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, …

More In: imagination

The Great Thing About Art? It Isn’t Just About You

Culture Frees Our Empathic Imagination by Letting Us Step Outside Our Selves

This essay was originally published by The Chronicle of Higher Education on September 15, 2014.

A decade ago, arts leaders faced a crisis in America. National data indicated significant declines in …

150 Years of Drawing ‘Wonderland’

From Woodcut Prints to Dalí Paintings, Lewis Carroll’s ‘Alice’ Has Inspired Artists and Made Books into Art

The Mock Turtle, the Cheshire Cat, Tweedledum, the White Queen: Few books have given us as many memorable characters as Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking …

Imagination Is a City’s Most Vital Resource

If You Want to Know the Health of a City, Count the Permits It Issues for Concerts, Street Fairs, and Festivals

In hard economic times, cities need to decide what industries are essential, and what programs and services can be cut down to save resources. The arts are perennial contenders for …

Misbehave, Kids, So You Can Become a Genius

Are the Insights In Creativity Literature Making Us Any More Creative?

Few subjects have received more attention and study than creativity. But it also takes, well, creativity to put research into practice, and there’s no consensus that 21st century society has …