Why Is It so Hard to Mourn the Vast Number of COVID Dead?

An Empathy Scientist Reveals How Our Brains Get in the Way of Comprehending Calamity on This Scale

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced the first U.S. death from COVID-19 on February 29. Within a month, more than 1,000 Americans were dying on a single day. Since then, we’ve reached that daily number many times over. Some days, more than 2,500 people have died. The U.S. recently surpassed another marker: over 277,000 individuals dead.

And yet: many are largely disconnected from the pain, unwilling or unable to recognize or process the loss.

Where is the collective mourning? I am an empathy scientist, and I can …

The Missionary Children Who Taught Empathy to Americans

Raised Abroad, John Hersey, Pearl Buck, and Others Brought Back a Faith in Open-Mindedness

Published in 1946, John Hersey’s Hiroshima, which described the impact of the atomic bomb on residents of the city, is an extraordinary book. It not only described the bomb’s effects, …

How Our Evolving Understanding of Individual Autonomy Led to Human Rights for All

A Cultural Historian Traces Empathy From Epistolary Novels to Abolition to Act Up

In Inventing Human Rights: A History, UCLA historian Lynn Hunt traces the modern concept of Human Rights to a series of mid-18th century epistolary novels with a strong first person …

No, Empathy Isn’t a Universal Value

From Saudi Arabia to Peru, There’s No Clear Pattern to How Compassion Works

Empathy varies a lot among people, psychological research has found. But it also varies widely among countries and cultures. When my colleagues and I set out to analyze the largest …

Is Our Culture of Empathy Perpetuating Inequality?

Feeling Others’ Pain Lets Us Ignore the Power Structures That Really Divide Us

We desperately need more empathy. At least, that’s what we are told—in political rhetoric, in bestselling popular science books, in international development discourse, in feminist and anti-racist activism. Among current …

Why We Should Fear Emotionally Manipulative Robots

Artificial Intelligence Is Learning How to Exploit Human Psychology for Profit

“Keep going straight here!”

“Err, that’s not what the app is telling me to do.”

“Yes, but it’s faster this way. The app is taking you to the beltway. Traffic is terrible …