empathetic
The larger hope is that children, like Ava, who get
in touch with their own emotions, will go on to be a little more sensitive to
other peoples’ feelings. It could come in handy any time another student looks
like they’re feeling blue.
Nine ways to foster
1. Listen carefully to your child's experiences, asking questions to help them
understand their feelings and thoughts. This will help them relate to others on
a deeper level.
2. Encourage them to act on empathetic feelings by listening, assisting or being
3. Emotions are key to empathy, so help your child name what they're feeling -
frustration or sadness - to help them make sense of their emotional world.
Teaching tweens empathy I’ve been reading about how to teach
empathy to children. I came across some good advice
online. Among the ideas are common-sense suggestions such as teaching
politeness and talking about feelings.
At around 8 or 9, children begin to develop the cognitive skills necessary to
understand the concept of empathy. But even 6-year-olds are preoccupied with
fairness and concerned about being treated well, and they want others — friends,
strangers, even characters in books — to be treated well too. Here's how to
nurture these budding displays of empathy.
Label the feeling.
Praise empathetic behavior. Encourage your grade-schooler to talk about
his feelings — and yours
Human empathy depends on the ability to share the emotions of others—to “feel”
what other people feel.
It is regarded by many people as the foundation of moral behavior.
But to some, the concept seems rather airy-fairy. What does it mean to say “I
feel your pain”? Isn’t that just a fanciful flight of the imagination?
Well, not really.
For one thing, it turns out nonhuman animals—-even rodents-—show evidence of
For another, it appears that empathy has a neurological basis.
Oxytocin. Experiments report that
adult men who inhaled oxytocin (the “cuddle” hormone) performed better on tests
requiring them to “read the emotions” of other people by looking at their eyes
(Domes et al 2008). Studies suggest that both males and females produce their
own oxytocin when they are engaged in pleasant social interactions—including
“small talk” and hugs. So kids who grow up in “oxytocin-friendly” environments
might have an easier time learning to interpret nonverbal cues of emotion.
1: Address your child’s own
needs, and teach him how to “bounce back” from distress
2: Be a “mind-minded” parent
3: Seize everyday opportunities to model—and induce—sympathetic feelings for
4: Help kids discover what they have in common with other people
5: Teach kids about the hot-cold empathy gap
6: Help kids explore other roles and perspectives
7: Show kids how to “make a face” while they try to imagine how someone else
8: Help kids develop a sense of morality that depends on internal self-control,
not on rewards or punishments
9: Teach (older) kids about mechanisms of moral disengagement
10: Inspire good feelings (and boost oxytocin levels) through pleasant social
interactions and physical affection
Is it possible to teach empathy? Can a teacher instill
positive character traits along with reading and math skills? Jewish day-school
educators continually seek effective approaches to this challenge.
At Ben Porat Yosef in Paramus, two initiatives recently were
launched with the goal of fostering empathy for people who are different because
of age or ability.
“I think modeling is the key,” said fourth-grade teacher
Michal Kahan. “You can talk to children about disabilities, but if they don’t
see how you deal with people who have those disabilities, they won’t know what
We discuss empathy
quite a bit on this site, particularly the hypothesis that reading can improve
our capacity to feel and understand the emotions of others. Much of the research
that has been done on this issue to date, including our own, has been
correlational in nature. This means that we don’t know whether reading causes
increased empathy, or whether people who are more empathic are more likely to
seek out fiction.
2009-06-10 - Article -
A Compelling Empathy
One of the most fascinating aspects of fiction film is that it enables us not
just to see how empathy can happen in a drama, but to experience how it can work
strongly in ourselves. Four months, three
weeks, and two days shows us the workings of empathy both in its plot and
in our experience as we watch the film. Set in Romania, the film was written and
directed by Cristian Mungiu, who based it on a real story he heard which, he
said, affected him for more than fifteen years. The plot revolves round a
student, Gabita (played by Laura Vasiliu), who is pregnant.
What is its opposite? There are two ideas. The first is that its opposite is
interest in things rather than people. The second is that its opposite is
contemptuous violence towards others. On both these dimensions, girls and women
have, on average, more empathy than boys and men.
Simon Baron-Cohen, Rebecca Knickmeyer and Matthew Belmonte (2005) argue that
empathizing is the capacity to predict and to respond to the behavior of people
by inferring their mental states and responding to these with an appropriate
emotion. Systemizing is the capacity to predict and to respond to inanimate
systems by analyzing input-operation-output relations and inferring their rules.
On average, females are stronger empathizers and males are stronger systemizers.
(The authors further argue that autism is an extreme male pattern.)
2009-06-02 - Article -
The Role of Empathy in Fiction
The role that empathy plays in the comprehension and experience of fiction has
been debated at least since Adam Smith’s The theory of moral sentiments was
published in 1759. These ideas continue to have currency in such recent books as
Suzanne Keen’s (2007) Empathy and the novel and Lisa Zunshine’s (2006) Why we
read fiction: Theory of mind and the novel. You can find references, and
micro-reviews for both these books in our list of books on the psychology of
We regard identification with a character as the literary application of
empathy, and we think that it is one of the most important of the psychological
processes that are at work during our engagement with fiction.
It was meaningful to me that early educators are exploring how,
or if, empathy is teachable. When I think about all the good positive
interventions we know, I realize there are few that exercise our empathy.
2010-01-01- Article -
- Five ways to expand your
It is usual, at this time of year, to make a series of earnest New Year’s
Resolutions which – by tradition – you resolutely fail to keep. Why not try
promising yourself some New Year’s Explorations instead and widen your personal
horizons. Expanding your empathy might offer just what you are looking for.
Empathising is an avant-garde form of travel in which you step into the shoes of
another person and see the world from their perspective. It is the ultimate
adventure holiday – far more challenging than a bungee jump off Victoria Falls
or trekking solo across the Gobi desert. Here are my five top tips for
transforming yourself into an empathetic adventurer over the coming months.
1.CULTIVATE CURIOSITY ABOUT STRANGERS
2.LEARN FROM YOUR EXPERIENCES
3.TACKLE YOUR FAMILY EMPATHY DEFICIT
4.TAKE AN IMAGINATIVE JOURNEY
5.CHALLENGE YOUR PREJUDICES
2010-01-07- Article -
Teaching Empathy - games
I love the new focus in education on the skills and dispositions
needed for our students to succeed in the years to come. It feels like a return
to many of the fundamentals that have been passed over since the inception of
NCLB which spawned a concentrated refocusing on test scores. While teachers do
need to be accountable, it is not simply for student achievement on test scores
but for how well the students are prepared to take on the challenges that the
The question then follows, how do we teach many of these
skills? How does one teach a student to think critically or be empathetic?
Looking at empathy, the most valuable way I have seen comes from experiences;
from the participation in and exploration of the student’s own ideas and
feelings in the context of real and meaningful experiences.
2010-01-07- Article -
Practicing Empathy: The closet thing I've found to what I want to write in my
Definitions may be helpful here. If you have sympathy for
someone, you are sorry for them, and show this in the way you behave towards
them. If you sympathize with someone, you agree with them. If you take an action
in sympathy, you are supporting someone. Some synonyms are: pity, commiseration,
and condolences. On the other hand, empathy is the ability to share another
person's feelings and emotions as if they were your own. Someone who
empathizes is imagining the same sensations as that of those actually
experiencing them, and someone who sympathizes is thinking, "God, I'm glad
that's not me." Empathy recognizes that we are all have something in common;
Sympathy implies a kind of distinction between human beings, based on luck,
intelligence, or social class, or race, or other justification or defensive
Understanding Empathy - Seven Tips For Raising Compassionate
Empathy is about putting yourself in someone else's shoes and trying to relate
to what they might be feeling. Out of empathy comes caring, consideration,
compassion and even remorse (if you are unable to think how your actions might
hurt another person, how can you possibly feel bad for what you have done?).
Some people purposely try to turn off empathy to eliminate getting hurt and
others are not stimulated to create the brain pathways for empathy in the first
place. Seven tips for encouraging empathy:
Rothenberg -Teaching Empathy to Children
Many parents are noticing that their children don’t seem very empathetic.
Parents and teachers are concerned that too many children don’t appear to notice
others’ feelings or care if others are upset. Empathy is the cornerstone for
meaningful, close, and satisfying connections between people – both children and
adults. We want our children to care about others. We want them to be able to
look at things from the other’s perspective – not just from their own. Seeing
only your own perspective makes you more self-centered and selfish and less
likely to take responsibility for your actions. People who understand how their
actions affect others are likely to choose more appropriate behavior, show
better judgment, and repair rifts in their relationships with others.
The development of empathy in your kids may not come easy. Think about it –
children, by their very nature tend to be self-absorbed creatures, looking after
their own interests without much concern about what other people think. (My
guess is we all know numerous adults with the same characteristics! ) For kids,
it is more natural to not fully grasp why empathy is such an integral part of a
healthy life, and yet without empathy they run the risk of growing up to be
self-absorbed, narcissistic, selfish adults.
1. Remember that Empathy
Can be Taught:
2. Let Kids Know That the
World Doesn’t Revolve Around Them:
3. Point Out How Other
People Around You are Feeling:
4. Talk about What’s
Happening in the World:
5. Teach Empathy by Being
JANE E. BRODY - Empathy’s Natural, but Nurturing It
Empathy, the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and recognize and
respond to what that person is feeling, is an essential ingredient of a
Lacking empathy, people act only out of self-interest, without regard for the
well-being or feelings of others. The absence of empathy fosters antisocial
behavior, cold-blooded murder, genocide. The capacity for empathy seems to be
innate, and is evident even in other species — the adult elephant who tried to
rescue a baby rhino stuck in the mud despite being charged by its mother, as
recounted by Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson and Susan McCarthy in “When Elephants
While research suggests we're born compassionate, we can
cultivate our empathetic tendencies.
Research suggests that empathy may be an innate human characteristic. We just
can't help it; our hearts go out to those who are suffering. However, some say
that the amount of compassion we're born with is not all we can achieve.
Psychologists say that it's possible to cultivate children's natural empathetic
tendencies, reports the
New York Times. Somewhat ironically, the way to make kids relate to others
better is to help them feel good about themselves.
Empathy is the earliest social disposition to appear in the course of human life
cycle. Toddlers will try and comfort another child who is obviously unhappy or
in pain. Young children are, however, not yet able to empathize with those who
do not give any obvious signs of emotional distress. Preschoolers might, to
illustrate, comment loudly on the size of stranger's nose, or ears, totally
unaware of the impact this might have on the other person. This is not cruel, it
just represents the fact that young children do not yet understand what another
person might be feeling if they have no visual clues to guide them.
Roots of Empathy babies and their parents celebrated
"Roots of Empathy is about supporting children and nurturing kindness. Our
students are privileged to take part in such a wonderful program. The Ministry
of Education is proud to support an initiative that fosters emotional literacy -
creating more welcoming and caring classroom environments." Nearly 3,350
children in Toronto and 18,000 in Ontario
participated in the program in 2009-10 with the support of the Government of
Maia Szalavitz -
When kids are able to watch an interaction that's empathic, empathy isn't just
being taught; it's being demonstrated," says Dr. Daniel Siegel, a clinical
professor of psychiatry at UCLA. ROE is unique, he notes, because it "combines
the direct observation of babies and their mothers, weekly time devoted to
talking about the internal world of mind and watching a baby grow up over time."
Among the program's many big-name fans: the Dalai Lama, who has twice appeared
publicly with Gordon and thinks ROE can help spur world peace.
Although human nature has historically been seen
as fundamentally selfish, social neuroscience suggests otherwise. Researchers
are finding that empathy is innate in most humans, as well as in some other
species. Chimps, for instance, will protest unfair treatment of others, refusing
to accept a treat they have rightfully earned if another chimp doing the same
work fails to get the same reward.
Jeffery - Planting the seeds
The Early Childhood Development Centre is helping children express their
feelings at a younger age thanks to a program called Seeds of Empathy.
Like Roots of Empathy, a program already offered
in several schools in the Drayton Valley area, Seeds of Empathy brings babies
into the classroom to interact with the children. Through this interaction the
children learn how to empathize with others.
2009-09-13 - Article - Baby steps toward a
more peaceful world
http://www.thestar.com/news/insight/article/694905 Mary Gordon wants to change humanity by rewiring a child's brain — one
child at a time. A noble idea, but is it possible? Whether she is speaking on a
panel with the Dali Lama or to students at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy
School of Government, Gordon's theme is the same: the world will be a better
place if children grow up understanding the other's perspective. There will be
no more genocides, no more wars, no more racism or violence, she declares. She
has built what she believes is a road map to achieve a kinder, gentler humanity.
But it wasn't until she came up with her Roots of Empathy program, an offshoot
of her parenting and literacy work, that she began to see how a simple idea
could transform the world. Her book, Roots of Empathy: Changing the World Child
by Child, has just been published in the United States, following publication
here four years ago. It was a Canadian bestseller, winning praise from the likes
of Fraser Mustard and Michael Fullan of the Ontario Institute for Studies in
Education. Since then she has won the endorsement of the Dali Lama, who has
embraced her program as a way to build world peace. Gordon spoke on a panel with
the Dali Lama in both Vancouver and Seattle in 2006 and 2008.
The Roots of Empathy, a national and international
organization whose mission is to build caring, peaceful and civil societies
through development of empathy in children and adults, uses babies in classrooms
to achieve its goal. A parent and baby visit once every three or four weeks
through the baby's first year. Carolyn Parkes, provincial manager for Seeds of Empathy in
Alberta, a program aimed at children in preschools and day cares, says the
program uses babies "as a lever for discussions about social and emotional
The youngest teachers in Western Washington are being honored for
teaching empathy by "cooing and crawling." KING 5's Mimi Jung has a look at the
"Roots of Empathy" program.
2010-01-09 - Article -
of Empathy founder will speak in Langley
The woman who created one of the most successful programs to encourage children
to understand and demonstrate empathy will be the guest speaker at Seeds of
Success later this month. Mary Gorton, an internationally recognized educator,
advocate for children and expert on parenting, is the founder of Roots of
Empathy and Seeds of Empathy, two groundbreaking programs which help in
We are building our world on a social fault line where we have
failed to realize the greatest minds alone will not solve social problems. We
also need great hearts at the table. "The Empathic Civilization" shines light on
evidence from neuroscience that shows human nature is empathic. The basis for
solving all of the problems we face is empathy. If homo empathicus can
get that right, we allow for the viability of our physical and social universe.
And yet our ecosystems are withering on the vine without
empathic input from a globalized, interconnected, citizenry. We may be on the
verge of the Age of Empathy, but we still have a long journey ahead. In fact, I
would argue that we are in still in our infancy, and that we live in an
emotionally illiterate North America.
2005 - Taking Lessons from a Baby
The program rests on the premise that by forming a collective attachment to
“their” baby, children in each classroom will strengthen their relationships
with one another and learn “emotional literacy”—the ability to identify
emotions, explain why people feel these emotions, and develop ways for handling
their own emotions. It draws upon years of research suggesting that when
children can understand how others feel, they are less likely to hurt them by
bullying, exclusion, and aggression, and are more likely to be kind and
altruistic. At the same time, Roots of Empathy helps the next generation of
parents appreciate the emotional and practical demands of raising children.
2009-09-13 - Article - Thomas B. Edsall
- Democratic Fault Lines Open Up
Values disputes are beginning to pit the party's 'empathy' wing against its more
tightfisted 'discipline' wing.
The Democratic coalition's ability to bridge its economic, regional, and class
differences is endangered by values conflicts threatening to emerge over a wide
range of domestic issues, including health care, global warming, labor rights,
and consumer protection.
Such values disputes may well complicate regional and class tensions, pitting
the party's "empathy" wing against its less liberal, more tightfisted
Article - Ron
Instead of Bombs and Bribes, Let’s Try Empathy and Trade
http://original.antiwar.com/paul/2009/10/05/instead-of-bombs-and-bribes/ Sadly, one thing that has entirely escaped modern
American foreign policy is empathy. Without much humility or regard for human
life, our foreign policy has been reduced to alternately bribing and bombing
other nations, all with the stated goal of "promoting democracy." But if a
country democratically elects a leader who is not sufficiently pro-American, our
government will refuse to recognize them, will impose sanctions on them, and
will possibly even support covert efforts to remove them. Democracy is obviously
not what we are interested in. It is more likely that our government is
interested in imposing its will on other governments. This policy of endless
intervention in the affairs of others is very damaging to American liberty and
That's where Hope 2.0 comes in. If the votes aren't there, the
people need to create them. Just like King did. They need to build a movement.
And to make that happen, we need to adopt another of the great lessons of Dr.
King's life: elevating the role empathy must play in
We've seen a great outpouring of empathy this past week,
spurred by the wrenching scenes of devastation in Haiti. With the rare exception
of the likes of Pat Robertson and Rush Limbaugh, empathy comes naturally
to most people. Indeed, 16 years ago I wrote a book -- The Fourth Instinct
-- about the instinct that compels us all to go beyond our impulses for
survival, sex, and power, and drives us to expand the boundaries of our caring
beyond our selves and our families to include people we may never meet, and
parts of the world we may never see.
It's an instinct that, if harnessed, can have powerful
political implications. King showed that for a movement
to become broad-based enough to produce real change, it must be fueled by
And that's exactly what his nonviolent direct action sought to
do. King understood that he needed to tap into the empathy of whole
constituencies that would not themselves be the direct beneficiaries of the
civil rights movement. And so he set about making a compelling moral case by
bringing the "ugliness" and "injustice" front and center -- forcing many in
white America to see for the first time that millions of their fellow citizens
were effectively living in a different reality than they were. He created
pathways for empathy and then used them to create a better country for
While taping last week's
& Center, I was discussing Jeremy Rifkin's
powerful piece on empathy. Tony Blankley teasingly retorted:
"Evolution, cruel as it is, determined that empathy is not a survival
trait." And if you watched the
Big Bank CEOs testify on the Hill last week, you would agree that empathy
has not been a trait necessary for success, let alone survival. But if we are to
continue to survive -- maybe not as a species, but certainly as a thriving
democratic society -- human evolution has to, well, evolve. And we are going to
need all the empathy we can get. Without it, we'll never be able to
create the kind of national consensus required to tackle the enormous problems
that face us.
Watching the CEOs, I was stunned by the utter lack of even a feigned sense of
empathy for those whose lives the banks have destroyed. Only a complete
inability to feel empathy could explain the fact that the bankers are not
just back to operating at their old bonus levels, but at their old smugness
levels as well.
The majority vote campaign gives us a chance to talk not only about this
particular issue, but about democracy as it affects all issues. The clearest
articulator of what democracy is about has been Barack Obama - the campaigner we
cheered for, campaigned hard for and voted for. Democracy, he has observed, is
based on empathy - on citizens caring about one another. That's why we have
principles like freedom and fairness, for everybody, not just for the rich and
powerful. True empathy requires responsibility, not just for oneself, but also
for others. And since we, as individuals and as a nation, are far from perfect,
empathy demands an ethic of excellence, of making oneself better, one's family
and community better and one's nation better......
If you live in California (one out of eight Americans does), then join the
California Democracy Movement. If you live elsewhere, form your own democracy
movement and unite with us. The principles are simple, and they are Obama's:
Democracy is about empathy - caring about your fellow citizens, which leads to
the principles of freedom and fairness for all. Empathy requires both personal
and social responsibility. The ethic of excellence means making the world better
by making yourself better, your family better, your community better, and your
nation better. Government has two moral missions: protection and empowerment for
all. To carry them out, government must be by, for, and of the people.
Differences in Empathy
Empathy or the ability to appreciate someone else’s emotions and express this
emotional awareness is a capacity that differs amongst individuals.
Patient Doctor Relationship Series: Empathy
Responsiveness to the emotional state of another plays a fundamental role in
the patient doctor relationship (PDR) as well as in other human interaction.
Sympathy and empathy are not the only responses in the PDR. Other responses
can be consolation, kindness, politeness, compassion, and pity.
Gender Differences in Empathy
A number of studies suggest that women may be more empathic than man, on
average this is obviously true. From experience alone this statement seems
reasonable. Nevertheless, some men can be more empathic than women but overall
women are more empathic.
A number of brain regions have been suggested to be involved in
empathy. Two recent studies were published on brain regions and
gender differences in empathy.
Patient Doctor Relationship: Can We Teach
Empathy at Med School?
No I don’t think so. For several reasons. Empathy is a process with different
steps. Especially feeling what the patients feels is a quality not every
doctor has. And if they do it is not always appropriate nor possible to be
sensitive enough to use it. Moreover this process not only needs the quality
it is also costs energy, depends on the relationship with the patient, and
The Neurobiology of Empathy through Pain Research
There are patients with
congenital insensitivity to pain (CIP) this is a rare condition. They
don’t feel pain, cognition and sensation is otherwise normal; for instance
they can still feel discriminative touch (though not always temperature), and
there is no detectable physical abnormality. They offer a unique opportunity
to test the model of empathy. Does
the lack of self-pain representation influence the perception of others’ pain.
Patient Doctor Relationship: Neuroscience of Empathy
In a prior post on this blog about
empathy sometimes a distinction is made between cognitive and affective
empathy. These two concepts refer to our ability to put ourselves in the shoes
of another person, be it in their mental or emotional shoes. These concepts
are difficult to differentiate. Especially for cognitive empathy
this is a simplification since mental states could in principal also include
feeling and emotional states.
2010-03-19 - The art of mindreading —
empathy or rational inference? The ability to infer what another person is
thinking is an essential tool for social interaction and is known by
neuroscientists as ‘Theory of Mind’ (ToM), but how does the brain actually allow
us to do this? We are able to rationally infer what someone knows, thinks, or
intends, but we are also able to ‘slip into their shoes’ and infer how they
feel, and it seems that the brain processes these different types of information
in different ways, as confirmed by a new report in the June 2010 issue of
2010-03-19 - Helen Thomson -
We feel your pain: Extreme empaths HORROR films are simply a disconcerting watch
for the majority of us, but for Jane Barrett they are literally torturous. She
writhes in agony whenever the actors on the screen feel pain. "When I see
violence in films I have an extreme reaction," she says. "I simply have to
close my eyes. I start to feel nauseous and have to breathe deeply."
Review: The Age of Empathy by Frans de Waal
Evidence continues to show that animals (including humans) are naturally
cooperative - so why do we cling to the idea that nature is red in tooth and
claw? Marc Bekoff 15 September 2009
Empathy may not be uniquely human quality
New research suggests empathy requires no specialised brain area, meaning
there is no reason why monkeys and other animals cannot empathise too
Helen Phillips 24 April 2004
Is empathy an animal quality?
THE ability to empathise is often considered uniquely human, the result of
complex reasoning and abstract thought. But it might in fact be an incredibly
Helen Phillips 24 April 2004
Source of human empathy found in brain
Implicated in empathy, language, and even consciousness itself, mirror neurons
have now been directly observed in people for the first time
Gordy Slack 12 November 2007
2010-03-11 - Ray B.
How the age of empathy will impact leadership
We may be moving into the Age of Empathy, reconciling conflicting
concepts of faith and reason and tapping into the latest brain science. This Age
of Empathy will have a significant impact on the preparation of leaders and how
they act in organizations. Greed is out. Empathy is in. That's how Frans de Waal
begins his book, The Age of Empathy: Nature's Lessons For A Kinder Society.
De Waal is a biologist, professor of psychology and director of the Living Link
Center at Emory University. In 2007, Time magazine selected him as one of
the world's most influential people.
Article - David Dobbs - Do animals feel empathy?
Do animals feel empathy? This question could draw scoffing dismissal from many
scientists only a few decades ago. Now it receives marvelously productive
attention in neuroscience, psychology, and the burgeoning field of
neuroethology. Below, two
leaders in these fields, Emory University primatologist
Frans de Waal and
University of Chicago neurobiologist
review both the history of animal studies of empathy and a particularly
thought-provoking recent mouse study from the McGill University lab of Jeffrey
Mogil. As de Waal and Mason note, this clever study holds surprises about both
the baseline and the limitations of empathy in these small, "simple" rodents.
One can't read these reviews without seeing one's own empathetic capacities and
limitations in a new light.
Review: The Age of Empathy by Frans de Waal
MANY people have argued that humans are naturally cooperative. Charles Darwin,
Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, the Dalai Lama, Russian zoologist and
James Rilling and psychologist
Dacher Keltner, among many others
including myself, have all made the case that our animal nature is
characterised as much by kindness and collaboration as it is by competition and
carnage. Now, the prolific primatologist
Waal joins the fray to convince people that we are not such nasty creatures
after all. Empathy, de Waal explains, is the social glue that holds communities
together, and if humans are empathetic animals it is because we have "the
backing of a long evolutionary history".
Empathy: Not for the Birds
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/frans-de-waal/sotomayers-empathy-not-fo_b_230102.html That a candidate for the Supreme Court needs
empathy, as Obama emphasized, is almost too obvious to pay attention to. Because
apart from psychopaths, all humans are endowed with empathy, which is the
capacity to be affected by the emotional states of others, and to become part of
their situation. I can see how conservatives won't see much need for it, because
their ideology tries to operate without empathy, such as when Rush Limbaugh
mocked Michael J. Fox's Parkinson's symptoms or when Missouri Representative
Cynthia Davis opposed school lunches, opining that "hunger can be a positive
motivator." These are great examples of what happens when empathy is in short
The CEO of Enron - now in prison - happily applied ‘selfish gene’ logic to his
human capital, thus creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. Assuming that the human
species is driven purely by greed and fear, Jeffrey Skilling produced employees
driven by the same motives. Enron imploded under the mean-spirited weight of his
policies, offering a preview of what was in store for the world economy as a
But biologists are beginning to form a generally sunnier view of humankind.
Their conclusions are derived in part from testing very young children, and
partly from comparing human children with those of chimpanzees, hoping that the
differences will point to what is distinctively human.
Dr. Tomasello “Humans putting their heads together in shared
cooperative activities are thus the originators of human culture,” Dr. Kaplan and
colleagues wrote recently in The Philosophical Transactions of the Royal
Society. We evolved to be nice to each other, in other words, because there was
Much the same conclusion is reached by Frans
de Waal in another book published in October, “The Age of Empathy.” Dr. de
Waal, a primatologist, has long studied the cooperative side of primate behavior
and believes that aggression, which he has also studied, is often overrated as a
“We’re preprogrammed to reach out,” Dr. de Waal
writes. “Empathy is an automated response over which we have limited control.”
The only people emotionally immune to another’s situation, he notes, are
Indeed, it is in our biological nature, not our
political institutions, that we should put our trust, in his view. Our empathy
is innate and cannot be changed or long suppressed. “In fact,” Dr. de Waal
writes, “I’d argue that biology constitutes our greatest hope. One can only
shudder at the thought that the humaneness of our societies would depend on the
whims of politics, culture or religion.”
Empathy, an emotional tuning to others' feelings,
and the altruism that accompanies it, seems in short supply in the human world.
With bankers greedily re-amassing fortunes, wars for oil, and rogue states on
the hunt for nuclear muscle, humanity seems close to the dog-eat-dog vision of
Thomas Hobbes, the war of all against all, in which "man is wolf to man".
There is a widely held assumption that humans are hard-wired
for relentless and ruthless competition, locked into a Darwinian struggle for
survival and individual success. For centuries some economists and biologists
have argued that nature, red in tooth and claw, requires us to be selfish too.
The Dutch psychologist and primatologist Frans de Waal sees
nature differently: as a biological legacy in which empathy, not mere self
interest, is shared by humans, bonobos and animals in general. In his new book,
The Age of Empathy, De Waal cites an amazing array of evidence to show that
altruism, self-sacrifice, co-operation and even notions of fairness abound not
just among our close primate relatives but throughout the animal kingdom.
Frans de Waal
What exactly is empathy?
Russian Doll Model of empathy
Empathy: The capacity to a) be affected by and share
the emotional state of another, b) assess the reasons for the other’s state, and
c) identify with the other, adopting his or her perspective. This definition
extends beyond what exists in many animals, but I employ the term “empathy” even
if only the first criterion is met as I believe all of these elements are
Frans de Waal
- Putting the Altruism
Back into Altruism:The Evolution of Empathy
http://www.emory.edu/LIVING_LINKS/pdf_attachments/de Waal (2008).pdf
Evolutionary theory postulates that altruistic behavior evolved for
the return-benefits it bears the performer. For return-benefits to play
a motivational role, however, they need to be experienced by the organism.
Motivational analyses should restrict themselves, therefore,
to the altruistic impulse and its knowable consequences. Empathy
is an ideal candidate mechanism to underlie so-called directed altruism,
i.e., altruism in response to another’s pain, need, or distress.
Evidence is accumulating that this mechanism is phylogenetically ancient,
probably as old as mammals and birds.
Roman Krznaric - In search of our inner ape: An interview with Frans de
In an exclusive interview for OUTROSPECTION, I speak to the renowned Dutch
primatologist Frans de Waal about his new book, The Age of Empathy: Nature’s
Lessons for a Kinder Society. De Waal, voted by Time Magazine as one of the 100
World’s Most Influential People Today, is Professor of Primate Behaviour at
Emory University in the US. Author of numerous books on social cooperation in
primates, he is famous for arguing that empathy is a natural trait in humans and
many animal species.
- Steven E. Levingston
- Animal empathy and its political implications
Primatologist Frans de Waal has some surprising news about human empathy: among
the beasts of the animal kingdom, we are not alone in this emotion. De Waal says
research shows that both lab rats and elephants, among other creatures, have an
instinctual tendency toward empathetic behavior.
Instead of killing this laudable tendency toward empathy with
arguments based on a faulty understanding of the natural world, I just hope we
will give it room to be expressed. In the end, everyone will be better off if we
join forces the way our ancestors and their ancestors have done for millions of
Well, empathy is sometimes defined by psychologists as a high-level cognitive
feat – you put yourself in the shoes of somebody else. But actually, the core of
empathy is an emotional tie between A and B: You see someone crying and this
makes you feel sad. I see you smiling and that makes me happy, or I smile
myself. That’s a very basic connection you can observe in many other animals.
I’m not saying that you will necessarily see it in fish or birds, or reptiles,
but certainly in mammals. There are now even studies in rodents indicating this
When you get to our closer relatives, you get to
more complex relationships that are more similar to ours. They're not just
connected with each other and affected by each other's emotions. They are also
interested in figuring out what is going on with the other and understanding it,
and maybe helping in a particular way. And so in the primates especially, our
close relatives, you get more forms of behavior that are more similar to what we
2009-10-10 - Article - By Frans de Waal
- Morals without God Without God, we will live like animals!
After listening to the
debate between Bill O'Reilly and Richard Dawkins, it struck me again that
the resistance to evolutionary theory largely stems from the illusion that
without God there can be no morality. Some believers feel threatened by
evolutionary theory not because the theory is right or wrong -- the evidence
doesn't seem to matter much to them -- but because accepting it would mean
accepting that we have been created by natural processes including our
morality. The final part is what bothers them the most.
The behavior of our ape relatives, known as peaceful vegetarians, once bolstered
the view that our actions could not be traced to an impulse to dominate. But in
the late 1970s, when chimpanzees were discovered to hunt monkeys and kill each
other, they became the poster boys for our violent origins and aggressive
The empathy literature on animals is growing fast, and is no
longer restricted to such anecdotes. There are now systematic studies, and even
experiments that show that we are not the only caring species. At the same time,
we are getting used to findings of remarkable human empathy, such as those by
neuroscientists that reward centers in the brain light up when we give to
charity (hence the saying that "doing good feels good") or that seeing another
in pain activates the same brain areas as when we are in pain ourselves.
Obviously, we are hard-wired to be in tune with the emotions of others, a
capacity that evolution should never have favored if exploitation of others were
all that mattered.
2009-09-xx - Article -
By Frans de Waal - Bodies
Contagious laughter, yawns, and moods offer insight into empathy’s origins. That is where empathy and sympathy start—with the synchronization of
bodies—not in the higher regions of imagination, or in the ability to
consciously reconstruct how we would feel if we were in someone else’s “shoes.”
And yet empathy is often presented as a voluntary process, requiring role
taking, higher cognition, and even language. Accordingly, most scholarly
literature on empathy is completely human centered, never mentioning other
animals. As if a capacity so visceral and pervasive could be anything other than
biological! To counter such widespread views, I decided to investigate how
chimpanzees relate to and learn from one another.
Gary Olson - The Age of
Empathy Corrects Prevailing Notions About Human Behavior
The next time you find yourself in a contentious conversation with someone who’s
arguing that humans are inherently selfish, embrace killing and war, and (mis)
using terms like “Social Darwinism,” give them a copy of Frans de Waal’s latest
book, The Age of Empathy: Nature’s Lessons For A Kinder Society (Harmony, 2009).
Only continue the discussion after they’ve read it.
2009-09-24 - Article - Tracing
the Origins of Human Empathy Chimpanzees' Caring Behavior Toward Others Hints at the
Emotion's Antiquity; the Mystery of the Contagious Yawn
In his new book -- "The Age of Empathy" -- Dr. de Waal, director of Living Links
Center at Emory University's Yerkes National Primate Research Center in Atlanta,
traces the origins of our ability to put ourselves in another's place. Drawing
on his experiments and studies by other animal behaviorists, he highlights how
chimpanzees and other primates console each other, prefer to share, and nurse
the injured. There are no fossils of feelings, but as our closest living
relatives, Dr. de Waal believes these primates are reminders of empathy's
2009-08-27 - Article - Max Fisher - Does
Capitalism Work If Humans Are Altruistic?
theatlantic.com Altruism, or selfless acts that benefit others, have
long been a
mystery of human behavior. The closest thing to conventional wisdom has been
that selflessness is only an illusion of self-interest; we act altruistically
because we expect reciprocation. But some anthropologists now argue that
millions of years of evolution have hard-wired us for altruism, not
self-interest. This theory is the subject of a new book "The
Age of Empathy" by primatologist Frans de Waal. What de Waal is challenging
is the very idea that our default is Thomas Hobbes's brutish "state
of nature," or perhaps that the state of nature even really exists
2009-08-07 - Article - The
evolution of empathy - Less brutish, still short
BOOK: The Age of Empathy: Nature’s Lessons for a Kinder Society. By
Frans de Waal. Crown;
His new book, “The Age of Empathy”, looks at altruism and
sympathetic fellow-feeling in both humans and other animals.
Click here to find out more! His title has a double-meaning: empathy is both
very old and freshly topical. It is as ancient as the entire mammalian line, he
argues, engaging areas of the brain that developed in our distant ancestors over
100m years ago. And we are also entering a new age of empathy, he thinks,
brought on by the financial crisis (the product of a selfishly oriented system),
and marked by America’s election of President Barack Obama, who has
re-emphasized the importance of compassion and helping one’s neighbor. The book
is a polemic, and its main target is what Mr de Waal takes to be a distorted
idea of human life as relentlessly selfish and ruthlessly competitive.
2009 September 29,
Contagious yawning in gelada baboons as a possible expression of empathy
Communicated by Frans B. M. de Waal, Emory University, Atlanta, GA, September
29, 2009 (received for review May 9, 2009)
Yawn contagion in humans has been proposed to be related to our capacity for
empathy. It is presently unclear whether this capacity is uniquely human or
shared with other primates, especially monkeys. Here, we show that in gelada
baboons (Theropithecus gelada) yawning is contagious between
individuals, especially those that are socially close, i.e., the contagiousness
of yawning correlated with the level of grooming contact between individuals.
This phenomenon, here demonstrated in monkeys, could be a
building block for full-blown empathy.
2009-08-07 - Article - Darwin
on empathy bc.net.au Frans de Waal says
Darwin was insightful in his writing on empathy. He knew animals intimately and
understood their emotional lives. And he drew lines from this to human behaviour
and empathy. Empathy is a mammalian characteristic. The simplest form of empathy
is being emotionally affected by the emotions of somebody else. If you are
caring for offspring who are vulnerable you need to get upset when they are
hungry or endangered. This could explain why human females have more empathy
2009-09-24 - Article - Eric Michael
- Survival of the Kindest
In his latest book, The Age of Empathy: Nature’s Lessons for a Kinder Society,
primatologist Frans de Waal argues that social darwinists like Skilling have
learned the wrong lessons about the natural world. The nasty, brutish existence
dominated by “savage competition, ruthless exploitation, and deceit” that
Dawkins describes is far from the norm for animals that live in social groups.
They thrive because of the cooperation, conciliation, and, above all, the
empathy that they display towards fellow members. The support and protection
they receive from living in a group more than compensates for any selfish
advantage they might have achieved on their own. Empathy is an automated response over which we have limited
control. We can suppress it, mentally block it, or fail to act on it, but except
for a tiny percentage of humans—known as psychopaths—no one is emotionally
immune to another’s situation.” Furthermore, many of these same characteristics
can be found in the primates he’s studied for more than 20 years.
Q. When Belgian biologists studied about 2,000 dogs that got
into spontaneous fights, they noted that nearby dogs would come to comfort the
contestants, especially the losers, licking, nuzzling, playing with them. So
"dog-eat-dog" doesn't even hold for dogs. What are a few other of Nature's
lessons for a kinder society?
A. Countless stories are told of human swimmers saved by dolphins or whales,
sometimes protected against sharks or lifted to the surface for safety, says
Frans de Waal in "The Age of Empathy." There are also cases of apes saving birds
or of a seal
2009-12-28 - Article -
The Age of
http://aunicornist.blogspot.com/2010/01/age-of-empathy-frans-de-waal.html Kinder Society. If you're not familiar
with Frans De Waal, he's a primatologist possibly most famous for his book Our
Inner Ape, which I also received as a gift over the holidays this year. My
introduction to De Waal was in one of my favorite books, Primates and
Philosophers: How Morality Evolved. He's featured in the NOVA special "The Last
Great Ape", which I highly recommend. De Waal's books have a consistent theme:
That the common perception is that human morality is a triumph over our animal
nature; that morality comes from somewhere else – from the church, from the law,
from God – and that we need this external source of morality to conquer our
competitive, selfish nature.
2010-01-03 - Article -Reviewed
by Jennifer Curry - The Age of Empathy
For more than a decade now, primatologist Frans De Waal has examined the
evolutionary origins of morality among humans and other primates. In his latest
book, The Age of Empathy, he takes a more overtly political approach than in his
previous works, though the foundations of his arguments are still deeply rooted
in biology. Empathy, according to De Waal, is not only the foundation of ethics
and morality but also an adaptation "as old as the mammalian line." It is not
soft-hearted whimsy, it is a robust evolutionary trait that has ensured the
longevity of our species.
Frans de Waal, author of The Age of Empathy - Video
(Society becoming more empathic, Supreme Court example,
from maternal care,
Oxytocin, cross species empathy, conservatives see Social Darwinism,
competition v. empathy, degrees of empathy in many animals )
In the meantime, primatologists were debating altruism, too, and
found the same or similar
and altruism outside of our own species. Monkeys and apes sometimes take
great risks to help each other, for example against predators (chimps in the
forest defend each other against leopards) or enemies (females defend each other
against violent males). Chimpanzees spontaneously share food with each other,
and in recent experiments it was found that primates will secure rewards for
others even if this does not benefit themselves in any way. Since they didn't
need incentives to do so, it is possible they were doing it for some internal
reward. Perhaps other primates, too, derive pleasure from giving.
Once upon a time, the United States had a president known
for a peculiar facial display. In an act of controlled emotion, he would bite
his lower lip and tell his audience, "I feel your pain." Whether the display was
sincere is not the issue here; how we are affected by another's predicament is.
Empathy is second nature to us, so much so that anyone devoid of it strikes us
as dangerous or mentally ill.
At the movies, we can't help but get inside the skin of the characters on the
screen. We despair when their gigantic ship sinks; we exult when they finally
stare into the eyes of a long-lost lover.
After many of such tests it has now been
concluded that, yes, primates other than humans love to help each other. They do
care about the welfare of others as much as humans do, which is to say, some of
This has implications for
modern human society, because all too often politicians start from the
assumption that society needs to be structured around competition, given that
this is how nature works. Their dismal, inaccurate view of the natural world
thus informs their view of human society. Too bad if some people have no health
insurance, so the argument goes, so long as those who can afford it do. Senator
Jon Kyl of Arizona went one step further by voting against coverage of maternity
care, because, as he explained, he had never had any need for it himself.
I feel that we should hold Senator Kyl and others
of his species aloft in the glaring daylight and see what their shadow tells us.
If they don't see the sun soon, there will be a never-ending winter.
Frans de Waal is a Dutch-born biologist who's one of the
world's best known primatologists. He is a professor of psychology and director
of the Living Links Center at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center at
Emory University. In this well-written book filled with anecdotes and stories,
de Waal makes the case that human beings are not nasty, brutal creatures looking
out only for ourselves but empathetic beings often animated by compassion.
Drawing from his own research on animal behavior, he reveals that we are
"preprogrammed to reach out." Human empathy has "the backing of a long
Article - Samanth
Subramanian - Understanding the triggers of empathy - Video ok
Vilayanur S. Ramachandran
If you look at the properties of mirror neurons, they’re involved
obviously in empathy, involved in taking another person’s point of view…all of
this corresponds quite precisely…to the known deficits in autism. So it can’t be
a coincidence if you say this is the main core deficit of autism. But this is
still controversial, because we’ve proposed this and there’s a lot of evidence
in its favour, but I wouldn’t say it’s conclusive.
2009-08-27 - Article - Marco Iacoboni on imitation
Imitation and empathy
He spoke about "the chameleon effect"--some people are more imitative than
others, and a tendency to imitate is correlated with a tendency to be more
empathetic. He showed two photographs of President Jimmy Carter and his chief of
staff, Hamilton Jordan, at two different times at the same event; in both cases
the chief of staff was in the same physical position as Carter, standing next to
or slightly behind him.
When feeling what others feel, the mirror neurons simulate facial expressions,
which then feed through the insula to the limbic system, where you feel the
emotion. He referred to research on imitating and observing facial expressions
proposing a neural model of empathy in humans (Carr et al., PNAS, 2003).
We are "wired for empathy," he said, and notes that he used to quote a French
phenomenologist on this point, but since that's not popular among U.S.
philosophers he needed to find a champion of the analytic school of philosophy.
He offered two quotes from Ludwig Wittgenstein, one which began "We see
emotions. We do not see facial contortions and make the inference that he is
feeling joy, grief, boredom. We describe a face immediately as sad, radiant,
bored, even when we are unable to give any other description of the features."
WHEN watching horror films or thrillers, people
wince and gasp when seeing characters hurt or terrified. When watching an
exciting football game, people feel surges of elation or disappointment, just
like the players who score a goal or miss a shot.
These feelings of empathy are triggered by mirror neurons -- "the brain cells
that fill the gap between self and other by enabling some sort of simulation or
inner imitation of the actions of others," explains Marco Iacoboni in his book
2009-10-01 -Cassie Wierenga - Empathy may lead to altruistic
motivations, researcher reports
The answer to whether a person can unselfishly value the welfare
of another may be found in current research on empathy, a University of Kansas
researcher told a meeting in Chicago Wednesday.
Daniel Batson, a professor of social psychology at the University of Kansas in
Lawrence, maintained that people can value things outside of themselves.
“The more we value the welfare of others, the more likely we are to feel
empathic concern, which then results in the altruistic motivations,” he said.
2009-10-01 - Cassie Wierenga
- Empathy may lead to altruistic motivations, researcher reports
During a first-of-its-kind academic conference on empathy, held Wednesday at the
University of Chicago's Gleacher Center downtown, Batson presented his research
on the empathy-altruism hypothesis.
He shared the results and implications of his research in this Q&A with Medill
‘Survival of the Kindest’ – Sympathy is Strongest Human Instinct
Researchers at the University of California,
Berkeley, are challenging long-held beliefs that human beings are wired to be
selfish. In a wide range of studies, social scientists are amassing a growing
body of evidence to show we are evolving to become more compassionate and
collaborative in our quest to survive and thrive.
One current of Darwin’s thought
is well-known. His theory of evolution by natural selection would require new
genesis stories about the origins of life forms, less arrogant notions about
man’s place in the great chain of being, and a rethinking of our species as one
in flux—and with rather hairy relatives.
Less well-known is a second
current of Darwin’s thought — his conception of human nature. Think of Darwin
and “survival of the fittest” leaps to mind, as do images of competitive
individuals — collections of selfish genes — going at one another bloody in
tooth and claw. “Survival of the fittest” was not Darwin’s phrase, but Herbert
Spencer’s and that of Social Darwinists who used Darwin to justify their
wished-for superiority of different classes and races. “Survival of the kindest”
better captures Darwin’s thinking about his own kind.
2010-05-21 - Liz Ozaist -
The Magical Spray That Gets Men to Express Their Feelings Lemondrop: Where did you get
the idea for this experiment?
Professor Kendrick: It all started with research I was doing with sheep in the
1980s. I found that oxytocin was released in the brain when females gave birth
or suckled their young, allowing them to form emotional and empathetic bonds
with their offspring. Over the last decade, further research has confirmed that
it's also important for promoting pro-social behavior, including trust and
generosity. Going into the study, we knew that certain recreational drugs, such
as Ecstasy, have pro-social effects on people because they're involved in the
release of oxytocin. But what we wanted to uncover is whether oxytocin by itself
can act as an empathogen
Both schizophrenia and autism are defined by a lack of social
feeling and an inability to read facial and other cues. In a study last February
at the Centre de Neuroscience Cognitive in Lyon, France, investigators
administered oxytocin spray to 13 children with mild autism. After treatment,
the participants were better able to read body language cues during a game of
catch and, when looking at photographs of faces, spent more time studying the
images — especially the eyes — than they would have otherwise.
Nasal Spray May Make Men More Empathetic
Modern medicine may have found the answer for the insensitive
jerk. Researchers in
Kingdom claim it’s possible to make men more empathetic and caring by using
a nasal spray which increases the level of oxytocin in the human body. Oxytocin,
sometimes called the “cuddle hormone,” promotes bonding between mothers and
their children, among other things. A study involving 48 men showed that those
who received oxytocin attained levels of empathy normally associated with women
only. It also showed that the spray boosted the men’s ability to learn from
positive feedback.-Noel Brinkerhoff
Monique Jessen - A new spray containing
the hormone oxytocin increases a man's empathy levels, says new research.
Scientists have discovered how to make men more like
women, you know, compassionate, sensitive, understanding, the list goes on ...
Britain's Daily Mail, a new study shows that with just one or two puffs of a
hormone nasal spray, containing oxytocin, men become more affectionate and in
tune with other peoples' feelings. Is this a miracle we ask?
One of the effects of the hormone oxytocin is that it triggers
labour pains. It also strengthens the emotional bond between a mother and her
new-born child. Oxytocin is released on a large scale during an orgasm, too.
This neuropeptide is also associated with feelings such as love and trust.
Our study has revealed for the first time that emotional empathy is modulated by
oxytocin, and that this applies similarly to learning processes with social
multipliers, says Hurlemann. This hormone might thus be useful as medication for
diseases such as schizophrenia, which are frequently associated with reduced
social approachability and social withdrawal.
Mark Henderson, Science Editor
Scientists identify gene
that influences quality of person’s empathy
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/science/article6919399.ece A gene that influences both the empathy people show towards others and their own
responses to stress has been identified, in research that could shed new light
on human psychology and disorders such as autism.
Genes May Determine Our Ability to
http://news.softpedia.com/news/Genes-May-Determine-Our-Ability-to-Empathize-127224.shtml We've all been in situations in which the person
we were talking to seemed oblivious to the fact that we looked sick and not in
the mood, and just kept on ranting for hours on end. The ability to empathize –
that is, to figure out what other people are feeling without them saying it, and
to relate to their state – is clearly something that only a part of the
population has. A new study now adds weight to something that researchers
hypothesized a long time ago, namely the fact that the root of empathy is
genetic, and therefore inherited.
The researchers put 192 college students at UC Berkeley through a pair of
experimental tests -- one that measured their ability to infer the emotional
state of others from looking at their facial expressions and another that
measured their jumpiness when warned that a loud blast of noise was imminent.
The students also were asked to rate their own levels of empathy and ability to
handle stressful situations.
In their new study,
Dr. Rodrigues and
Laura R. Saslow and
Dacher Keltner of the
University of California, Berkeley, looked at how two variants in the
genetic code for the receptor might influence a person’s capacity for empathy,
as measured by a standard empathy questionnaire (“I really get involved with the
feelings of the characters in a novel”) and a behavioral task called “Reading
the Mind in the Eyes.” In it, participants looked at 36 black-and-white
photographs of people’s eyes and were asked to choose the word that best
described each subject’s mood. Uneasy, defiant, contemplative, playful? In a
related measure of oxytocin’s pd calming effects, subjects were also
tested for how strongly they reacted to the stress of hearing a series of loud
C. Sue Carter of the
University of Illinois at Chicago, a pioneer in the study of oxytocin,
findings suggest that a single genetic variation—of the oxytocin receptor—relates
to empathy and stress reactivity, which makes a lot of sense given oxytocin’s
potent influence on social behaviors and the calming of the stress response. But
even those born without a tendency to be empathetic are capable of becoming
extremely empathetic—just like those who have a genetic predisposition to
develop depression can fight those inclinations, even when life brings some hard
2009-11-20- Article - Women
Genetically Programmed For Empathy - Video ok
The study found there are chemical and hormonal factors that may be responsible
for women being more empathetic than men. One of the hormones involved is
oxytocin, a chemical which is important during pregnancy. As part of the study,
researchers used a test called "Reading
the Mind in Eyes" to determine which sex was better at making the instant
This is Science Today. For the first time, researchers at the University of
California, Berkeley have found evidence that a tendency to be more empathic and
stress reactive than others may be influenced by a single gene. Psychology
graduate student Laura Saslow explains that those with more empathy have a
certain variation of an oxytocin receptor gene.
Oxytocin Hormone May Treat Autism
Oxytocin, the so-called hormone of love, may help promote social skills and
social behavior in people with high-functioning
autism. A new study shows people with high-functioning autism disorders,
Asperger's syndrome, who were treated with oxytocin responded more strongly
to others and displayed more appropriate social behaviors. Despite high
intellectual abilities, people with high-functioning autism lack the social
skills to engage appropriately with others in social situations. Oxytocin is
nicknamed the hormone of love because it is known to promote mother-infant
bonds. It is also thought to be involved in the regulation of emotions and other
social behaviors. Other research has found that children with autism have lower
levels of oxytocin than children without autism. ....
"Thus, under oxytocin, patients respond more
strongly to others and exhibit more appropriate social behavior and affect,
suggesting a therapeutic potential of oxytocin through its action on a core
dimension of autism," write researcher Elissar Andari of the Centre Nátional de
la Recherche Scientifique in Bron, France, and colleagues
This is Science Today. A recent discovery that our genes predict our capacity to
show empathy and handle stress has broad clinical implications. Dacher Keltner,
a professor of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley explains
that people who are more empathic were found to have a variation of an oxytocin
receptor gene. Oxytocin is a hormone that promotes social interaction, including
bonding and romantic love.
Empathy Might Be in the Genes
“Mice are capable of a more complex form of empathy than we ever believed
possible,” Garet Lahvis, a professor of behavioral neuroscience at
Oregon Health & Science University, said in the same news release. “We
believe there’s a genetic contribution to the ability for empathy that has
broad implications for autism research and other psychosocial disorders.”
Kate Altman - Empathy and Autism
From time to time, parents will tell us that they do not believe their child
really has autism, despite having all of the symptoms, because they do not “lack
empathy.” Like these parents, I have also read literature that makes this
assumption: that people with autism have little or no empathy for others. This
assumption puzzles me. “Lack of empathy” is not a diagnostic criterion in the
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Autistic Disorder, Pervasive Developmental
Disorder, or Asperger’s Disorder. Similarly, the most seminal and thoughtful
research and literature on ASDs (Uta Frith, Lorna Wing, Simon Baron-Cohen, etc.)
does not assert that individuals with ASDs lack empathy.
2010-01-27 - Carl Marziali - Empathy is like music to the ears
Common Premotor Regions for the Perception and Production of Prosody and
Correlations with Empathy and Prosodic Ability
http://futurity.org/top-stories/empathy-is-like-music-to-the-ears/ Previous studies suggest that people learn by imitating through “mirror
neurons”. The new study shows that prosody—the music of speech—works on a
similar mirror-like system. Lisa Aziz-Zadeh of USC says the higher a person
scores on standard tests of empathy, the more activity they have in their
prosody-producing areas of the brain. So increased empathic ability is linked to
the ability to perceive prosody as well as activity in these motor regions.
The aim of the present study was to determine the degree to which perception and
production of prosody rely on shared neural systems. Using fMRI, neural activity
during perception and production of a meaningless phrase in different prosodic
intonations was measured. Regions of overlap for production and perception of
prosody were found in premotor regions, in particular the left inferior frontal
gyrus (IFG). Activity in these regions was further found to correlate with how
high an individual scored on two different measures of affective empathy as well
as a measure on prosodic production ability.
This study shows for the first time that prosody – the music of
speech – works on a mirror-like system. Women and men use their voices to mirror
the feelings and emotions they expect others to have.Thus show more
empathy. In more detail: The higher a person scores on standard tests
of empathy, the more activity they have in their prosody-producing areas of the
brain. They also used prosody more frequently in daily speech.
Prosody refers to the intonation - the up and down quality - of people's speech
and is distinct from, though usually related to, speech's content. Researchers
from the Pacific Graduate School of Psychology looked into prosody by playing
and getting people to speak, nonsense phrases with a happy or sad intonation.
They found that a part of the brain called Broca's Area became active when the
volunteers both heard and produced the different intonations. The participants
were also tested on their levels of empathy and it was found that those with the
most active Broca's Area were the most empathetic. Interestingly people with
Asperger's Syndrome, who tend to lack empathy with others often speak in a
In this podcast, we speak with Dr.
Carl Marci who is the Director of Social Neuroscience for the Psychotherapy
Research Program at the Massachusetts General Hospital Department of
Psychiatry. Dr. Marci is involved with some of the most advanced research that
focuses on measuring and quantifying the human emotion of empathy.
Be sure to listen in on this podcast where we
discuss a promising new development in the one of the hottest areas of
neuroscience today. (Originally broadcast 30-November-2008)
Richard Knox -
Probes Roots of Human Empathy
A body language experiment at Harvard reflects a shift in thinking among
neuroscientists about how humans, primates and other mammals respond to emotion
in others, from fear to joy. NPR's Richard Knox reports. Fearful body language motivates others to be afraid and to get away from
How the social brain experiences empathy Center for Cognitive and Social NeuroscienceUniversity of Chicago
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
A one-day conference in Downtown Chicago
Gleacher Center Room 621, 450 N. Cityfront Plaza Dr., Chicago, IL 60611
The Center for Cognitive and Social Neuroscience will be hosting a one-day
conference led by Dr. Jean Decety entitled, "How the social brain experiences
empathy." The conference will be held on September 30, 2009 at the Gleacher
Center. Presentations will provide up-to-date knowledge on empathy ranging from
brain circuits to patient-physician relationships, and will emphasize how many
academic areas and applications, such as clinical psychology, education,
psychotherapies, and others, can benefit from this new knowledge about the
social brain. The conference will showcase some of the most important
researchers in empathy today.
Danielle van Versendaal,
On Mirror Neurons or Why it is Okay to be a Couch Potato
Have you ever wondered why, when you see someone stretch out and
yawn, suddenly, you start to feel drowsy and feel the urge to do the same? Or
how about the tendency of people to copy each other’s postures? In social
psychology this phenomenon is called postural mirroring. All this mimicking is
the result of so-called mirror neurons in our brain.
Sometimes, we can see mirror neurons in action. For instance,
when we copy each other’s posture, facial expression or sometimes even accents
are unconsciously mirrored. When our brain acts after observing the actions of
others, neurons in the premotor area have activated our actual motor cortex. The
more attention someone gives to an act of observation, the more likely that
person will copy the behaviour they see. There is a theory in social psychology
that when people mimic each other’s posture they like each other. The other way
around works as well, copying someone, providing it’s done unconsciously, makes
you more attractive and likeable.
Empathy: thoughts on social neuroscience and the Kokinshu the studies Decety and
Jackson cite used narratives and photographs to evoke empathy in the test
takers. Narratives and photographs are a form of art, so I wonder what level of
abstraction in art still produces an empathetic response? Also, are empathetic
responses different for people of different cultural backgrounds? I mean, does
familiarity with the context of a narrative or image aid the creation of
Here (and more clearly elsewhere in the article) we see
empathy is the result of imagining the situation of the other. It is also
necessary to know one’s emotional limits. Someone who gives and gives a great
deal of emotional support to other people ends up feeling lonely and depressed
themselves. The challenge, therefore is to promote positive empathy. Therefore,
it seems to me that empathy has to be fostered. It requires a level of guidance
and familiarity, and if you take empathy as the foundation of morality that it
is, then the necessity for fostering empathy is self-evident.
Decety and Philip L. Jackson - A Social-Neuroscience Perspective on
In recent years, abundant evidence from behavioral and cognitive
studies and functional-imaging experiments has indicated that individuals come to
understand the emotional and affective states expressed by others with the help
of the neural architecture that produces such states in themselves. Such a
mechanism gives rise to shared representations, which constitutes one important
aspect of empathy, although not the sole one. We suggest that other components,
including people’s ability to monitor and regulate cognitive and emotional
processes to prevent confusion between self and other, are equally necessary
parts of a functional model of empathy. We discuss data from recent
functional-imaging studies in support of such a model and highlight the role of
specific brain regions, notably the insula, the anterior cingulate cortex, and
the right temporo-parietal region. Because this model assumes that empathy
relies on dissociable information processing mechanisms, it predicts a variety
of structural or functional dysfunctions, depending on which mechanism is
...the ability to attribute mental states—beliefs, intents, desires, pretending,
knowledge, etc.—to oneself and others and to understand that others have
beliefs, desires and intentions that are different from one's own.
On the other hand, emotional or affective empathy is "emotional contagion" - the
ability to mirror an emotional response observed in another person and to
experience it vicariously.
Oscar the cat and
the science of kindness
A spate of recent books and studies is once again tackling that question,
perhaps evidence that we, collectively, have become ready to address what U.S.
President Barack Obama has called the "empathy deficit" of our times. This is no
simple query. Our sometimes-conflicted feelings about charity and kindness hail
from a complicated mix of anthropology, religion, psychoanalysis and history.
Jamil Zaki is a PhD candidate in Psychology at Columbia
University. His research focuses on the psychology and neuroscience of empathy.
In his spare time, Jamil enjoys writing music and fiction.
People are inherently generous. There's more than moral
obligation at play when you donate money to the Red Cross after reading about
victims of a disaster, or offer to help a friend move. Evidence from
experimental psychology suggests overwhelmingly that we help each other not
because of the insistence of social contracts such as laws; we want to help.....
However, despite its naturalness, empathy is a malleable reflex,
deployed more under certain conditions than others. While we are driven by a
desire to help each other, we can also avoid other people's pain by ignoring it
or distancing ourselves. For this reason, the way news is communicated is
critically important: it can nudge people towards either caring about others or
Like many of my friends, I’ve complained in recent months that
people don’t seem as kind as they used to be. As a society, we’ve gotten too
self-absorbed, “me first,” or just generally out-of-touch with one another. Each
time the topic comes up, I express my displeasure with some recent event
involving a fellow CTA rider, a store clerk, colleague etc., all the while
making a mental note to be sure that my own behavior, far from perfect, is far
less deserving of criticism. As long as the rest of the world is worse, I must
be OK. Here’s what prompted today’s blog:.....
Empathy is defined as the intellectual or emotional identification with or
vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another. We’re
not sure if lower animals do this but evidence suggests that gelada baboon
yawning may be the building block of full-blown empathy in humans. You see,
gelada baboons yawn contagiously, but only between other baboons they are close
to or those they touch often and groom, suggesting that yawning is a
manifestation of feeling what the other baboon is feeling. Baboons who are not
close, don’t groom one another or in other words are strangers don’t yawn
contagiously, even if they are standing right in front of one another.
These studies began when
Professor Roger Wood a head injury specialist at the
Swansea in Wales, UK, noticed a recurrent problem with many of his TBI
patients; a loss of emotional
attachment with friends and family. Reports from family remembers described
a "lack of warmth or love as a postaccident development that placed a burden on
their relationship", suggesting a causal link between TBI and empathy problems.
Together with colleague
Claire Williams, Wood set out to examine this phenomenon objectively.
In the neurology literature, "empathy" is classified into
three broad categories,
cognitive empathy; knowing what another person is feeling,
(2) emotional empathy; feeling what another person is feeling and
(3) compassionate empathy, which is responding compassionately to another
2009-11-09 -Empathetic Mice May Open Door to Decoding Autism - Video ok
A research team led by Garet Lahvis, Ph.D., assistant professor
of behavioral neuroscience in the OHSU School of Medicine, recently proved that
a natural strain of mice known as B6 is capable of empathy toward other mice
because of distinct genetic differences. These mice were able to learn from
others when an environmental cue, a tone, could predict another’s distress. The
Lahvis team also found that the heart rates of B6 mice changed similar to heart
rates in children when they feel empathy. This discovery may help scientists
isolate the genes that contribute to autism and other disorders. “We are
particularly interested in the genetic basis for empathy, a capability that may
be impaired in certain forms of autism,”
We can see that even newborn babies make connections between themselves and
others, and by the time they're just fourteen months, they're already behaving
in genuinely altruistic and empathic ways. They feel when other people are in
pain and try to help people who need help. There are these beautiful studies by
Felix Warneken that show that, when the experimenter drops a pencil on the other
side of the room, babies will crawl over a whole bunch of cushions to try to get
to him and help him get his pencil back, in a way that chimpanzees, for example,
2003-02-00 - Teresa Pitman
http://www.todaysparent.com/toddler/article.jsp?content=1226544&page=1 By the middle of
their second year, most toddlers start to show real compassion for others That’s
empathy. We often think of toddlers as pretty self-centred, but by the middle of
their second year, most are beginning to show real compassion for others. In a
2001 study, Alison Gopnik, a cognitive psychologist at the University of
California at Berkeley, explored how toddlers learn to understand the feelings
of others. She showed 14-month-olds and 18-month-olds two bowls of food. One
bowl contained goldfish crackers, the other broccoli. Then Gopnik tasted food
from each bowl, saying “yuck” to one and “yum” to the other. Finally, she pushed
the bowls over to the toddler and asked, “Could you give me some?”
Moral knowledge, Gopnik argues, is imaginative knowledge, a
direct outgrowth of empathy, which babies seem to experience in some form or
another from almost the moment they are born....
Thus attachment, empathy, and morality are inseparable, though
none is inevitable. Although empathy does seem to be innate, and spontaneous
acts of altruism on the part of babies are common (eighteen-month-olds will
instinctively try to help a stranger in need though they haven't been taught to
do so), the flourishing of empathy is not guaranteed. It can be enhanced or
quashed as a result of specific relations and experience. Secure attachment
during the first six months is essential....
Imitation, of course, is not only a path to empathy, it is
also a way of excluding others, of forming what sociologists call "minimal
groups" where a tiny, arbitrary distinction becomes a reason for enmity. In some
experiments "three-year-olds said they would prefer to play with a child who had
the same color of hair and the same color of T-shirt that they did, rather then
one with a different color." For the child with the wrong T-shirt, empathy and
moral concern are withheld.
Alison Gopnik -
'Empathic Civilization': Amazing
Empathic Babies Even the youngest babies imitate
the facial expressions of other people and take on their emotions -- a kind of
empathy. This ability is NOT just the result of the much-hyped "mirror
neurons" since, for one thing, mirror neurons have been found in monkeys who
rarely imitate others. But it does show that human babies, in particular, are
tuned in to other people in an especially close way. By 18 months, babies
have gone beyond empathy to genuine altruism, After all empathy just means I
feel your pain, altruism means I try to make you feel better even when I don't
feel that way myself.
2009-05-12 - Article - Robert Burton - A judge without empathy is
inhuman (mirror neurons)
A judge without empathy is inhuman
The anti-Obama rallying cry that a Supreme Court justice must rule by reason
alone is ignorant of how our minds and bodies work.
It's astounding that a trait normally considered admirable --
one usually sought out in choosing personal relationships, colleagues and
associates -- is now seen as synonymous with being emotional and partisan, as
though being empathetic makes one less rational and reasonable. It's
understandable, given the deplorable nature of partisan politics, that
conservative critics would come up with a unified denouncement of whomever Obama
chooses. But why settle on an argument that flies in the very face of modern
cognitive science and the understanding of how our brains function? At the heart of the misunderstanding are erroneous assumptions that stripping
empathy from decision-making will necessarily improve the quality of the
decision, and that one has the ability to consciously control his or her
feelings of empathy.
Listen to the argument of
Richard Epstein, a legal scholar and professor of law at the University of
Chicago. "Empathy matters in running business, charities and churches," he
Joshua Greene's view of a famous moral philosophy dilemma:
fMRI, a second anatomically different
neural system -- the superior temporal sulcus, posterior cingulate and medial
frontal gyrus -
Kent Kiehl, a Yale psychologist
investigating the biological roots of psychopathy,
Paul Eslinger, Penn State College of
Medicine neurology professor, after uncovering similar results in a group of
patients clinically diagnosed as sociopaths, suggests,
How adolescent empathy and prosocial
behavior change in the context of school culture: a two-year longitudinal study
This research examined longitudinal change in empathy and prosocial behavior and
their relationship with longitudinal change in school culture in high school
adolescents. Few investigators have examined the fundamental importance of
empathy-related responding and prosocial behavior and even fewer investigators
have examined empathy itself in adolescence (Eisenberg & Fabes, 1990). There is
relatively little research concerning the socialization of empathy in
adolescents (Eisenberg, 2006). However, there has been an increasing interest in
empathy and its socialization (Eisenberg, Guthrie, Cumberland, Murphy, Shepard,
Zhou, et al., 2002), which is probably due to the theoretical and empirical
association between empathy and prosocial behavior (Eisenberg & Fabes, 1990).
2010-01-05 - Evolution
We’ve mentioned many times before that the human
race is a highly social species, living in familial groups and further,
even in groups of families. Whole communities of people manage to live together
in relative harmony. This group living gives many advantages over a solitary
animal. We can spot danger for each other, feed each other when we are hungry.
Each individual in the group gains more in support from that group than it costs
them to help support the others.
Living in groups like this requires a certain
level of cooperation, and cooperation requires an understanding of each other’s
needs. It requires that parents can tell when their children need feeding, that
individuals can tell when others are in distress. That the people on a hunt can
work together, be in the hunting mood at the same time. Individuals which are
able to develop this understanding and work well within a group are more likely
to survive and prosper within that group than those who don’t. Thus, human
beings (and probably many other social animals) have evolved empathy.
Perhaps the simplest way to for evolution to
enable us to understand the state of mind of another, is for it to make us
feel it. To put your own brain into as similar a configuration as possible
to the one being experienced in another. Can there be a better way of
understanding how somebody feels than by feeling what they feel?
Gary Olson - NEUROSCIENCE AND MORAL POLITICS: Chomsky’s
The nonprofit Edge Foundation recently asked some of the world’s most eminent
scientists, “What are you optimistic about? Why?” In response, the prominent
neuroscientist Marco Iacoboni cites the proliferating experimental work into the
neural mechanisms that reveal how humans are “wired for empathy.”
empathy is present in
very young children, even at eighteen months of age and possibly younger.
chimps extend help to unrelated chimps and unfamiliar humans
anecdotal accounts of elephants showing
empathy toward sick and dying animals
Mogil and his team at McGill University - mice feel distress when
they observe other mice experiencing pain.
National Institutes of Health - altruistic acts activate a
primitive part of the brain, producing a pleasurable response
early symptom of FTD is the loss of empathy.
risk and stress tend to suppress empathy whereas familiarity and
similarity encourage the experience of natural, reflexive empathy
Jeremy Rifkin’s The Empathic Civilization and P.W. Singer’s Wired for War
Two recent books on the future, both seeking to interpret selected aspects of a
rapidly moving, technologically complex world, are each deeply flawed but well
worth examining for what's missing. One author fears we are heading toward
global entropic destruction of the Earth’s biosphere unless we reinterpret
history in light of new scientific evidence that proves humans are an empathic
species. The other, more narrowly focused, explores the advent of military
robotics, the revolutionary technology that promises to dominate future
Not infrequently the most convincing testimony to the veracity
and potential power of new scientific discoveries is when they're embraced --
for profit-driven motives -- by corporate America. Today the incandecent mantra
in business and advertising circles is "empathy marketing," or more broadly,
neuromarketing (NM). Market researchers and advertising experts are attempting
to stand shoulder to shoulder with "the better angels of our nature" in hopes
this will increase sales. In short, putting oneself in another's shoes is a
technique for selling them another pair.
In his magisterial study, The Slave Ship, maritime
historian Marcus Rediker has documented the role played by emotional and
especially visual appeals in ending the trans-Atlantic slave trade. Not unlike
the structural violence endemic to global capitalism today, the abolitionist
James Field Stanfield argued that the terrible truths of the slave trade "had
been withheld from the public eye by every effort that interest, ingenuity, and
influence, could devise"
for Moral Politics: Neuroscience and Empathy The emerging field of
the neuroscience of empathy parallels investigations being undertaken in cognate
fields.Some forty years ago the celebrated primatologist,
Jane Goodall, observed and wrote about chimpanzee emotions, social
relationships, and "chimp culture" but experts remained highly skeptical.Even a decade ago, scientific consensus on this matter was elusive,
but all that's changed.According to
famed primate scientist Frans B.M. de Waal "You don't hear any debate now."In his more recent work, de Waal plausibly argues that human
morality—including our capacity to empathize—is a natural outgrowth or
inheritance of behavior from our closest evolutionary relatives.It's now indisputable that we share moral faculties with other species.
Frans de Waal's Age of Empathy: A Review and Critique
The next time you find yourself in a contentious conversation with someone who’s
arguing that humans are inherently selfish, embrace killing and war, and (mis)
using terms like “Social Darwinism,” give them a copy of Frans de Waal’s latest
book, The Age of Empathy: Nature’s Lessons For A Kinder Society
(Harmony, 2009). Only continue the discussion after they’ve read it.
The author is a psychology professor and director of the
Living Links Center at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center at Emory
University. His previous books include Our Inner Ape (2005) and
Primates and Philosophers (2006). A world renowned primatologist, de Waal
provides compelling support for the proposition that humans are “preprogrammed
to reach out.”
2010-02-16 - Mark Goulston - Mirror Neuron Receptor
Deficit (MNRD) - An Idea Whose Time Has Come
(has various video clips as illustration)
The concept of Mirror Neuron Receptor Deficit (MNRD)
may partially explain the emotional experience, thinking and behavior responses
in narcissism and neurosis. Narcissists constantly need to be mirrored and have
others conform to their emotional and psychological needs. They frustrate and
become irritated easily and when they are already in a state of MNRD and someone
dares to not cater to them, their frustration can quickly turn into what we call
rage.” This is what happened with the
Evil Queen in Snow White. Already experiencing a MNRD (or else why would
she have needed to ask for reassurance), she needed some stroking of her ego
when she approached the Magic Mirror. And when in that state of mind she wasn’t
“mirrored,” but instead was told that she was no longer “the fairest of them
all” the insult added to her narcissistic injury was too much and caused her to
fly into rageful retaliation.
The new sensibilities of the younger generation are beginning to usher in a
different idea about human nature and the dream that accompanies it. Today's
youth find little value in the Enlightenment caricature of human nature as
rational, calculating, detached, and utilitarian. They prefer to think of human
nature as empathic, mindful, engaged, and driven by the intrinsic value and
interconnectedness of life. Homo sapien is being eclipsed by homo empathicus, as
they shift their horizon from national markets and nation-state borders to a
global economy and a planetary community. Even their preferred indicators of
economic progress are shifting, from the crude calculation of gross domestic
product and per-capita income to more sensitive social indicators -- like health
and longevity, social equality, safe communities, clean environment, etc. --
that measure the well-being of the broader community.
The problem runs deeper than the issue of finding
new ways to regulate the market or imposing legally binding global green house
gas emission reduction targets. The real crisis lies in the set of assumptions
about human nature that governs the behavior of world leaders--assumptions that
were spawned during the Enlightenment more than 200 years ago at the dawn of the
modern market economy and the emergence of the nation state era.
The Enlightenment thinkers--John Locke, Adam Smith, Marquis de Condorcet et.
al.--took umbrage with the Medieval Christian world view that saw human nature
as fallen and depraved and that looked to salvation in the next world through
God's grace. They preferred to cast their lot with the idea that human beings'
essential nature is rational, detached, autonomous, acquisitive and utilitarian
and argued that individual salvation lies in unlimited material progress here on
Earth. Recent discoveries in brain science and child development,
however, are forcing us to rethink these long-held shibboleths about human
2010-01-15 1 - Canwest News Service -
The Empathic Civilization: The Race to Global Consciousness in a World in Crisis
http://www.kelowna.com/2010/01/15/the-empathic-civilization-the-race-to-global-consciousness-in-a-world-in-crisis/ Rifkin's simple thesis, souped up
unnecessarily with the laws of thermodynamics, is as follows: human beings are
"wired for empathy," contrary to the teachings of centuries of philosophy,
religion and psychology. This capacity for empathy has always been countered,
however, by the "entropic bill" of civilization; that is, the harnessing of
energy (wood, coal, steam, oil) to maintain centres of power which, as they
grow, become unsustainable. We are now at a point in history, in Rifkin's view,
when people around the world are more able to understand each other than they
have ever been, due to technology, social progress and widespread
"The Empathic Civilization is emerging," Rifkin asserts, "but our rush to
universal empathic connectivity is running up against a rapidly accelerating
entropic juggernaut in the form of climate change." Without offering any
solutions, Rifkin's book is a call for global "biosphere consciousness" toward
the prevention of mass extinction.
Michael Krasny -
www.kqed.org/epArchive/R201001250900 Jeremy Rifkin - European adviser
and author Jeremy Rifkin challenges the notion that people are innately selfish
and materialistic. In his new book, "The Empathic Civilization: The Race to
Global Consciousness in a World in Crisis," he alleges that our future rests on
our ability to function as an empathic society. We talk with Rifkin about his
call for a "third Industrial Revolution."
How do you explain, greed, me decade, Bernie Madoff, etc.?
babies seek connection, if empathy not met then
other forces come in.
Oil is running out, This industrial revolution is coming to
Technology is extending to a global empathy consciousness
red cross -can't absorb being overloaded with others pain
in war zone
individuality needed for empathy - if overwhelmed can
Need to go to Biosphere consciousness
Building the 3rd industrial revolution - distributed energy
opposite of drill baby drill
need a global consciousness and extend empathy
Start a global conversation about empathy
2010-01-31 - Jade
on the nature of being human
http://jadekeller.com/2010/01/on-the-nature-of-being-human/ The story we are told about human nature is that
man is inherently self-interested, pleasure-seeking, sinning and utilitarian –
doing the minimum to get the maximum benefits for oneself, and that this nature
is driven by a life that is nasty, brutish and short. Indeed, all we have to do
is take a cursory glance over history, and we’ll see the world stricken with
crime, wars, genocide, power games, and greedy, greedy people taking advantage
for themselves, to the detriment of everyone else (*cough* Bernie Madoff
But maybe we are overlooking something. I heard an interview
with Jeremy Rifkin, which you can listen to
here, in which he discusses his new book The
Empathic Civilization: The Race to Global Consciousness in a World in Crisis
Ian McEwan on Love, Empathy and 9/11 Anybody who reads novels is a secret empathist. Most writers of fiction try
to take you on a journey into the minds and lives of their characters,
introducing you to worldviews that are not your own, filling your head with the
voices of strangers. An instance from the history of empathetic literature is
Virginia Woolf’s The Waves (1931), a story told from the perspective of five
individuals, with all the dialogue and action being submerged in their thoughts.
When we read books like The Waves, we are inevitably drawn to make the
imaginative leap that is empathy.
Reading the Mind in the Eyes
I’ve recently been involved in advising a fascinating BBC television series
Child of Our Time about how to measure empathy. This long-term project
involves tracking the lives and development of 25 children from a range of
social and ethnic backgrounds born in 2000, over a period of twenty years. The
children are now ten, and the series currently in production aims to unveil the
influences that shape their varying personality traits.
Should you empathise with your father’s killer?
One of the greatest challenges of leading an empathetic life is trying to step
into the shoes of people who we consider to be ‘enemies’ or whose views and
values are very different from our own. If you’re on the receiving end of a
racist comment from someone at the pub or a torrent of unfair verbal abuse from
your boss, the idea of trying to empathise with them would probably be the last
thing on your mind.
2009-11-07 - Article -
- Megha Bajaj
“Empathy is forgetting oneself in the joys and sorrows of another, so much so
that you actually feel that the joy or sorrow experienced by another is your own
joy and sorrow. Empathy involves complete identification with another.”
What is Empathy not?
2009-08-19 - Article -
Frances Cohen Praver
Too Little or Too Much of a Good Thing
In order to feel empathy and emotional attunement, you must
transcend yourself to enter into someone else's inner world. If, however, you
are preoccupied with healing yourself from pain, you turn inward and are unable
to transcend yourself. In turn your partner feels unimportant, invisible,
dismissed so that he either fights or flees. Romance and sex is on the rocks.
Here then is one way that empathy and emotional attunement fail─ too little of a
- "coined in 1983 by Ralph Metzner to denote chemical agents inducing
feelings of empathy."
2009-08-19 - Article - Ivan Eland - Empathy for
Empathy is a term that connotes the touchy-feely notion of getting in touch with
someone else’s feelings or perspective. That’s what psychotherapists and social
workers do. It obviously has no place in the hard-knocks world of foreign
affairs and national security. Or does it?
2009-09-17- Article - Empathy is
cornerstone of friendships
Most younger children only
share toys, not opinions or feelings. But, beginning at around age 8,
lasting until age 12, children become less self-involved, develop empathy toward
others and begin to understand how others may view the world differently than
they do. Here are some tips to augment the process:......
Empathy is an innate emotion in all of us; it just needs to be nourished
more in some than in others. And, it's the cornerstone needed to construct
2009-08-27- Article - Kelly B. Huston -
Gay Marriage: Where Politics and Empathy Collide currentmom.com As a therapist and student of human nature, I
have become increasingly convinced that opposition to gay marriage is primarily
driven by a lack of empathy. Empathy involves the ability to see and understand
the world through a different framework from one's own. Most of us are not born naturally empathetic;
empathy emerges gradually. As children, we typically assume that our own frame
of reference works for everyone. For instance, preschoolers will prattle on to
strangers about their classmates, assuming that if they
know these children, of course other people do too.
2009-08-27- Article - Tim Jarvis -
Compassion fatigue -- how to protect
Yet as strange as it sounds, all that empathy can backfire, flooding you with
the other person's pain, and leaving you exhausted, angry, even unable to care
anymore. No one likes to talk about these feelings; they seem selfish, shameful,
indecent. They take a toll, however -- on both you and the patient. And they're
a growing concern among physicians, who have a name for what's happening:
Five ways to help yourself When you're caring for someone, practicing
self-awareness and self-care can help you maintain your boundaries; this, in
turn, allows you to be fully compassionate without being consumed by the other
person's pain. Consider:
1. Mindfulness meditation: It's been shown to decrease depression and
anxiety while boosting empathy.
Oprah.com: Try these meditation exercises 2. Keeping a journal: Research suggests that reflective writing helps
prevent compassion fatigue.
A daily act of self-centering: Set an alarm for noon and take four deep
breaths; or when you wash your hands, sink into the experience, feeling the
sensation of the water on your skin while noting, "I am worthy of my own time." 4. Staying connected to the outside world with at least a phone call every
day. Better yet, get outside, even just to take a walk.
5. And don't be afraid to ask for help.
Empathy is not sympathy, but an ability to put
oneself in another person’s shoes and not only understand how they think and
feel, but care about how they think and feel. Empathy makes us capable of deep
and abiding friendship; truly close friends are those who can share one
another’s pain. The ability to empathize is necessary for anyone who wishes to
enjoy healthy relationships and a life with meaning and purpose.
Empathy is fatal to criminal thinking and the lifestyle that goes with it. In
order to continue to live a lawless lifestyle, the habitual lawbreaker cannot
feel empathy for his victims. He cannot enjoy the fruit of his criminal activity
if he cares about how his actions affect those around him. He must be selfish,
and remain so.
What do people without empathy look like? First, they try to justify their
actions, thus demonstrating a lack of concern for their victims. They may tell
you such things as; they were not really hurt. They have insurance. We only had
sex; I didn’t really hurt her. The store won’t miss what I took; they have
When I started in prison ministry more than fifteen years ago,
one of the new characteristics of young offenders coming into the system was
their lack of empathy. The generation of offenders under the age of twenty
entering prison at that time simply did not care about anyone other than
Like many of you, I just saw Obama eulogize a perennial
supporter of the underdog–Ted Kennedy. This week, I also read a great blog post
on Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. So, I’ve been thinking about Ted, Rev.
King & their support for those who had little “voice”…both were masters of
empathy and able to see the world from the perspective of the less fortunate. Empathy is also incredibly important in everything we do as
leaders and marketers. For those looking to design products and campaigns that
have meaning and purpose, a deep WHO understanding is essential. If you read just 1 of the weekly wrap-up items below, check
out the one on how Rev. King uses empathy to masterfully respond to critics.
2009-09-18- Article - Stop
Giving Me Empathy! It Makes Me Feel Bad
1. Confusion about empathy, sympathy, and pity
Most people do not want to feel less strong or capable than others. When feeling
painful feelings such as distress, fear, sadness or shame, many people feel
vulnerable, and at that time may see themselves as less powerful than usual and
as less powerful than others. In this temporarily less powerful state, another
person's feeling responses to our feeling state can make us feel better or
worse. Three common responses to another's pain and vulnerability are pity,
sympathy, and empathy. And the greatest healer of these is empathy.
Pity is felt by one person who compares
themselves with another and feels better off than the other-at least in
the moment. So, pity can be a separating emotion
Empathy allows us to create a cohesive national identity
rooted in something beyond militarism. We are citizens of a state to the extent
that we are born within defined geographic boundaries. But the writings of
Benedict Anderson reveal that we are participants in a nation only to the extent
that we imagine ourselves to be part of a community or a people. Empathy is an
important part of what allows us to engage in that imagined sense of linked
fate, shared identity, and common purpose. Without empathy we cannot enter into
a social contract, whereby we are willing to subjugate some of our selfish
impulses in order to abide by the rule of law and the dictates of a civil
society. Empathy has also been our country's critical mechanism for social
change, justice, and expansion of democratic participation. Our country faces a serious and destructive empathy deficit,
when the life experiences of our fellow citizens are easily ignored by the
institutions we commonly share.
in the Time of Technology: How Storytelling is the Key to Empathy http://jetpress.org/v19/manney.htm will demonstrate both the
positive and negative affects on empathy through the increasing reliance we have
on transhuman media technologies and how I believe storytelling is the key to
Being cool in crisis seems essential for our being able to think clearly. But
what if keeping cool makes you too cold to care? In other words, must we
sacrifice empathy to stay calm? That’s the dilemma facing those who are
preparing top teams to handle the next Katrina-like catastrophe we might face.
Which gets me to Paul Ekman, a world
expert on emotions and our ability to read and respond to them in others. Paul
and I had a
long conversation recently, in which he described three very different ways
to sense another person’s feelings.
“cognitive empathy,” simply
knowing how the other person feels and what they might be thinking. Sometimes
called perspective-taking, this kind of empathy can help in, say, a
negotiation or in motivating people. A study at the University of Birmingham
found, for example, that managers who are good at perspective-taking were able
to move workers to give their best efforts.
“emotional empathy,” – when
you feel physically along with the other person, as though their emotions were
contagious. This emotional contagion, social neuroscience tells us, depends in
large part on the mirror neuron system
“compassionate empathy,” which
I’ve written about using the term “empathic concern” (see Chapter Six in
Social Intelligence). With this kind of empathy we not only understand a
person’s predicament and feel with them, but are spontaneously moved to help,
Daniel Goleman - "Empathy” – Who’s Got It, Who Does Not
When President Obama tells us he wants a compassionate Supreme Court justice
“empathy” for people’s struggles, he’s wandered into arguments within
psychology of what we mean by the term. There are at least three varieties of
empathy, each with very different implications for spotting the right candidate.
The first, cognitive empathy, means that we can understand
how the other person thinks; we see his point of view. This makes for good
debaters, sales people and negotiators. On the other hand, people who have
strengths in cognitive empathy alone can lack compassion – they get how you
see it, but don’t care about you. Psychologists speak of the “Dark Triad” –
narcissists, Machiavellians, and sociopaths, who can be slick with their
arguments but have a heart of stone (think Dick Cheney).
The next variety, emotional empathy, refers to someone who
feels within herself the emotions of the person she’s with. This creates a
sense of rapport, and most probably entails the brain’s mirror neuron system,
which activates our own circuits the emotions, movements and intentions we see
in the other person
Empathic concern means we not only understand how the
person sees things and feels in the moment, but also want to help them if we
sense the need.
2009-12-09 - Article -
The Evolutionary Biology of Empathy
Beginning in the 18th century, sympathy became an important philosophical
concept for the moral psychology of Hume and Smith. For Smith, sympathy was
understood broadly as "fellow feeling"--the capacity for sharing the emotions
and thoughts of others--and it was the primary bond for social life and
morality. Darwin adopted this Humean and Smithian moral psychology of sympathy,
and he tried to explain its adaptive function in the evolutionary history of
human beings as a primary ground for the "moral sense."
As studied by psychologists and biologists, empathy is a complex combination of
many features (Decety and Jackson 2004; Decety and Ickes 2009). Empathy at its
fullest includes feeling what another person is feeling, consciously
understanding what another person is feeling, and responding to the needs of
Sympathy, Natural Sociality, and Mirror Neurons
In his Treatise of Human Nature (22.214.171.124), David Hume stresses the
importance of sympathy for social life. We "observe the force of sympathy thro'
the whole animal creation, and the easy communication of sentiments from one
thinking being to another. In all creatures, that prey not upon others, and are
not agitated with violent passions, there appears a remarkable desire of
company, which associates them together, without any advantages they can ever
propose to reap from their union.
Adam Smith and the Neurology of Sympathy
It has been suggested that these mirror systems might explain the capacity for
empathy. And, indeed, it has been reported that people who score high on tests
for empathy show a stronger activation of these mirror systems than people who
scored low for empathy.
It seems possible, then, that our human capacity for "putting ourselves in
someone else's shoes (or mind)" is literally just that. We rehearse mentally
what another person is doing or experiencing by going through the same mental
activity that we would have if we were ourselves doing or experiencing this.
Suzanne Keen - Empathy
and the Novel
Does empathy felt while reading fiction actually cultivate
a sense of connection, leading to altruistic actions on behalf of real others?
Empathy and the Novel presents a
comprehensive account of the relationships among novel reading, empathy, and
altruism. Drawing on psychology, narrative theory, neuroscience, literary
history, philosophy, and recent scholarship in discourse processing, Keen brings
together resources and challenges for the literary study of empathy and the
psychological study of fiction reading
2009-12-13 - Article -The
psychology behind goodwill
http://www.nypost.com/p/lifestyle/health/the_psychology_behind_goodwill_vFiGfwbiF3OXFp2J1y0EvK EMPATHY -- the capacity to feel the emotions of others as one's
own -- is the glue that binds people. It's the psychological software that
allows us to worry about a friend's economic troubles across the country or cry
at a movie. It's also one major reason humans extend themselves to those less
Empathy-driven goodwill is the core of kindness. And it feels good to exercise
it. When we help each other, it not only alleviates some measure of suffering in
others, it reduces the fear that we are ultimately alone in the world. It's no
surprise, therefore, that the most powerful charities are those whose works are
visible, meaningful and effective. This is as it should be, because goodwill is
a two-way street.
2009-12-31 - Article - Is
There An Easy Method To Learn Mental Telepathy?
EMPATHY - Another form that some believe is a type of mental
telepathy is Empathy. This is where a person has the ability to directly
experience the emotions of others. Being able to mentally "put themselves in
another's shoes" and understand how they must be feeling is something that
certain people are better at than others. Empathic responses can be heightened
with training and practice, like in the case of actors that can easily cry or
laugh for example, when they are injecting themselves into a fictional story.
empathy is the capability to share another
sympathy is the feeling of compassion, concern
and/or pity for another, the wish to see them better off or happier.
A real life scenario would be … oh let’s say… you
have zero money to your name and the bills are mounting. You are highly
distressed about this.
An empathic response from a friend would be: Oh wow. How is that for you?… It
sounds like you are really distraught. That’s so scary. Not knowing where the
money is going to come from is just terrifying.
A sympathetic response would be: Oh that’s just awful! I’m so sorry. I just wish
for something better for you.
Empathy is a valuable job skill
http://stevemiranda.wordpress.com/2010/01/14/empathy-is-a-valuable-job-skill/ Here’s the lesson I drew from that
experience. Empathy is a valuable job skill. There are plenty of repair shops in
Seattle, but I always go to Mike. Why? Because Mike cares. I trust him. And his
ability to generate trust in customers is a valued asset to the company.
2010-01-14 - sympathy
When I first learned about the difference between sympathy and empathy I
immediately jumped to the conclusion that sympathy was "bad". After a few years
learning and growing, however, I have come to embrace sympathy as having its own
purpose, distinct from empathy, and having its own power to meet needs. Sympathy
does meet needs sometimes - needs like connection, mutuality, support and care.
Sometimes we do feel nurtured by sympathy, when it's taken as sympathy and not
Roswitha v. Andersheim
- The Resonance of Empathy
Empathy (feeling with) — unlike apathy (without feeling) or antipathy (contrary
feeling) — is the most defining characteristic of the human species and the one
“that separates us from all other animals. That is to say, while anatomy
includes us in the animal kingdom, our uniquely spiritual endowment challenges
us to rise above the mental/physiological abilities of our animal siblings.
Thus, empathy is the human capacity to not only reflect, but experience with,
another being. In other words, to have and hold the greatly intensified empathy,
called compassion. This compassion, or “suffering together,” defines our
individual standing among our peers. Empathy is the only door to compassion. For
most of us, empathy arises out of our own suffering. And it is suffering that
divides the sheep from the wolves. The former — the sheep — begin to reflect on
their own suffering, its meaning and possible reason. This results in the
spiritual growth potential of the experience.
Gandhi's Neurons: The Practice of Empathy
http://www.openforum.com/idea-hub/topics/the-world/article/ghandis-neurons-the-practice-of-empathy-bruna-martinuzzi “If there is any one
secret of success,” said Henry Ford, “it lies in the ability to get the other
person’s point of view and see things from his angle as well as your own.” This
is empathy. Not an easy undertaking, even though scientists have now proven that
we are indeed wired for empathy. In this
by Nova Science, we see how mirror neurons, also dubbed Gandhi’s neurons, act as
a “neurological Wi-Fi” to help us connect with other people’s feelings. How do we practice empathy? Here are a few
- Teach Empathy
How does one teach empathy? It is an important tool to teach kids, and it turns
out that there are some discreet skills to the practice of empathy.
The first is the ability to read non-verbal communications, particularly facial
expressions, which brings us to the work of Paul Ekman, Ph.D. who has been
studying facial expressions across cultures for about 25 years, I believe
1. First, I have to make a commitment to listen, which
means I neither agree nor disagree, I just listen.
2. Then, I begin to repeat their words to myself, with the
intention of repeating a summarization back to them, which I do every so
often. By repeating their words to myself, I am keeping myself from preparing
3. Having made a reflection back to my speaker, I ask if I
have heard them accurately, and wait for their response. If they say no, I
simply ask them to repeat the message to me, until they say yes, you have
heard me accurately.
4. In my summarization statement, I may include an
observation about the emotions I am seeing.
'Empathic Civilization': Why Empathy Is
Essential For Doctors And In Conflict Resolution
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jodi-halpern/empathic-civilization-why_b_472226.html In "The Empathic Civilization,"
Jeremy Rifkin makes the important argument that empathy can be a potent force to
alleviate global conflicts. I wholeheartedly agree -- and from my work on
empathy in healthcare settings and post-war reconciliation, I believe we need
empathy based on genuine curiosity about how other people feel, as well as
emotional connection with them. This claim is more radical than it might seem.
The accepted wisdom is that we need sympathetic identification, in which we see
ourselves as all "in the same boat" to generate empathy and redress differences.
Yet this is counter to reality -- we are never in the same boat as another
person. What we need to cultivate is genuine interest in each other's distinct
Developing and practicing empathy and
creative thinking in school through participatory digital curriculum
Mastering the social skills necessary in the world we are entering is essential.
Today and going forward, knowledge is not enough. Young children must grasp and
master the learned, not genetic, skill of empathy. And they will learn it if we
give them the opportunity to experience and practice it. However, school is
mostly about learning knowledge—which is why all that is measured is knowledge
transfer. How many elementary school know that they are failing if one third
grader has not grasped and had steady opportunities to practice empathy? And how
many parents know to insist on this?
Reimagining learning starts by understanding that social skills are at the
foundation of the formative experience. And empathy is at the core.
This project will offer a creative, participatory experience for elementary
classrooms (grades 4-5) where the group (teachers and students) will be guided
through a curriculum based in a digital platform that will provide games,
activities and resources that develop the skill of understanding other people.
In a collaborative effort of Ashoka, the artist Keri Smith and Scholastic, this
digital platform will offer interactive stories that highlight empathetic role
models, activities in class -and recess- that let kids experience what it is to
stand in other's feet (through games and excersises) and offer guidance to learn
2010-01-00 - Dacher
Keltner - The Compassionate
http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/greatergood/2010/january/Keltner.php Humans are selfish. It's so easy to say. The same goes
for so many assertions that follow. Greed is good. Altruism is an illusion.
Cooperation is for suckers. Competition is natural, war inevitable. The bad in
human nature is stronger than the good.
These kinds of claims reflect age-old assumptions about emotion. For millennia,
we have regarded the emotions as the fount of irrationality, baseness, and sin.
The idea of the seven deadly sins takes our destructive passions for granted.
Plato compared the human soul to a chariot: the intellect is the driver and the
emotions are the horses. Life is a continual struggle to keep the emotions under
Even compassion, the concern we feel for another being's welfare, has been
treated with downright derision. Kant saw it as a weak and misguided sentiment:
"Such benevolence is called soft-heartedness and should not occur at all among
human beings," he said of compassion. Many question whether true compassion
exists at all—or whether it is inherently motivated by self-interest.
Compassion is a human emotion prompted by the pain of others. The feeling often
gives rise to an active desire to alleviate another's suffering. The English
noun compassion, meaning to suffer together with, comes from the Latin. As a
great virtue in numerous philosophies, compassion is considered in all the major
religious traditions as among the greatest of virtues.
2010-01-22 -Ruby Hawk -
Humanity and Compassion
Social psychology does not have a pretty picture of humanity and compassion.
They teach that humanity is naturally aggressive, racist, intolerant, and
mindlessly conforming. That we are prejudice and fail to come to the aid of the
needy. But what if they are not describing everyone but only some who had
unloving, disappointing childhoods. What if all humanity could learn to be
loving and compassionate?
http://www.galacticroundtable.com/forum/topics/what-is-compassion Compassion is seeing through the eyes of
divinity. It is the action of our natural state of unconditional Love.
Compassion is allowing without judgment. It is the honoring of each individual’s
right to experience anything their Soul or personality desires to experience. It
is seeing everyone’s divinity no matter what illusion they are projecting.
Compassion is empathizing (feeling) and knowing what it's like for others from a
position of your own experience of suffering. Compassion is seeing and feeling
your own and other’s suffering, and realizing/knowing that this suffering is a
part of everyone’s process of liberation. It is profoundly accepting suffering
as a divinely purposeful experience, that it is an awesome gift that reveals the
core of what we have used to keep us in denial and veil our true essence of
2010-02-13 - Compassion Appears Contagious
Seeing someone else do a good deed appears to inspire you to do the same by
making you feel uplifted, new research suggests.
In an experiment, researchers recruited volunteers who watched a "neutral"
video clip of scenes from a nature documentary or a clip from "The Oprah Winfrey
Show" in which musicians thanked their mentors. The participants then wrote
essays about what they watched, were paid for their time and asked to indicate
whether they'd want to take part in another study.
Keeping Legal Minds Intact: Mitigating
Compassion fatigue is defined as the cumulative physical, emotional and
psychological effects of being continually exposed to traumatic stories or
events when working in a helping capacity. It has been studied extensively in
first responders, social workers, nurses, doctors and therapists who work with
victims of trauma. Recently researchers have begun to examine the impact upon
legal professionals, especially lawyers who do criminal, juvenile or family
law. This seminar will look at what legal professionals are most at risk, the
development of compassion fatigue, the interface between attorney impairment and
discipline and what measures can prevent and mitigate compassion fatigue.
Defining compassion fatigue. What is it? How
does it play out?
Review of the research on attorneys and
Development of compassion fatigue; the brain
keeps the score.
Correlation with attorney impairment and
Mitigating compassion fatigue to insure
continued fitness to practice; what is the formula?
Making compassion cool: an interview with Karen Armstrong
http://blogs.ssrc.org/tif/2010/01/27/making-compassion-cool/ A former Catholic nun,
Karen Armstrong has written more than 20 books on comparative religions,
including A History of God, The Great Transformation, and,
most recently, A Case for God. In 2008, she received the TED Prize,
which granted $100,000 to support her proposal—her “wish,” as it’s called—for a
Charter for Compassion “based on the fundamental principle of the Golden Rule.”
Since then, she and TED have parlayed the Charter into a movement of political
and religious leaders, as well as,
through its website,
thousands of people around the world.
NS: Was it surprising to you that TED, by awarding you their annual prize, would
choose to make such a serious commitment to religion?
NS: Tell me about the collaborative process by which you developed the text for
the Charter for Compassion. What did that process enable you to accomplish? NS: Do you
anticipate that the Charter will eventually translate into meaningful social
http://www.therowboat.com/2010/01/karen-armstrongs-compassion/ It’s a common refrain that one hears among those of us
looking to think responsibly about the world’s religions: at bottom, they all
have a common core, and the core is a genuinely good one.
But when Karen Armstrong, the British dean of
comparative-religion-for-the-people, claims that all religions are really about
compassion, when she goes on to promulgate a “Charter for Compassion,” and when
TED throws its
connections and tech savvy behind her, it’s hard to be too much of a curmudgeon.
The dark side of empathy
Here's a blog discussion where they're talking about rape and empathy.
Empathizing with the feelings of the dominator and victim.
There's a bully, who is not empathizing with the pain they're causing.
the person watching empathizes with the bully/rapist and the victim but does
Hypersensitivity is the keyword here. It means that one is
sensitive toward being around people and are easily affected by the emotions and
emotional states of others, because one shares in them. This can have a very
strong effect on the psyche of either type...
2010-02-04 - Heidi Stevens -
Are you dating a narcissist?
"Narcissism is an epidemic in our society," argues Scott, author of "It's All
About Him: How to Identify and Avoid the Narcissist Male Before You Get Hurt" (
CFI, 2009). "Our culture breeds it.".. The biggest red flag, Scott says, is
lack of empathy.
Certain people have an almost instinctive ability to
understand someone without having any empathy for them. They are the character
disorders: the psychopaths, the narcissists, the borderlines, the
Yet, understanding is part of empathy. Without understanding,
I’m not sure it’s possible to be empathic. The difference is that in empathy the
attempt is made to put oneself in the other person’s shoes. Exploiters and
manipulators cannot do that; the other person is just a thing to them, one to be
“Putting yourself in someone’s else’s shoes.” If I had to define empathy in one
sentence, that would be it....
Most of us want empathy quite badly. That’s the rub, isn’t it?
Then we make the mistake of thinking that because someone understands us, they
like us, and therefore empathize with us. But if they are exploiters and
manipulators, no matter how charming and interesting they are, they don’t like
us, as hard as it is to believe. Because we are only there to serve their needs.
Expanding Empathy & The Moral Circle - Video
The human tendency to draw boundaries is pervasive. The
moral circle is the boundary drawn around those entities in the world deemed
worthy of moral consideration.
Empathy is one of the most valuable
psychologicalresources we have. It allows us to
resonate with and respond to the suffering of others. It also allows us to care
deeply about the fates of those we love, including our spouses and
children. When empathy is
destroyed, people are free (in a terrible way) not only to ignore the needs of
others, but to perpetrate emotional or physical violence upon them
Empathy Died? | Socyberty
Fox News recently reported a study done by The University
of Michigan. 14000 college students were involved in the empathy focused
University of Michigan study: Generation Me-dia lacks empathy
Obviously, such findings don't apply across the board. This
generation, like all before it, can count people of extraordinary moral
character among its numbers. But, in general, the findings do ring true. Not
just college kids, but society in general seems a little nastier than it once
was. But is is interesting that a scientific study has actually quantified the
change. And, yes, I am one of those people who think the media bears a large
part of the blame.
2010-06-25 - PAMELA PAUL
- From Students, Less Kindness for Strangers?
Vindication for crotchety Gen-Xers — already depressed to find themselves the
elders in this social relationship — arrived in a paper presented in May at the
annual meeting of the Association for Psychological Science in Boston. “Changes
in Dispositional Empathy in American College Students Over Time: A
Meta-Analysis,” by Sara Konrath, a researcher at the
University of Michigan, found that college students today are 40 percent
less empathetic than those of 30 years ago, with the numbers plunging primarily
after 2000. Previous studies have tussled over how to define empathy. Is
it a cognitive mechanism through which we imagine how another person feels? A
manifestation of sympathy? Do we empathize with others purely to reduce our own
levels of stress?
2010-03-29 - Raymond
S. Franklin - Self-interest motive has won the war ...Jumping forward to the present, it is
clear in my judgment that the economic self-interest motive, dominant in the
economic sphere of life, won the war. The institutions of the market have
overwhelmed and penetrated the social spheres of life. Even the nuclear family,
via Nobel Prize-winning Gary Becker, is viewed as a production unit with a
division of labour and implicit prices in the way husbands, wives and children
relate to each other. Although I wish Mr Rifkin success, the idea of
establishing an “empathic civilisation” at this juncture in history is
“The Fallacy of Empathy”
http://stolenword.wordpress.com/2009/12/16/the-fallacy-of-empathy/ Friedman explores the fact that the word empathy
didn’t even appear in the Oxford English Dictionary until 1931 – and he believes
this coincides with societal regression and rise of anxiety.“The great myth here is that feeling deeply for others
increases their ability to mature and survive; its corrollary is that the effort
to understand another should take precedence over the endeavor to make one’s own
self clear. The constant effort to understand (or feel for) another, however,
can be as invasive as any form of emotional coercion.”
Empathy and Its Downfalls
Where I'm finding trouble is that I think I'm just transferring way too
much of J's emotional climate to myself in an effort to be empathetic. I've
always cared very much for people and naturally do feel like I am more in tune
with others' feelings than most, and I know that it can be a detriment as much
as an asset at times. Right now with J I can't seem to stop thinking about how
awful I would feel if this were my mother/sister/father/spouse, and what in the
world I would do without one of them, and what if one of them was going to
die--and then I actually start feeling scared as though it were happening to me,
or at least sick with worry that it could happen to me and mine.
it's not that empathy has the dark side,
but people can have empathy in different parts of theirs lives.
Empathy: Your Own May Hurt You!
http://www.lisaescott.com/forum/2010/01/18/empathy-your-own-may-hurt-you A Predator’s Secret Revealed - Is it possible that your own
empathy can hurt you? Under certain circumstances empathy may get in your way
and cause unimaginable pain. This roadblock may have a direct impact on you
being seriously injured or killed. Yep, spousal murders are just one example.
Something can be done if we only knew.
Mark Schultz - The dark side of empathy, with Frans de Waal
In my experience, empathy has a neutral quality to it. Neutral, in that I am
temporarily setting aside my own perspective to understand the perspective of
another. As Frans de Waal points out in this video clip, though neutral by
nature, empathy can be used in self-serving and even destructive ways. Watch
this short clip from a conversation de Waal had this week with Carl Zimmer of
Harnessing the Power of Empathy:
Building A Lasting Democratic Majority By Understanding What Keeps People Up
At Night, Andrew Byrnes,
March 26, 2009
A blog post that calls for the Democratic party to think more
about empathy. Article was placed in the 3,00 bags of attendees at the 2009
state party convention in Sacramento.
Gossip Girls and Boys Get Lessons in Empathy,
NY Times, April 4, 2009
"The emphasis on empathy here and in schools nationwide is the
latest front in a decade-long campaign against bullying and violence. Many
urban districts have found empathy workshops and curriculums help curb
fighting and other misbehavior. In Scarsdale, a wealthy, high-performing
district with few discipline problems to start with, educators see the lessons
as grooming children to be better citizens and leaders by making them think
twice before engaging in the name-calling, gossip and other forms of social
humiliation that usually go unpunished."
2010-04-17 - Maia Szalavitz - How Not to Raise a Bully: The
Early Roots of Empathy
Increasingly, neuroscientists, psychologists and educators believe that bullying
and other kinds of violence can indeed be reduced by encouraging empathy at an
early age. Over the past decade, research in empathy — the ability to put
ourselves in another person's shoes — has suggested that it is key, if not the
key, to all human social interaction and morality.
2010-04-17 - James P. Gray
- It’s a Gray Area: Follow the law, not hearts JAMES P. GRAY is a retired judge of the Orange
County Superior Court,
It is clear that empathy is a fine character trait for any human, and that
certainly includes judges. But for judges to employ empathy in their
decision-making implies that they would tend to find in favor of the “poor,” the
“little guy,” the “minority person” or whatever group or cause that happens to
be the object of public sympathy at the moment, regardless of the merits of the
case. And, of course, that would come at the expense of the “greedy rich,”
“nasty employers,” “big corporations,” or, well, you fill in the blank.
Nancy - Empathy
In fact, I'm starting to think the lack of empathy is what's wrong with our
country right now. The Wall Street guy who's making hundreds of millions of
dollars in bonus money--does he care who pays the price for his windfall? The
Tea Party shouter who complains about high taxes--does that person realize who
suffers when federal services are cut back? Is there no sympathy anymore for the
person who's truly needy? No urge to help?...
Anyway, I'm thinking empathy is a quality we ought to be nurturing these days.
There seems to be a sad lack of it.
I'd like to get to the heart of the matter. Obama
and the vast majority of Senate Democrats believe that Lady Justice should peek
from under the blindfold every now and then.
Obama opposed both of President Bush's Supreme Court appointees, John Roberts
and Samuel Alito, presumably because they lacked what he called the "quality of
empathy, of understanding and identifying with people's hopes and struggles."
And in his run for the presidency, Obama said in 2007, "We need somebody who's
got the heart -- the empathy -- to recognize what it's like to be a young
teenage mom. The empathy to understand what it's like to be poor or African
American or gay or disabled or old -- and that's the criteria by which I'll be
selecting my judges.