Research Proposal Empathy: The Fifth Bioethical Consideration

I want to explore empathy and bioethics, specifically the doctor and patient relationship. Under this relationship, I will look at specific medical issues, provide examples and use secondary sources. Bioethics is an emerging field with recent medical achievements. With new advancements in medicine, ethical questions about what people should and should not do are very relevant. Often, empathy is cast aside as people see medicine becoming more robotic and impersonal. However, I think empathy is extremely important between doctor and patient. University of Rochester’s Medical Center uses the biopsychosocial model in medical care, which empathizes a well-rounded approach to the patient, not just their physical state. Doctors address the backgrounds of patients, including their psychological, social and biological problems. I recently interviewed a doctor who prioritized listening to the patient and their needs in accordance with this model. From a secondary source, I found that there are four key bioethical considerations: autonomy, beneficence, nonmalificence (the idea of doing no harm) and justice. I will apply these four critical terms to each situation that I present. I will look at how the doctor-patient relationship fits into end of life issues, reproductive rights, genetic testing, and other bioethical issues. This connection between empathy and bioethics is relevant for this class because I want to show how many situations empathy can be used in. Empathy’s use in ethical issues is very interesting to me because it is so relevant to real-life situations.

The question I will answer is: Should empathy be the fifth bioethical consideration? I will argue that empathy is vital to a doctor-patient relationship. Even if the patient does not do what the doctor wants, the doctor must put himself in the patient’s shoes and respect the patient’s wishes, which goes hand in hand with autonomy. My answer is that empathy is so important to bioethics that I do think it should be included as the fifth ethical consideration. Adding this characteristic would completely change the field of bioethics because the emotions behind decisions would be addressed. Now, decisions are based on the patient wishes and what is best for society. However, with empathy, the emotions and reasons behind ethical decisions would be addressed, which is equally important as the decision itself.

Scholarly sources:

Charon, Rita. “Narrative Medicine: A Model for Empathy, Reflection, Profession and Trust.”      The JAMA Network, 17 October 2001.

cle/194300. 13 November 2016. Web.

Feminist Bioethics : At the Center, on the Margins /. Edited by Jackie L. Scully, Laurel                   Baldwin-Ragaven, and Petya Fitzpatrick 1975, Johns Hopkins University Press,                 Baltimore, 2010.

Kadzielski, Mark; Weingarten, Scott; Schroder, George. “Peer Review and Practice                       Guidelines under Health Care Reform.” Whittier Law Review 16.1 (1995): 157-176.

Koch, T. “The challenge of Terri Schiavo: lessons for bioethics.” Current Controversy, 376-           378.

Morgan, William L., Jr., and George L. Engel. The Clinical Approach to the Patient. W. B.             Saunders Company, Philadelphia: 1969. Print.

Empathy’s Role in the 2016 Presidential Election

The 2016 presidential election was shaping up to be historic almost no matter who won. Some of the Republicans running were Latino, one of the Democrats was Jewish, and there were women who were real contenders to be president. Despite all this diversity, and despite running on a platform that included racism, sexism, and xenophobia, Donald Trump won the presidential election. This topic is relevant to this class because it involves empathy. What role did empathy play in creating this outcome? Do conservatives lack empathy towards minorities, do liberals lack empathy for conservatives, or is it both? Answering this will give better insight into how people in our country as a whole (not just those on the liberal coasts) think, what influences them, and what led them to vote for a candidate with no experience in politics.


Scholarly Sources

Courtwright, David T. Book Details Table of Contents Tab Currently Selected Annotations Search within Book Additional Resources Table Of Content Section NO RIGHT TURN : Conservative Politics in a Liberal America. Cambridge, MA: Harvard U, 2010. Print.

Disalvo, Daniel, and Jeffrey Stonecash, eds. The Forum A Journal of Applied Research in Contemporary Politics. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print.

Gardner, Deborah B. “The 2016 Presidential Election: Reality vs. Myths.” Nursing Academics (2016): n. pag. Health Reference Center – Academic [Gale]. Web. 14 Nov. 2016.
Karol, David. US Presidential Election 2016. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Wiley Online Library. 21 Aug. 2015. Web. 14 Nov. 2016.
Major, Brenda, Alison Blodorn, and Gregory Major Blascovich. “The Threat of Increasing Diversity: Why Many White Americans Support Trump in the 2016 Presidential Election.” Sage Journals(2016): n. pag. Web. 14 Nov. 2016.

End of Life Ethics: The Right to Die

The end of a loved one’s life is a very emotion filled time for everyone close to them. Services like hospice care and life support cause great upset in society due to the massive variance between cultures in society. These beliefs clash so harshly that it proves to be a significant obstacle when defining laws about end of life care. I think this is a fascinating topic, not only because of its controversial nature, but the fact that it very directly affects all of us. Eventually, all of us will have to obey the laws we set earlier in our lives regarding our death.

Euthanasia is one of these controversial topics. The word itself is derived from the Greek words for “good” and “death”, inferring that it is what the victim wants. Interestingly enough, this word has the exact opposite reaction in society. On one hand, many people believe that people deserve the right to end their life. If the quality of your life is only suffering, then the victim should have the right to end it. Euthanasia is almost always associated with negative connotations because of its “murder” like actions. This is because it is referred to as more active killing, versus simply letting the victim die. Then it seems more like a crime, which is huge argument for making assisted suicide illegal.

Assisted suicide is closely related to euthanasia yet very different. If the patient performs the final act that ultimately kills them, it is considered assisted suicide. Controversy surrounds this method of death due to the fact that someone aids a “wrong act”. The line between assisted suicide is also a very blurry one. It can be very close to murder if the patient is too weak and is therefore taken advantage of. The major benefit of assisted suicide is that it maintains dignity for the victim. The ability for the victim to make his/her own decisions makes the grief much easier to handle after death.

End of life is a very troubling time for both the victim and everyone around them. This is why these decisions based around end of life ethics are need to satisfy everyone’s desires. Because of the many restricted laws in our current end of life system, most people suffer against their will. This is not only unethical, but just plain wrong. I intend to examine these methods of death, pursuing what is most ethical.


Potential Works Cited:

Boisvert, Marcel. “Physician-Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia.” The Permanente Journal 16.2 (2012): 75–76. Print.

Soh, Tze Ling Gwendoline Beatrice et al. “Distancing Sedation in End-of-Life Care from Physician-Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia.” Singapore Medical Journal 57.5 (2016): 220–227. PMC. Web. 14 Nov. 2016.

Bascom P. End-of-Life Ethics. JAMA. 2006;296(3):336-341. doi:10.1001/jama.296.3.339

Seeing My Own Eyes in Yours

This is a universal question that all of us might have thought about: who actually knows me? Empathy, in common terms, is the understanding of another’s belief, desires, and feelings directly, AKA perspective taking. It is unfortunate that people often experience empathy gap: “an inability to understand each other’s unique perspectives” due to their “misinterpretation of the other party’s actions” (Bohns & Flynn 2). Through this blog sequence, we will explore Morton’s false guidelines for empathy, a Facebook post that received many empathetic responses which altogether made some community impacts, and audience reactions to Harper Lee’s portrayal of Atticus in Go Set a Watchman. Eventually, we can come to the conclusion: although our present skill and readiness to empathize can serve as the key for interpersonal connections, and, in turn, we gain potential to create a social impact, our flaws to fully empathize could sometimes cause misunderstanding and disagreements in communities.

tumblr_n3qxzzwa351suxeeyo1_500Perspective taking can go the wrong directions. Frequent enough, a person is affected with their “concerned about their reputation, self-esteem, and relationships”, which “lead to misinterpretation of the other party’s actions” (Bohns & Flynn 2). We all have individualistic approaches to empathy. The first blog Evaluating Morton’s Pseudo Empathy discusses Morton’s description of pseudo empathy (when we think we know how others felt, but in reality, we only know how we would felt in an imagination induced situation) in his article Empathy for the devil. Morton’s high standard for “accurate empathy” (feeling exactly how the other would feel in the same situation), a standard unrealistically high to achieve. In his article, Morton has provided no example of any non-pseudo, perfectly accurate empathy. “To make judgments about another person’s attitudes and behaviors—an individual will typically draw on her own experience as a starting point and adjust from there. However, these adjustments are often insufficient, which can result in striking social prediction errors” (Bohns & Flynn 7). For example, asking a pair of twins who lived together all their live about how they like the novel Go Set a Watchman (This is like when people looks at the same situation), and it’ll be dubious for them to have the same exact feedbacks about why or why don’t they like the novel (People then interpret the situation differently). Now think about a person who has never read the novel, s/he reads the twins’ feedback (Now the bystander of the situation is inexperienced in a specific circumstance). Would s/he be able to empathize perfectly with either twin just by hearing their feedbacks? That would be unlikely.

After weighing the existence credibility of accurate empathy, the second blog post: Virtual Connections that Can Alter Policies presents a social media uproar triggered by communal empathy, demonstrating the ability of empathy to connect in between people. Even when empathy is not perfect. It starts with an agitated mother who’s daughter Franyo was mistreated by the school authorities wearing a skirt that was later found to fall within the limit of school policy. She decided to post her and her daughter’s experience on Facebook under anger. Facebook shares soon increased exponentially (more than 1K to be exact). In only a day after, the school authorities apologized to Franyo due to the social media pressure. It seems to be a successful counterattack against unfair code enforcements.  Social media is an easily accessible tool for everyone who desires more effective help from others, “not only because the tool can facilitate the efficient matching of helpers and help-seekers on a larger scale … but also because its format allows users to avoid many of the pitfalls of emotional perspective-taking.” (Bohns & Flynn 16). The entire Facebook post’s comment section either shows support or understanding, some even shared their own personal stories to relate with Webster. Facebook offers the 222 commenters a platform to agree, empathize, and share opinions with each other, which also generated the power to change a piece of the community, a portion being the apology Franyo received from her school.

The harmonic community engagement above contrasts with instances described in the third blog post: Disscusing Atticus Without his Sugarcoat. Where Atticus in Watchman disappointed his daughter and many readers due to flaws in empathy. “emotional perspective-taking, requires … two, adjustments. First, an individual must make the same error ridden initial adjustment from “self” to “other” … Second, the individual must make a second adjustment from “self in current emotional state” to “self in a different emotional state,” which can lead to its own set of errors” (Bohns & Flynn 16).

'Can we swap glasses? It might help me see your point of view!'

The glasses might allow the man to make believe that he actually sees from the lady’s POV.

A perspective taker must be able to place themselves in another’s situation entirely while feeling how the other would feel in the exact situation. However, everyone can only see from their own perspective and knowledge, even when they witnessing the same event. In To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, although Jean spent all of her childhood around Atticus, witnessing the court cases and town disagreements Atticus overcome, but fact is, people are “unable to draw upon their prior experiences with seeking help when we are in the position of a potential helper” (Bohns & Flynn 8). Have you felt starvation before? Have you walked pass a possibly ravenous homeless person begging for food without batting an eye? For ones who answers yes for both questions, that is because we can’t even perfectly recall and empathize with our very own experiences. When Uncle Jack yelled: “Jean Louise, have you ever met your father?” (Watchman 271) We know neither did Jean Louise nor some readers have even placed themselves in Atticus’s position. They have always falsely predicted Atticus’ motives. Jean thought she knew her father well since she always sees what he sees, but she didn’t realize that they are different entities – she cannot be thinking what Atticus thinks. For the non-judicial readers, they are misled by seeing solely from Jean’s point of view, resulting in the massive public dissatisfaction with the novel.

Empathy is a complex process. The restrictions (their values, beliefs, desire and lack of knowledge) people carry made it impossible for people to fully feel with another. However, there is no doubt that empathy is essential to the development of humanity. Empathy with more accuracy connects people who are driven by similar motives. Now back to the question: Who “can” really know us? This question has an answer. And I’ll leave it for you to decide after reading the blog sequence.

Works cited:

  • Bohns, Vanessa K., and Francis J. Flynn. “Empathy Gaps Between Helpers and Help-Seekers: Implications for Cooperation.” DigitalCommons (2015): Web.
  • Lee, Harper. Go Set a Watchman. New York: HarperCollins, 2015. Print.
  • To Kill a Mockingbird. Dir. Robert Mulligan. By Horton Foote. Perf. Gregory Peck, Mary Badham, and Phillip Alford. Universal-International, 1962. Web.
  • Morton, Adam, and Peter Goldie. “Empathy for the Devil.” Empathy: Philosophical and Psychological Perspectives. By Amy Coplan. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2011. 318-30. Print
  • Byrd, Caitlin. “Facebook Post about Moultrie Middle School Student’s Skirt Goes Viral, Reignites Dress Code Debate.” Post and Courier. N.p., 23 Sept. 2016. Web.
  • Webster, Suzie. “Suzie Webster’s Facebook Post.” Facebook. N.p., 21 Sept. 2016. Web.

Image References:

  • Ridgley, Bryan. Complex Reality from Observation. Digital image. Tumblr., n.d. Web.
  • Judd, Phil. Eyewear. Digital image. Amazonaws. Cartoon Stock, n.d. Web.


Research Proposal: Has Globalization, Specifically the Rise of Social Media, Made Us A More Empathetic Society?

   It seems to me that with increased exposure to tragedy (among other things) around the world, the current generation’s capacity for empathy should be much greater than that of older generations. This is because globalization has connected the world, establishing a common ground for all individuals. However, this may not be the case. Social media and other means of globalization can be as polarizing as they are unifying, and on top of this, a false cognitive (psuedo) empathy can often be attributed to the empathy felt by those who think they are empathizing with things they see on the internet or television. Thus, the question, has social media, a specific type of globalization, made us a more empathetic society, is worth researching.

    Rather than choosing a topic with a clear answer and verifying it with a myriad of academic sources, such as choosing the role of empathy in medicine (which I initially thought I would choose) and outlining the positive role that virtually ever study asserts empathy plays, I decided to choose this topic because I am not 100% sure what I am getting in to. I will be compelled to find sources on both sides of the argument to the question in order to form a complete response to it. Beyond this, I am interested in what I will find and the conclusions I will come to.

    We have written about the role of social media in empathy in this class, and reflecting upon my literature, my analysis was very one sided and lacked research. This topic will be relevant to the course in the sense that it is expanding upon a previous assignment. Because we have not done so already in the class, I will surely define globalization and it in to social media. Thomas L. Friedman, in his novel “The World Is Flat: A Brief History of The 21st Century” does a wonderful job characterizing globalization, and I will use his novel as a source. The question about the quantity and quality of empathy felt through social media will be obtained from various scholarly articles regarding this topic.

    Answering this question will clear the ambiguity regarding social media’s effect on empathy. My hope is that ultimately, I will procure an assertion that clearly defines if globalization has a positive or negative effect on empathy in our society.


Further thoughts after discussion:

Globalization 3.0 “is the newfound power for individuals to collaborate and compete globally. And the lever that is enabling individuals and groups to go global so easily and so seamlessly is… software- all sorts of new applications-in conjunction with the creation of a global fiber-optic network that has made us all next-door neighbors” (Friedman). For this paper, only social media will be looked at. Does this new network promote or inhibit empathy? What is the quality of the empathy felt by this network?

Begin with a case-study: a certain example, heart-warming ideally, that has to do with how social media can promote empathy. Challenge this and offer evidence against it, and then offer evidence supporting it. Develop paper so conclusion incorporates all data and has an appropriate response.

Possible Sources:

Avalone, Janice. “Exploring the Relationship between Adolescent Social Media Behaviors and Empathy.” ProQuest Dissertations Publishing, 2015. Web.

Friedman, Thomas L. The World is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century. 1st further updated and expanded hardcover ed. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2007. Web.

Fajardo, Tatiana, and Jiao Zhang. “Self Construal and the Identifiable Victim Effect.” Advances in Consumer Research 40 (2012): 1011. Web.

Terry, C., and J. Cain. “The Emerging Issue of Digital Empathy.” American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education 80.4 (2016): 58. Web.

Vossen, Helen G. M., and Patti M. Valkenburg. “Do Social Media Foster Or Curtail Adolescents’ Empathy? A Longitudinal Study.” Computers in Human Behavior 63 (2016): 118-24. Web.

What is the deal with helpless children? Proposal looking at the difference between empathy for children versus adults

When I came to campus, I found that a lot of the clubs and organizations have many charitable events.  Obviously, this is super impressive, and something that they should be proud of; however, what I noticed is that they are all mostly “for the kids.”  As the year has progressed, I have seen my friends (mainly through social media) makes posts about all of the charitable events that they are participating in (5K walks/runs, fundraisers, seminars) and again, they are “for the kids.”  This brought me to question why, as a society, most of our fundraisers and charities are focused on “the kids.”  I find myself in this trap, too. When I am older, I intend on becoming a doctor; yet, every field of medicine I imagine involves helping children: pediatrician, pediatric oncology, pediatric cardiology, neonatology… and the list goes on! While I support a society that supports its children—as they are the ones who are the future of this country—why don’t we support “the adults” of society as much?—after all, they are the ones who would be running the show currently. This has made me wonder if we have equal empathy for both adults and children, and if this poses any issues to society.

In order to answer this question, I first intend to look at children’s charities and research why they are so powerful and popular to support.  I am from Boston, so one of the popular charities in our city is the “Jimmy Fund.” While it currently is a charity for adults and children with cancer, it was started just to support adults. The logo of it is even of a boy—I suppose he is “Jimmy”—is an iconic one to our city.  The Jimmy Fund is a donor to the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute (previous the Children’s Cancer Research Foundation), and sponsors some iconic events: The Pan-Mass Challenge, Jimmy Fund’s Scooper Bowl, and many more. I intend to answer why it is that the image of a child that makes this foundation so strong and powerful in Boston.

The source titled “The Price of being Beautiful: Negative Effects of Attractiveness on Empathy for Children in Need” will help me look at and address any problems that come with only supporting children.  It looks at the social and economic issues regarding empathy for “children in need.”

This topic relates to our class on empathy because my essay will address why we have so much empathy for children, and not nearly as much for adults.  The answer to this question will involve the identifiable victim effect, the idea of “witnessing,” and barriers to empathy (as suggested in Morton’s essay and in my blog series.) Other questions I intend to answer are: what is so ~attractive~ about sick or helpless children? Is it difficult to feel empathy for adults? Does the empathy for children have to do with our parenting instincts? Is there something universal about children that isn’t present with adults?  What are some ways to increase empathy for adults, without decreasing empathy for children?

(Intended) Works Cited

Basil, Debra Z., Nancy M. Ridgway, and Michael D. Basil. “Guilt and Giving: A Process Model of Empathy and Efficacy.” Psychology and Marketing 25.1 (2008): 1-23. Web.

Calos, Katherine. “Poll: Americans must Aid Poor Kids / Survey for Henrico Charity Details Empathy for World’s Children.” Richmond Times – Dispatch 2010. Web.

Einolf, Christopher J., Deborah M. Philbrick, and Kelly Slay. “National Giving Campaigns in the United States: Entertainment, Empathy, and the National Peer Group.” Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly 42.2 (2013): 241-61. Web.

Fisher, Robert J., and Yu Ma. “The Price of being Beautiful: Negative Effects of Attractiveness on Empathy for Children in Need.” Journal of Consumer Research 41.2 (2014): 436-50. Web.

Gabriel, Iason. “Economies of Empathy: The Moral Dilemmas of Charity Fundraising.” Let’s Talk Development. The World Bank Group, 22 Sept. 2016. Web. 12 Nov. 2016.

Moszynski, P. “Charity Condemns Child Survival “Lottery”.” BMJ 336.7641 (2008): 408-. Web.

Verhaert, Griet A., and Dirk Van den Poel. “Empathy as Added Value in Predicting Donation Behavior.” Journal of Business Research 64.12 (2011): 1288-95. Web.

The Empathy Expedition, Journeying Towards a Deeper Connection

     Figuring out what empathy is and what it does is not as simple as looking to the lexical definition and instantly becoming an expert; it takes exploring empathy through different lenses and using personal experiences to truly get a good grasp as to what this empathy thing is all about. I too am on my own journey exploring empathy. I am looking at how it is currently being used, through the social media platforms that exist in this digital age, how it has been used in the past, through the lens of historical characters in fictional novels and authors of philosophical writings, and all along the way, how I have personally used and seen empathy used, through my every day experiences.

Empathy is like a puzzle- forming connections with others can be tricky.

Empathy is like a puzzle- forming connections with others can be tricky.

Empathy is a puzzle, an inherent compilation of emotion, logic, and experiential learning working together to get the best sense of another persons’ true feelings. One thing I have learned is that no person lacks uniqueness and that fact is not an “empathy stopper”, but rather a huge contributor in the desire to explore empathy. We yearn for connection- something to bond over and share, a place where two (or more) human experiences overlap. We find this through empathy. We take our own experiences, along with the perceived experiences of others and work our way towards a better understanding of one another, leading to a better connection. It is an unavoidable phenomena, for empathy is inherent in us as human beings, but why even try to avoid it in the first place? I shall not take an Ockham’s razor approach to empathy; instead, I will continue the journey towards deeper human connection and work to develop my empathic abilities and shape the way empathy is used in society.

Within this blog, you will find a post referencing Adam Morton, who writes on the differences between empathy and pseudo-empathy and the struggle with trying to empathize with those who commit atrocities and are much unlike ourselves in his work “Empathy for the Devil”. Within this post, I argue that Morton’s guidelines for empathy are far too strict and drawing a hard line between empathy and pseudo-empathy is erroneous. I believe empathy to be a real, attainable and developable skill possessed by human beings, and I argue that there is no such thing as pseudo-empathy, what Morton describes as merely feeling what you think you would feel instead of actually understanding what the other feels, and rather that we all vary in our empathic abilities , but what we feel is not wrong or fake, but a varying degree of connection to the other person depending on these abilities.

Living in a digital world, one may continue the search for deeper connections through the use of technology and wonder whether this is the right thing to do. Is empathy limited to face-to-face interactions, or does it know no bounds? Within this blog, a post about the impact of social media on our empathic abilities will also be found. I discuss the massive social media response to the Paris terror attacks in 2015 and argue that the “digital age” we live in is actually helping us further develop our empathic abilities. I reference a contrasting opinion from cultural analyst Sherry Turkle, who believes that technology is taking away from our empathy and human connections and argue that she is misinterpreting the effects of social media  because it actually exposes us to a much bigger social network that keeps us in the loop and allows us to practice empathy with more people than ever before.

If you are searching for a concrete example of empathy to follow, a post responding to Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman will be found in this blog sequence and I will discuss how rather than accepting that there are concrete examples of empathy, looking at popular “empathy exemplars” through a critical lens will provide more insight into developing your own emphatic abilities. Having read Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird prior to Go Set a Watchman, I could not ignore such drastic changes in characters such as Jean Louise Finch and Atticus Finch. I discuss how these character changes impact society in a negative way by first lessening the beneficial impacts brought by To Kill a Mockingbird, which highlighted issues of race and social justice and provided a shining example of how to stand up against it, and then by providing no exceptional lessons in morality from characters in Go Set a Watchman.

Atticus Finch, the  promoter of empathy and beloved protagonist of To Kill a Mockingbird is shown to be highly hypocritical in Go Set a Watchman; this change in character brings confusion to those exploring empathy, for the once exemplar of demonstrating empathy can no longer be looked to as such. This portrays the dynamic nature of empathy and is just another example of why empathy deserves a much deeper investigation than looking just to its lexical definition. One empathy exemplar, even one as popular as Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird, is not enough to grasp a complete understanding of empathy, especially independent of the empathy exemplar’s other actions that may deter us from thinking they deserve to be an empathy exemplar at all. Empathy is dynamic and its roles change depending on the context, but the very purpose of empathy- bringing us eye to eye and allowing us to connect- remains unchanging and should not be limited due to prejudices or any other outside factor.

Empathy has played many roles. In its “philosophical heyday” in the transition from the 19th to 20th century, “empathy had been hailed as the primary means for gaining knowledge of other minds and as the method uniquely suited for the human sciences” (Stueber). Now, empathy is not only explored through philosophical inquiry, but also by psychologists by the same methods used for exploring the empirical sciences (Stueber). We explore empathy in so many different ways; and throughout this blog I explore few of all those that exist. I hope you will find my explorations of use to you and that they will help you continue your journey towards deeper connections .

Works Cited

Atticus Finch Teaches His Daughter Scout the Best Lesson in To Kill a Mockingbird. Dir. Robert Mulligan. Perf. Gregory Peck and Mary Badham. Law Offices of John M. Phillips, 2014. Youtube. Web. 10 Nov. 2016.

Connected, but Alone? Prod. TED2012. Perf. Sherry Turkle. TED. TED Conferences, LLC, Feb. 2012. Web. 20 Oct. 2016.

Lee, Harper. Go Set a Watchman. New York: HarperCollins, 2015. Print.

Lee, Harper. To Kill a Mockingbird. Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1960. Print.

Morton, Adam, and Peter Goldie. “Empathy for the Devil.” Empathy: Philosophical and Psychological Perspectives. By Amy Coplan. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2011. 318-30. Print.

Sober, Elliott. “Why Is Simpler Better?” Aeon. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 Nov. 2016.

Stueber, Karsten, “Empathy”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2016 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), Web. 01 Nov. 2016.

Images/ Video/ Audio Sources:

Empathy Definition Screenshot:

Human Puzzle Silhouette Image:

When Can We Feel Empathy?

Pretend you are a murderer. I am assuming that most of you are not, and I would go as far as assuming that most of you would even have difficulty pretending you are. This is because as a common person, you find it extremely difficult to understand why someone would kill another person. Now imagine you are someone who is struggling to survive so you shoplift a store to put food on the table for your family. While this is also wrong, you can probably understand why someone would do this even though it is inherently wrong. So why can you put yourself in one situation but not the other? Such a phenomenon is presented in my three following blog posts about a person’s ability to empathize with someone who has done a misdeed. To answer this question, I would like to rephrase my question in a way that hopefully helps you to understand more about empathy after reading the three blog posts.


To what extent does a situational difference between an audience and a person that we hope to empathize with hinder an audience’s ability to empathize with this wrongdoer? In simple terms, according to Christian Happ’s Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, empathy will make people act more favorable towards good people and less favorably towards bad people. In these following three posts, I will define, as clearly as I can, my own answer to this question. I will first oppose the opinion of an author who claims that while people cannot fully empathize with those who commit atrocious acts, they can at least in part understand the motives behind these acts that have essentially no relevance to their lives. I will then give an example of this phenomenon with a man who commits a heinous act and explain why it is so difficult to empathize with this person. Finally, I will give a counterargument to this thesis with a famous book character that seemingly takes a turn for the worse from one book to another. This will help show that there is in fact a barrier that we as an audience can pass through and empathize with a person. In order to understand more about these following blog posts, I will now introduce them a little bit more thoroughly.

My first post examines the way that Adam Morton’s Empathy for the Devil explains the extent to which people can empathize with those who commit atrocious acts. Morton ultimately argues that despite a false sense of empathy that people may try to feel for a person who commits these acts, it is extremely difficult to find similarities with this person and therefore, empathize with such a person. While I argue that Morton’s argument is largely correct, I do not believe that people can even go as far as pretend that they can empathize with someone who commit more sinister offenses.

Such a case in seen in my second post about a man named Zach Davis who was fired from a job for a Twitter post that dehumanized the black people in Baltimore, comparing them to the apes in The Planet of the Apes. While the man was simply expressing his opinion about a social issue, this act of racism is unforgivable for many people. This is seen in the person that fired Davis from his job as a sheriff. Unless you are a person who has made this kind of mistake, it is tough to empathize with this man whose life was severely changed for the worse. Much of the conflict in being able to identify with Davis is that there are few people who feel the same way that he does. In contrast, a case where there is less difference between personal experience and a wrongdoer makes it significantly easier to empathize with this person.

My final post takes the opposing viewpoint of the previous two, examining Atticus Finch’s character in Go Set a Watchman. Atticus Finch is a man known for his role as the man who attempted to change everyone’s mind about racism in Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. In Harper Lee’s ‘sequel’, Go Set a Watchman, Atticus’s character changes significantly, at least on the surface, and many To Kill a Mockingbird fans are deeply saddened by the racist qualities he exhibits. I argue that because Atticus is in an environment where people are racist, he seems to exhibit the qualities of the mob. However, with further examination into his character in Go Set a Watchman, he does not share the same opinion that others in the novel do about black people. If people can understand that Atticus Finch is at worst acting in the way the people around him are acting, they can understand his situation and empathize with him rather than bashing his seemingly horrid transformation.

Christian Happ’s Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking puts empathy in terms of how people are generally able to empathize with the protagonist in the game and are more likely to be violent towards the villain. The user could choose which character he or she wanted to play as, so when the user chose the protagonist, s/he was willing to beat up on the villain. However, when the user chose the antagonist, it was harder for them to want to beat the protagonist. This analogy helps us envision why in the context of my three blog posts, why we are able to empathize with some people and not with others. I am not saying that people such as Zach Davis are villains, but people oftentimes associate the atrocious acts they commit with villains rather than hero, so it is much more difficult to empathize with them. I hope my three blog posts will help you form your own opinion about how when people can generally empathize with others and when they find it more challenging.

Works Cited:

Happ, Christian, André Melzer, and Georges Steffgen. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking. October 2013, 16(10): 774-778.

The Fine Line of Empathy

One of the largest debates surrounding the concept of empathy is the extent to which it should be used in making decisions. Some argue that in order to be entirely unbiased, as one would need to be on a jury, for example, empathy should be entirely left out from the decision making process and one should focus strictly on facts. Others believe that empathy is an important consideration that makes us human and allows us to empathize with various people and situations. While my blog posts don’t confirm the ‘right’ position in any sense, they aim to investigate these ideas for a further understanding of the practical uses of empathy.

The first blog post about disagreement with Morton’s passage Empathy for the Devil discusses the limits, or lack thereof, of our imagination in empathy. Morton’s argument as a whole revolves around the idea of the limitations of empathy for atrocious acts, but he makes a minor claim that our empathy is unlimited in the fictional world. This is partially because the audience understands that it isn’t real and it’s actually occurring, and partially because the creator of that world attempts to make characters that are easily relatable to the audience, so we feel more connected to them. However, the most atrocious of acts cannot be empathized with, no matter the circumstance, based on basic universal ethics that disapprove of humans committing these acts. In this instance, empathy should not be considered as a viable emotion in how an audience views a character that commits actions that are so horrendous.

My second blog post discussed the implications of empathy and its role in social media, specifically for Ashley Payne, who was fired from her teaching job after an anonymous parent reported her Facebook posts to the principal at her school for inappropriate behavior. Payne posted pictures of herself on summer vacation enjoying some wine and beer, and once referenced a swear word in her post. Because the certain viewer of her post was enraged and didn’t empathize with Ashley’s situation or her reason for posting, they complained and she was consequently forced to resign. Social media commonly lacks this theme of empathy, and users disregard any consideration of others’ feelings when posting.

The final blog post, surrounding the book Go Set a Watchman, develops ideas of the inherent racism found in Jean Louise’s hometown of Maycomb, Alabama that she failed to notice as a young girl, and the gaping hole where empathy for all people should be. Decision making in Maycomb is characterized by white privilege. When she returns in the beginning of the telling of this story as a grown up, she is astonished to see how different the town, and particularly her father Atticus, is from how she remembered it. She came from New York, where racism was dying at the time and cultures were becoming more welcoming and inclusive. However, in her southern little city, empathy for those of different races was still extremely lacking. Jean Louise and the audience discover that most people there, and especially Atticus, act irrationally towards those who they consider inferior, simply because they can. They favor people like themselves and have no empathy for anyone else, therefore they refuse to make decisions that support them.

There are no set-in-stone rules for how empathy can be involved in decisions; it mostly depends on the situation. In general, it’s best to use what Adam Smith, in the context of Martha Nussbaum’s writing, calls a judicious spectator: someone who takes empathy into account and factors in the influences of a victim’s emotions, but still keeping an open mind as to not have prejudices towards any particular side or decision (Poetic Justice, 72). While even this isn’t completely and entirely effective, it’s the best place to start in utilizing empathy as a decision maker.

Works Cited:

Nussbaum, Martha. “Rational Emotions.” Poetic Justice: The Literary Imagination and                       Public Life. Boston: Beacon Press, 1995. 53-78. Print/Web.

How much Empathy is enough Empathy?

I have learned that analyzing empathy is not an easy task. However, it is a discussion which is important because of the value of empathy as a human attribute. Empathy is valuable because it allows humans to interact successfully, it does this by helping us understand people’s emotions and consequently their actions. Throughout this blog sequence, I have discussed the limitations of empathy, the value in empathy and how empathy can exist in different contexts.

More importantly, this thread focused on the varying forms of empathy. Blog 4 looks at an argument which poses a limitation on the accuracy empathy. Blog 5 talks about virtual empathy and Blog 6 looks at self-serving empathy. This final blog is aimed at helping us recognize the point at which the understanding we have of people’s emotions is sufficient for it to result in accurate empathy. To do that we will first look at the respective forms of empathy in the blogs in this thread and then attempt to define accurate empathy.

So What is Empathy?

Empathy can loosely be defined as the ability to “imagine” and ultimately understand how someone else is feeling as well as share their feelings. This definition does not clearly state whether or not the feelings you feel (as an empathizer) are exactly the same as the individual you are empathizing with or if your understanding of their situation just results in an arbitrary emotional response. In addition to this, the definition brings out one of the limitations of empathy. Which is, our ability to understand someone’s emotions relies on our ability to imagine their emotions and their perspective.

Change your perspective

To empathize we must change your perspective


Different forms of empathy in the blog sequence

Blog post 4 set the foundation for this sequence of blog posts. The Blinkering Effect vs Moral Deliberation considers a limitation of empathy towards people who commit atrocious acts. In Morton’s article, Empathy for the Devil, he speaks about how most people are “reluctant” to overcome the barriers to empathize with people who commit atrocious acts (322). In this article, I look at the possibility that this limitation could be viewed as a tool that fosters accurate empathy. With this reluctance, we are able to engage in “Moral deliberation” which results in an adequate amount of understanding making a conducive environment for accurate empathy.

Blog post 5 speaks on empathy in social media which is commonly referred to as “virtual” empathy. Is Social Media really destroying our Capacity for Empathy? expands on the effect of social media and analyses if this effect creates or destroys our capacity for empathy. Posing the question, is virtual empathy accurate empathy? In discovering the differences between real and virtual empathy we considered the extent we understand people’s emotions via social media. This helped us consider whether or not virtual empathy is accurate or not.

Blog 6, Is Jean’s empathy self-serving?, speaks about the kind of empathy most people experience, empathy that is self-serving. This blog looks at the empathic emotions Jean expresses towards the black minority community in Go Set a Watchman. After analysing specific interactions between characters in the novel, we consider the possibility that Jean’s empathy is only a result of her personal anger. The question of whether or not self-serving empathy is accurate empathy is something I struggled with a lot. Take for instance the motive behind voluntary work. On one hand, you are helping the community. However, you could be motivated by the personal satisfaction that comes with helping others. I could argue that doing charity work makes one feel better for being privileged. This idea of self-serving “good acts” is expressed in the 6th blog post. After discovering the possibility that Jean’s empathy is self-serving, we are left to wonder whether or not her empathy is based on an adequate understanding of the challenges faced by the black community so that it can be deemed accurate empathy.

It is safe to assume that the most desirable form of empathy is accurate or legitimate empathy, and I hope to explore whether or not virtual and self-serving empathy falls under accurate empathy.  To find out whether or not these different types of empathy are mutually exclusive to accurate empathy we need to clearly define accurate empathy.

Accurate empathy

Upon research, I discovered that the definition of empathy and more especially accurate empathy heavily depends on the context in which empathy is required. Some situations better foster empathy than others. Take for instance an experience most people can relate to, a crying baby on a plane. Normally people have the ability to relate to and empathize with a child outside of a plane. However, more often than not people get annoyed by a screaming child on a plane, that does not mean you are unable to empathize with children in distress but this particular context resulted in a different emotional response. In Duncan’s article, Perceived Empathy, Accurate Empathy and Relationship Satisfaction, he speaks of the relationship between perceived and accurate empathy in heterosexual relationships. To study this relationship, he conducts an empirical investigation. Duncan argues that “higher accurate empathy will occur when people assume that the other person is more like them and when both people have more similar views” (329). Relating back to the scenario in the plane, parents tend to empathize with the parent of the child over empathizing with the child because of their shared experience, parenting.

Duncan’s definition of accurate empathy is also applicable in our above-cited blogs. In The Blinkering Effect Vs Moral Deliberation, we realize that “morally sensitive people” choose not to acknowledge the similarities they have with perpetrators and it is for this reason that the Blinkering Effect of Decency or Moral Deliberation inhibits accurate empathy. In the blog post on virtual empathy, we understand that without this belief of similarity we cannot express or experience accurate empathy (on social media), according to Duncan. And finally, in the blog about Jean’s self-serving empathy we recognize that her empathy is self-serving because of a lack of understanding of the group she is empathizing with. Though she wants to believe that she is similar to the black community her privileges blind her from fully experiencing empathy. She does not fully understand struggles faced by the community, however, she believes that she does. So according to Duncan’s standards, Jean does experience accurate empathy because his definition depends on the empathizer’s perception of their own understanding and their perception of the similarities they share with the group they are empathizing with.

In Kraus’s article, Social class, Contextualism and Empathic accuracy, claims your economic status influences your capacity for accurate empathy.  Kraus states that “Empathic accuracy reflects the ability to judge the emotions of other individuals” (1717). So we can see that the accuracy of empathy is based on your ability to understand the next individual. This is where our driving question comes up again, at what point is one’s understanding sufficient for it to become accurate empathy. This blog will continue to explore this question.

Work Cited

Morton, Adam, and Peter Goldie. “Empathy for the Devil.” Empathy: Philosophical and Psychological Perspectives. By Amy Coplan. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2011. 318-30. Print

Cramer, D., and S. Jowett. “Perceived Empathy, Accurate Empathy and Relationship Satisfaction in Heterosexual Couples.” Journal of Social and Personal Relationships 27.3(2010): 327-49. Web. 29 Oct. 2016.

Kraus, M. W., S. Cote, and D. Keltner. “Social Class, Contextualism, and Empathic Accuracy.” Psychological Science 21.11 (2010): 1716-723. Web. 30 Oct. 2016

Image references

“Change your perspective”