Empathy’s Evolution in the Human Imagination

What Began as an Aesthetic Response to Art Is Now a Highly Complex Neurochemical Reaction

Empathy seems to be one of the most “natural” emotions, but before 1908, no one in the English-speaking world had heard of it.

And when it did appear, “empathy” was a translation from the German Einfühlung, literally “in-feeling,” with the surprising meaning of projecting one’s own feelings into nature and objects of art.

This meaning is strange to us now. But the feeling we call “empathy” has shifted dramatically over the last century from a description of an aesthetic response, to a moral and political aspiration, to a clinical skill, …

Sorry, Reading Jane Austen Doesn’t Make You a Better Person

But the Arts Have Plenty to Tell Researchers About How Emotions Work

In 2013, Science published a study with the intriguing title, “Reading Literary Fiction Improves Theory of Mind.” The authors (David Comer Kidd and Emanuele Castano) claimed to have proven that …

Imagine Yourself in Your Politicians’ Shoes

Democracy and Representation Depend on Imagination and Empathy, Even, Perhaps, for the Trumps of the World

This past summer, I spent the week of the Republican National Convention in a workshop in Portland, Oregon, focused on racial justice and healing. It’s the sort of place where …

Can We Close the Empathy Gap?

Sixth Annual Zócalo Book Prize Winner Sherry Turkle Thinks We Can Learn How to Talk—and Connect—Again as Humans

Zócalo Publisher Gregory Rodriguez said he was terrified as he opened a discussion onstage at MOCA Grand Avenue with MIT’s Sherry Turkle.

It wasn’t, however, because he was moderating in …

The New Industrial Revolution Could Use a Lesson in Empathy

If You Leave Technology to the Technologists, Innovation Will Only End Up Creating More Problems

It’s hard to miss the drumbeat: Self-driving cars are coming. Self-driving cars are coming.

You may have heard about self-driving cars when Google was first on the road with a …

Why Americans Care More About Paris Than Other Terrorist Targets

Race and Ethnicity Are Factors, But the Primary Reason Is the Way Empathy Works

A terrorist attack on a familiar city can inspire a response among global observers not unlike that of motorists passing by a horrible car accident. We slow down to look, …