Research proposal

The topic I am about to talk in my research is about empathy and bullying. The research focuses on a certain group of people: bullies in schools. Bullying is commonly seen in school students. Bullies are often teenagers or preadolescents, and the victims are often weaker than the bullies. Do bullies have empathy for their victims? If not, do they bully others because of their lack of empathy? I think this is an important problem because in order to help eliminate bullying in school, we need to study the source of it. The topic of the class is empathy, and we have studied the cause of cruelty in social media, which is kind of similar to bullying. The reason of online cruelty is the absence of empathy. This makes me wonder if real life bullying is also caused by the absence of empathy. We also learn from Martin Hoffman’s “Empathy, Justice, and the Law” that the development of empathy can be divided into several stages. Do bullying behaviors occur in preadolescents caused by anomalies in their empathy development? The study of empathy in preadolescents is different from the study of empathy in adults, so I am going to study specifically on the empathy in preadolescent bullies.

Since I am studying empathy and bullying, the critical problem is going to be: How does empathy influence bullies? To answer this question, we need to firstly clarify the definition of empathy in this question. There are two kinds of empathy, cognitive empathy and affective empathy. I will have to analyze the effect of both types of empathy on bully. Because I am researching on preadolescents, I will have to specify my research sources on preadolescents. I need to study the empathy development of preadolescents and the possible anomalies during the development.

Potential scholarly sources:

Stavrinides, P., S. Georgiou, and V. Theofanous. “Bullying and Empathy: A Short-Term Longitudinal Investigation.” EDUCATIONAL PSYCHOLOGY, vol. 30, no. 7, 2010., pp. 793-802doi:10.1080/01443410.2010.506004.

van Noorden, T. H., , J., Haselager, G. J., T., Cillessen, A. H., N., & Bukowski, W. M. (2015). “Empathy and involvement in bullying in children and adolescents: A systematic review”. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 44(3), 637-657. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10964-014-0135-6

Björkqvist, Kaj, Karin Österman, and Ari Kaukiainen. “Social Intelligence − Empathy = Aggression?” Aggression and Violent Behavior, vol. 5, no. 2, 2000., pp. 191-200 doi:10.1016/S1359-1789(98)00029-9.

Kokkinos, Constantinos M., and Eirini Kipritsi. “The Relationship between Bullying, Victimization, Trait Emotional Intelligence, Self-Efficacy and Empathy among Preadolescents.” Social Psychology of Education: An International Journal, vol. 15, no. 1, 2012., pp. 41-58doi:http://dx.doi.org.pc181.lib.rochester.edu/10.1007/s11218-011-9168-9.

Muñoz, Luna,C., Pamela Qualter, and Gemma Padgett. “Empathy and Bullying: Exploring the Influence of Callous-Unemotional Traits.” Child psychiatry and human development, vol. 42, no. 2, 2011., pp. 183-96 doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10578-010-0206-1.

Introduction to my blog posts sequence

The topic I am discussing in this blog sequence is empathy, which is the ability to understand and share the feeling of another. The arousal of empathy can be seen in every aspect of life. This leaves us a question: Is empathy missing in some certain circumstances? If so, why is it missing? My aim in this post sequence is to use three posts of mine to answer this question.

Blog Post 1: Disagreement about Adam Morton’s theory

Adam Morton has a pessimistic view on people’s ability to empathize with evildoers. He expresses this view in his work Empathy for the Devil. Morton believes that people can only “pseudo empathize” with evildoers (327), which means that people cannot truly empathize with them. My aim in this post is to examine if our empathy is missing for those evildoers by expressing my opinion about Adam Morton’s theory. Morton says that one finds it difficult to understand how evildoers could overcome the barrier of his or her ethical value and actually commit the atrocious act, and therefore people do not usually try to empathize with evil. Otherwise, all they can feel toward evildoer is “pseudo empathy”, which is a sense of empathy that is not real. My point is that people can easily understand the “how” question for some certain types of evildoers when they take the evildoers’ circumstances when they committed the atrocious act into consideration and it will all come clear. So people can sometime empathize with evil. My way of proving my point is to use another scholarly source. The source I use is from Paul Formosa’s “Understanding Evil Acts”. In his article, Formosa states that many normal people, with no tendency of committing evil acts, are capable of doing atrocious acts in certain extreme circumstances. He gives an example of Milgram experiment, in which the object is being put into a compulsive environment. Most of the objects do atrocious act towards other innocent person in the experiment as they are told to. Formosa uses this result to prove that some evildoers do not have that “how” process, all they need to commit evil acts is an “evil-encouraging” environment. That being said, some evildoers do not have their mercurial motivation. Hence, we can empathize with some evildoers and not have to worry about being not able to truly empathize with them. From this post, we can see that the empathy is not missing in the process when we examine some people who commit atrocious acts.

 

Blog Post 2: Why is empathy missing in the digital age

Although we can empathize even with devil, sometimes people in certain circumstances stop empathizing with other normal people. This lack of empathy can be seen in the Internet. In my second blog post, I discuss the reason that people appear to be cruel to others on the Internet. The answer to this question is that when making comment online, people stop viewing others as human beings, and thus they stop empathizing with the object of their comments. I found an example of this phenomenon to start with. The example is about a 17-year-old Belgian model being viciously attacked by people on the Internet because of a Facebook status she posted in 2014. She posted a photo of her holding a rifle next to a dead animal, and made a harmless joke about it, which irritated other Facebook users, and they started to harshly criticize her over the social media. This incident got her lost her contract with L’Oreal. I find several sources to help me explain this phenomenon. I use an article on BBC news called “Why are people so mean to each other online?” written by Jane Wakefield. She attributes this phenomenon to the fact that Internet users do not consider other users as real human beings and they feel safe making those comments hiding behind the computer screen instead of in front of their subjects (Wakefield). Then I use Leon Festinger’s cognitive dissonance theory to interpret those users’ behavior. In this case people engage in cognitive dissonance process to eliminate the feeling that the victim of their criticism is one of their own kind, and thus they hardly feel guilty for their acts. After we have analyzed those people’s circumstance and emotional process, we can see that is not too hard to understand their cruelty on the Internet. We can see in this post, when people are interacting with others in some virtual way, like the Internet, they stop empathizing with others because they lose the senses of likelihood between them and other Internet users. In such circumstance, empathy is missing.

Blog Post 3: Explanation for Jean Louise’s response

The characters in the literature works are perfect examples to use in this discussion. Some fictional scenario reflects real life situation perfectly. In some fictional works, certain character finds him or herself in a situation where it is hard to empathize with others. In my third blog post, I examine the reaction of Jean Louise, a character in the novel Go Set a Watchman. After finding the fact that her father is a racist, Jean feels extreme anger toward her father, Atticus Finch. At this point, her empathy for her father is missing, and she does not understand her father’s intension for doing all the thing he does. And this is because she does not think of herself as being in a same group as her father, which is also a kind of lack in the sense of likelihood. However, when Jean has a talk with her uncle, Dr. Finch, her anger subsides dramatically. From her uncle, we can see that she used to look up to her father. Hence we can understand her reason to feel angry with her father and her reason to think of herself as an adversary of her father. Then when Dr. Finch tells her “you are your own person now” (Go Set a Watchman 264), She has less expectation for her father, so she does not feel furious anymore, and stops considering herself as an enemy of her father. Her change is obvious in the text. After the talk, Jean realizes that Atticus was trying to preserve her world for her, and she has been trying to crush him for that (Go Set a Watchman 277). Her missing empathy is recovered because she starts recognizing herself as a person from a same community as her father.

From my three posts above, we can see that when empathy is missing in some scenarios, it is usually caused by the lack of the sense of likelihood. As Frans de Waal mentions in his article “Putting the Altruism Back into Altruism: The Evolution of Empathy”, “Our evolutionary background makes it hard to identify with outsiders. We’ve evolved to hate our enemies, to ignore people we barely know, and to distrust anybody who doesn’t look like us (Frans de Waal).” He also mentions that empathy is so “fragile” that once we stop identify with others, we can no longer empathize with them (Frans de Waal). The Internet users who are cruel to others have no empathy for other people on the Internet because the victims are considered “outsiders”. The attackers stop identify with their victims, so their empathy is missing for them. Jean Louise has no empathy towards her father at the beginning because he is considered as an “outsider”. Therefore, the posts proves my answer to the question.

 

Works cited:

Morton, Adam. “Empathy For The Devil.” Empathy: Philosophical and Psychological Perspectives, edited by Amy Coplan, Peter Goldie, Oxford University Press, 2011, 318-330.

Formosa, Paul. “Understanding Evil Acts.” Human Studies, vol. 30, no. 2, 2007., pp. 57-77

Despiegelaere, Axelle. Facebook.com/AxelleDespiegelaere, Facebook, Jul 1 2014.

“L’Oreal Severs Ties With Viral World Cup Model After Crass Hunting Photo Emerges”, Business Insider, 2014, http://www.businessinsider.com/loreal-fires-model-axelle-despiegelaere-after-hunting-photo-2014-7. Accessed Oct 24 2016.

Wakefield, Jane. “Why are people so mean to each other online?” BBC Technology, 2014, http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-31749753. Accessed Oct 24 2016.

Festinger, Leon. A Theory of Cognitive Dissonance, California: Stanford University Press, 1957.

Lee, Harper. Go Set a Watchman, HarperCollins, 2015

de Waal, FBM. “Putting the Altruism Back into Altruism: The Evolution of Empathy.” ANNUAL REVIEW OF PSYCHOLOGY, vol. 59, no. 1, 2008., pp. 279-300doi:10.1146/annurev.psych.59.103006.093625.

Explanation for Jean Louise’s response

In the novel Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee, twenty six year old Jean Louise returns to her hometown from New York City to visit her father Atticus, who she looks up to throughout her entire childhood. She finds out that Atticus have changed into a racist. Atticus is shaped as a lawyer who solidly pursues justice in the movie To Kill A Mockingbird. However, in Go Set a Watchman, he turned out to be a person who goes to the city council and thinks that black people do not deserve the same civil rights as white people do. Jean’s initial reaction is contempt and shocked, which is shown clearly in the book: “She felt sick. Her stomach shut, she began to tremble. Every nerve in her body shrieked, then died. She was numb. (Go Set a Watchman 111)” But by the end of the novel after she had a conversation with Dr. Finch, Jean’s attitude towards Atticus becomes less aggressive. In this passage I am going to examine the Jean’s response to her father.

The reasons for Jean Louise to feel angry are easy to understand. She has been looking up to her father at a very young age. His defense of the condemned African American male Tom Robinson makes Jean feel that he is a just man who treats people from different races equally. He even guards Tom from the mob on the day before the trail (TKMB). She always considers her father as a role model, as the book mentions: “She never questioned it, never thought about it, never even realized that before she made any decision of importance the reflex, ‘What would Atticus do?’ passed through her unconscious. (Go Set a Watchman 117)” It is such high expectation of her father that makes Jean so mad when she finds her father at racist citizen council. By the end of the book, however, her madness subsides dramatically. To understand this transition of emotion, we need to analyze her conversation with Dr. Finch, after he slaps her in the face. Jean Louise finds everything suddenly become “bearable” (Go Set a Watchman 264). Dr. Finch explains to her that this is “because you are your own person now.” (Go Set a Watchman 264) He tells Jean “Every man’s island, Jean Louise, every man’s watchman, is his conscience. There is no such thing as a collective conscious.” (Go Set a Watchman 265) This rational argument makes Jean lower her guard towards Dr. Finch, and start to accept his points. Then, he says Atticus should not be viewed as God. Atticus is a man with a man’s failings, so she has to stop expecting him to always have the same answers as she does (Go Set a Watchman 265). He also mentions that Atticus always follows the spirit of law, which partially explains his participation of citizen council. Jean’s change in her perception of her father can be seen in the text. “I did not want my world disturbed, but I wanted to crush the man who’s trying to preserve it for me. I wanted to stamp out all the people like him. I guess it’s like an airplane: they’re the drag and we’re the thrust, together we make the thing fly. Too much of us and we’re nose-heavy, too much of them and we’re tail-heavy—-it’s a matter of balance.” (Go Set a Watchman 277) Jean is finally able to feel her father’s good intension for her, indicating that she starts to empathize with her father.

Considering all above, Jean’s reaction is not so hard to interpret anymore. She finally accepts the fact that Atticus has his own flaws, and she has to be an independent person. So she stops looking up to her father. Once she starts to view her father as another human being, she lowers her expectation for him. She starts to generate empathetic feeling for her father. Therefore her anger subsides.

 

Works cited:

Lee, Harper. Go Set a Watchman, HarperCollins, 2015

Mulligan, Robert, director. To Kill a Mockingbird, Universal International Pictures, 1963

 

 

Why is empathy missing in the digital age

In Jon Ronson’s article “God That Was Awesome”, he introduces the experience of Justine Sacco, who got into great trouble by making a bad joke on Twitter about how she would not get HIV in Africa because she is white (68). Her joke got her fired, and tons of people scold her harshly through the social media. However, when interviewed by the author Jon Ronson, she explained that her original intension in making the joke was to raise a joke about a dire situation that does exist and people do not pay attention to. Some people did not get her point and started to attack her on the Twitter, others act along with them, resulting in the massive retweet and unanimous criticism toward Justine. Jon Ronson analyzed this incident after meeting with Justine Sacco, and states that the most fearful people are the powerful, crazy, and cruel Internet people who blindly destroy the public figures who have not done anything wrong (90). My aim in this essay is to find a similar example of this phenomenon, and then relate a theory addressing this phenomenon to the example to find out the reason of online violence.

blog-post-5(Facebook.com/AxelleDespiegelaere)

In 2014, Axelle Despiegelaere, a 17 year old Belgian model got herself in an identical situation just like Justine Sacco did. She became popular during the 2014 World Cup because one of her picture taken while she was cheering for Belgium went viral. Things changed dramatically when she uploaded a photo of herself holding a hunting rifle next to a dead oryx, with a caption: “Hunting is not a matter of life or death. It’s much more important than that…this was about 1 year ago…ready to hunt americans today haha” (Axelle Despiegelaere) Fans were provoked by her post, and started to attack her on social media. Although later she posted an apology saying, “I didn’t mean to offend anyone… it was a joke.” Fans did not stop accusing her for her inappropriate joke. She ended up losing her contract with L’Oreal. (Business Insider)

Many of us are confused about why people turned into some dispassionate “monsters” that have no empathetic feeling towards others on the Internet. Jane Wakefield, a reporter at BBC News, discusses the empathy in the digital age in her article “Why are people so mean to each other online?” She indicates that the Internet gives people opportunity to say things that they would not say face to face with others (Jane Wakefield). This is because people feel safe behind the computer screen, thinking the objects cannot fight back, and they also do not consider the users on the social media as real human beings, thus they have little sense of guilt when they make harsh comments, and they therefore have no empathetic feeling towards them. Jon Ronson also mentions this. Ronson says people dehumanize the people they are about to hurt, also known as cognitive dissonance in psychology (80). According to Leon Festinger’s cognitive dissonance theory, individuals seek consistency between their expectations and reality (207). The Internet attackers’ lack of empathy does not consist with their real life standard. And they therefore engage in a process called “dissonance reduction”. Festinger discusses dissonance reduction in his work A Theory of Cognitive Dissonance, pointing out that there are four methods of reduction:

  1. Change behavior or cognition
  2. Justify behavior or cognition by changing the conflicting cognition
  3. Justify behavior or cognition by adding new cognitions
  4. Ignore or deny any information that conflicts with existing beliefs. (Festinger)

When it comes to the case of Axelle, people who commit the cruel act towards her fit perfectly in the fourth method. When they leave mean comment about her on the Internet, they ignore the fact that Axelle is a human being, and therefore they do not feel that she is one of them and do not empathize with her at all, which reliefs them from the agony of inconsistency. So they could scold her dispassionately without any concerns that they may have misinterpreted her post, and they do not have to fear that they may destroy her life with those comments. After considering all these theories, we can understand the online attackers’ action better.

 

Works cited:

Ronson, Jon. “God That Was Awesome.” So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed, Riverhead Books, 2015 67-90

Despiegelaere, Axelle. Facebook.com/AxelleDespiegelaere, Facebook, Jul 1 2014.

“L’Oreal Severs Ties With Viral World Cup Model After Crass Hunting Photo Emerges”, Business Insider, 2014, http://www.businessinsider.com/loreal-fires-model-axelle-despiegelaere-after-hunting-photo-2014-7. Accessed Oct 24 2016.

Wakefield, Jane. “Why are people so mean to each other online?” BBC Technology, 2014, http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-31749753. Accessed Oct 24 2016.

Festinger, Leon. A Theory of Cognitive Dissonance, California: Stanford University Press, 1957.

Festinger, Leon. “Cognitive Dissonance.” Scientific American. 1962, 93–107

Disagreement about Morton’s theory

In Adam Morton’s article “Empathy for the Devil”, Morton discusses the reason that one cannot truly empathize with a person who does evil acts. He points out that there is a major difference between understanding why someone does an atrocious act and understanding how that person could overcome the barrier of his or her own ethical values. For instance although someone can feel an understanding of the evildoer’s motivation of committing an atrocious act, he or she will still have a hard time understanding the reason for that person to choose to do the exact atrocious act instead of choosing other options. Morton calls this kind of empathy “pseudo-empathy”(327), and he claims that we do not attempt to empathize evils because all we can do for them is to “pseudo empathize” with them. However, I believe that one’s perpetration of evil acts has a lot to do with the situation he or she was in. By analyzing the situation, we can fully empathize with that perpetrator. So the reason that we cannot understand an evildoer’s decision of committing an evil act because we do not have enough insight of the situation he or she was in when committed the act.

As Paul Formosa suggests in “Understanding Evil Acts”, “many normal humans, in bad situations, are indeed capable of great evil.” He indicates that those who are law abiding in some situations may not do so in other situations, therefore it is the situation that makes them commit atrocious acts (64). He gives an example of Milgram ‘obedience’ experiment, in which the subject, being assigned as the “teacher”, is given a task of giving electric shocks to a “learner”, who is a confederate in the experiment, every time the learner’s answer to a question is wrong. The subject is told to ignore the scream of the learner and increase the voltage of the shock. The result of the experiment is that two third of the subjects fully obeyed the instruction to give electric shocks throughout the process. The evildoer in this case gives an innocent person electric shocks due to the compulsiveness of the environment, and has nothing to do with their moral standard. From this example we can see that some evil perpetrators do evil acts because their environment compels them to do so, and that is the only reason for them to commit that act.

According to Morton’s theory, we do not try to understand the evildoers because we can never understand that “how” question. Formosa’s answer to the “how” question is the situation the evildoers found themselves in (66). He calls this kind of situations evil-encouraging, in which one’s likelihood of performing evil acts is increased (66). Being within evil-encouraging situations can also lead to the increase in prevalence of evil-encouraging beliefs and group conflict. Morton does not consider the impact of one’s circumstance when trying to empathize evildoers. However, Formosa manages to empathize evildoers without pseudo empathy by presenting a possibility that can cause someone does atrocious act with understandable reasons for others to empathy with. He does this by using the Milgram experiment as an example to show us one group of evildoers that have no other mercurial motivations.

Considering all above, one may find Morton’s view rather incomplete. Morton’s attitude towards empathizing with evildoer is too pessimistic. We can try to empathize some evildoers who commit evil act because they are in evil encouraging environment as Formosa claims.

 

Works cited:

Formosa, Paul. “Understanding Evil Acts.” Human Studies, vol. 30, no. 2, 2007., pp. 57-77

Morton, Adam. “Empathy For The Devil.” Empathy: Philosophical and Psychological Perspectives, edited by Amy Coplan, Peter Goldie, Oxford University Press, 2011, 318-330.

Formal Assignment

In the movie A Time to Kill, an African-American father, Carl Lee, killed two white thugs that raped and beat his daughter Tanya nearly to death. The story took place in a town in Mississippi, in the 1980s, where the racial bias still prevails. Since Carl was fully aware that those two thugs were not going to be properly trailed and punished, he executed them with an automatic assault rifle in the courthouse on the day they were supposed to be trialed. On Carl’s summation, his lawyer Jake Brigance described the story of Tanya’s rape, and suggested the jurors to imagine that Tanya was a white girl. The emotional appeal made a dramatic change to the situation. Carl Lee was acquitted. (TK)

Carl Lee’s acquittal raises a question: is justice promoted by it? To solve this question, we should first define what justice is. What is justice? Justice corresponds with law. Law system was built to serve everyone and to make sure everyone is treated equally. To achieve this, it requires the jurors in the court to be “Judicious Spectators”, which is a term describing spectators that have nothing to do with the event, and will not have any bias. (Nussbaum 72) Were the jurors being judicious spectators? One noticeable fact in this case is that the jurors changed their mind dramatically after Jake’s closing argument, in which he used an appeal to empathy. There are several set backs of empathy in law, Jake was using one of them in his argument. As Martin L. Hoffman says in his article Empathy, Justice, and the Law, empathy has some “inherent biases that may limit its value in legal contexts.” (230) One of the biases perfectly matches the jurors’ reaction. It is called “here-and-now bias” (Hoffman 251) Hoffman suggests that viewers are more likely to be influenced by those who are in the courthouse than those who are not. (251) That being said, the jurors in Carl Lee’s case tend to be affected more by the story of Tanya being raped. Such emotional tendency favoring one side in the courthouse does not help them to make a decision that equally serves everyone.

Has everyone related to this case received an equal treatment outside the court? It can be answered by one of the example. When Carl Lee was in trial, the supporter of Carl Lee and the members of Ku Klux Klan fought against each other and one of Carl Lee’s supporters threw a Molotov Cocktail at a Ku Klux Klan leader, and the latter burnt to death. (TK) This incident does not represent justice, even though the man they killed was an extreme racist.

Now let us focus on Jake Brigance’s motive of giving that argument. Carl Lee inspired him, when they met the day before the final summation. Carl told him that only to think as the jurors do could save them both, (TK) which indicates that Jake was supposed to manipulate jurors’ emotion to win the case. Jake did as what Carl told him to do. With such a passionate speech given by Jake Brigance, it is hard not to be moved. Jake Brigance had a strong desire in winning the case. The origin of his desire is the fact that he himself emotionally agrees with what Carl Lee did. According to Jake’s wife, Jake would have done the same thing if anyone has raped his daughter. (TK) However, the outcome is that jurors were tricked. What would happen if the jurors were asked to imagine the circumstance in which those two rapists were killed? Would the juror still acquit Carl Lee? The reason that Jake had won the case was partially related to the limitation of the jurors, which is the “here-and-now bias”. (Hoffman 251) The jurors were moved by the speech Jake gave but were not aware of what influence it would make toward the victim in Carl Lee’s case when they made the decision.

The movie tends to lead the viewers to stand by the side of Carl Lee. Since it pays much more attention on the rape of Tanya and its effect on her family than on the death of two rapists and the one killed by a Molotov Cocktail. When the man in the red cape caught on fire because someone threw a Molotov cocktail at him, the attention of viewer was quickly dragged away since the scene only lasted for several seconds. However, when Tanya was being raped, the way of depicting the story was in the first-person aspect, which makes the viewers feel like if they were being abused. In this way, the movie naturally makes the viewer to form empathy for Tanya and her family and feel appalled by the rapists. Additionally, the movie tends to use ominous music when the bad thing happens. Therefore, the movie does not encourage the viewers to be “judicious spectators” (Nussbaum 72) The movie delivers a bias to the viewers by paying uneven attention on the two sides.

Additionally, Carl’s action was not a justifiable homicide under law. “To rule a justifiable homicide, one must objectively prove to a trier of fact, beyond all reasonable doubt, that the victim intended to commit violence.” (Wikipedia) The definition of justifiable homicide does not match what Carl did, because Carl killed two suspects who were under custody at the time when the homicide taken place. (TK) Unlawful revenge will never come to an end if not contained by law.

Considering all above, the acquittal of Carl Lee cannot be justified, and empathy in the movie does not promote justice.

 

Works Cited:

A Time to Kill. Directed by Joel Schumacher. Warner Brothers, 1996.

Hoffman, Martin L. “Empathy, Justice, and the Law.” Empathy: Philosophical and Psychological Perspectives. edited by Amy Coplan, Peter Goldie. Oxford University Press, 2011, 230-254

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

Wikipedia, “Justifiable Homicide”, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Justifiable_homicide, Accessed 03 Oct. 2016

Formal Assignment 1

In the movie A Time to Kill, an African-American father, Carl Lee, killed two white thugs that raped and beat his daughter Tanya nearly to death. The story took place in a town in Mississippi, in the 1980s, where the racial bias still prevails. Since Carl was fully aware that those two thugs were not going to be properly trailed and punished, he executed them with an automatic assault rifle in the courthouse on the day they were supposed to be trialed. On Carl’s summation, his lawyer Jake Brigance described the story of Tanya’s rape, and suggested the jurors to imagine that Tanya was a white girl. The emotional appeal made a dramatic change to the situation. Carl Lee was acquitted. (TK)

Should the acquittal of Carl Lee, which is a direct result of the effect of empathy on the jurors, be considered the outcome of prevailing justice or just another uneven decision? I believe the answer is the latter. Although some may think there is nothing wrong with killing two rapists who raped a young girl, it still is a crime to do so. Did those thugs really deserve to die? Rapists are not punishable by death under the law at that time. Therefore Carl Lee’s behavior cannot be justified. It is understandable for him to do so, but he must accept the consequences come along with it. Couldn’t the jurors realize this fact? I believe it is the overly aroused emotional turbulence that had prevented the jurors from making a dispassionate conclusion. This can be seen as a set back of empathy in law. As Martin L. Hoffman says in his article Empathy, Justice, and the Law, empathy has some “inherent biases that may limit its value in legal contexts.” (230) One of the biases perfectly matches the jurors’ reaction. It is called “here-and-now bias” (Hoffman 251) Hoffman suggests that viewers are more likely to be influenced by those who are in the courthouse than those who are not. (251) That being said, the jurors in Carl Lee’s case tend to be affected more by the story of Tanya being raped than those two rapists being inappropriately punished. Indeed, the rapist should be punished for committing such violent crime to a young girl, but they were supposed to serve time in jail to make up for what they had done, not to be killed. According to their mother, they were only 20-ish years old when they were killed. (TK) Dying is too harsh for them and their family even though they were such notorious scumbags. Same thing happens outside the courthouse. When Carl Lee was in trial, the supporter of Carl Lee and the members of Ku Klux Klan fought against each other and one of Carl Lee’s supporters threw a Molotov Cocktail at a Ku Klux Klan leader, and the latter burnt to death. (TK) The supporter started off feeling empathetic for Carl Lee, but ended up killing others who did not deserve to die. Thus justice is not promoted by these people.

With such a passionate speech given by Jake Brigance, it is hard to not be moved by it. Jake Brigance’s intension in using such argument is clearly not to take advantage of jurors’ empathy. He himself emotionally agrees with what Carl Lee did. According to Jake’s wife, Jake would have done the same thing if anyone has raped his daughter. (TK) (-) However, overly revenge still cannot be justified. What would happen if the jurors were asked to imagine the circumstance in which those two rapists were killed? Would the juror still acquit Carl Lee? I would say that the reason that Jake had won the case was partially related to the limitation of the jurors, which is the “here-and-now bias”. (Hoffman 251) The jurors were moved by the speech Jake gave but were not aware of what influence it would make toward the victim in Carl Lee’s case when they made the decision. In this way, the dignity and fairness of law is compromised.

The movie tends to lead the viewers to stand by the side of Carl Lee. Since it pays much more attention on the rape of Tanya and its effect on her family than on the death of two rapists and the one killed by a Molotov Cocktail. When the man in the red cape caught on fire because someone threw a Molotov cocktail at him, the attention of viewer was quickly dragged away since the scene only lasted for several seconds. (-) However, when Tanya was being raped, the way of depicting the story was in the first-person aspect, which makes the viewers feel like if they were being abused. (-) In this way, the movie naturally makes the viewer to form empathy for Tanya and her family and feel appalled by the rapists. Additionally, the movie tends to use ominous music when the bad thing happens. Therefore, the movie does not encourage the viewers to be “judicious spectators”, which is a term describing spectators that have nothing to do with the event, and will not have any bias. (Nussbaum 72) The movie delivers a bias to the viewers by paying uneven attention on the two sides.

I do not believe the justice expressed in the movie is lawful. The true just settlement for the case should be for the rapists to be properly prosecuted and sentenced lawfully without any bias, but not to be brutally killed in their handcuffs in front of their family and friends in the courthouse hallway. (TK) An unlawful revenge is no better than a crime.

 

Works Cited:

A Time to Kill. Directed by Joel Schumacher. Warner Brothers, 1996.

Hoffman, Martin L. “Empathy, Justice, and the Law.” Empathy: Philosophical and Psychological Perspectives. edited by Amy Coplan, Peter Goldie. Oxford University Press, 2011, 230-254

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

Blog Post 3

In the movie A Time To Kill, the most obvious invocation of sympathy is at the closing speech of defendant lawyer, Jake Tyler Brigance. The passionate speech raised the empathy of the jurors and the viewer of the movie toward Carl Lee, the black man who killed two rapists who raped and beat up his ten-year-old daughter, Tanya. The speech changed all the jurors’ mind from consistent condemnation of Carl to the final acquittal therefore saves Carl’s life.

In the previous trial of Carl Lee, the shrink who was supposed to prove Carl was legally insane when committed murder was found to be a rapist, thus no one believed in his testimony. The D.A. also cunningly provoked Care Lee and made him admit that he was fully aware of the consequences when he committed the murder. After several days of trial, the juror was nearly coming to a conclusion that Carl was guilty as charged. There was almost no chance of winning the case for the defendant. On the day before the final summation, Jake went to meet with Carl Lee, and they talked about how there was no chance to win. Carl Lee reminded Jake that the reason why he chose Jake as his defense lawyer is that he is one of the white men, who is exactly the same as those people in the jury, and the only way to win the case was to think as the jurors do. The secret weapon that can save them both is to find way to convince Jake himself that Carl is not guilty and use that way to persuade the jury. Thus, Jake started the summation by letting all the jurors to close their eyes. Then he depicted a scene in which a young girl was brutally beaten up, raped and left to die. The story included every detail that happened on Tanya, which affected everyone in presence. Some of the jurors even cried when heard about how little Tanya was left to die soaking in the urine and semen of two rapist, and in her own blood. Jake concluded his statement by asking the jurors to imagine that the little girl was white.

To me, this invocation is a real one. Since Jake is the father of a little girl, he can feel the pain of Carl Lee. As his wife said, Jake would have done the same thing if some thugs raped his daughter. He cried a little when he was describing the story of Tanya, which indicates the fact that he was truly touched by the story instead of pretending it in order to win the case. Additionally, Jake asked the jurors to imagine that the little girl being raped was a white girl, in which way Jake thought as all the white jurors, making them more empathetic by pretending the victim was one of their own kinds. The real invocation of empathy finally paid off, the jury realized the motive for Carl Lee to kill those two rapists, and therefore acquitted him.

 

Schumacher, Joel, Director. A Time to Kill, Warner Bros. 1996

Blog Post 2

To begin with, as a lawyer with many years of experience, I would like to accentuate that all the accusations toward Tom Robinson should not be taken into discussion. The evidence needed to accuse Tom being the perpetrator of raping and beating Miss Meyalla, including fingerprints, semen samples, cannot be provided by the prosecutor. The only evidence that can prove the crime has taken place is the testimony of two witnesses and the so-called victim herself, which have not been testified by any means. The victim claims that Tom “choked her while beating her face, which makes her right eye bruise.” Anyone with common sense would agree that such complex gesture described above requires two working hands. However, Tom’s left arm got paralyzed at a very young age. Besides, in order to cause bruise on one’s right eye, the perpetrator needs to punch with his or her left fist, which makes no sense since Tom cannot use his left arm. Similarly, Mr. Heck, one of the witnesses, states that there were finger marks all around the victim’s neck, which is also not possible to achieve with one hand. As for the testimonies of Miss Mayella, too, are doubtful. When asked to identify the criminal, Miss Mayella showed a sense of uncertainty and was not dare to look into Tom’s eyes. According to Tom, a law-binding hard-working respectable Maycomb citizen just like you and me, he was merely helping Miss Mayella with her chores without taking a nickel in return when she suddenly kissed him. I believe that Miss Mayella accuses Tom of raping her just to cover up the fact that she kissed a black man. Which makes perfect sense since in our society, it is terribly wrong for a white woman to kiss a black man.

Gentlemen, can you imagine being accused of such a major felony by the person whom you have just helped? I know most of you somehow hold some negative opinions toward black people, but today’s trial is not about which race the defendant and prosecutor are. It is about whether the crime accused actually has taken place, which has nothing to do with the race. You do not judge a man by his race, his origin or his appearance. You judge the man by what he has done. And Tom has never done the crime! I would assume most of you are not convinced by the story given by the prosecutor. However, not many of you would openly admit the truth either, because you are intimidated by the idea of helping a black person, because you are embedded with a conviction that all black men are evil and ingenious, because you are not willing to embrace the idea that all men are created equal. In the name of god, I ask all of you to respect the truth, the court and the integrity of the law. If you gentlemen still insist that Tom is guilty, you may keep holding on to that thought, as long as it makes you sleep at night.

Blog Post 1 Haozhi Du

In the article Empathy, Justice, and Law by Martin L. Hoffman, the author mainly targets in solving the problem how should empathy affect the law. His answer is that empathy is a “pro-social moral motive” which brings humanity into dispassionate reasoning and fills the absent of spirit in the law but has some “inherent biases that may limit its value in legal contexts”.(230) He proves this point by firstly analyzing his empathy theory, then giving real examples of empathy contributing to the law. He defines the type of empathy he focuses on, which is affective empathy, as the ability to feel what the other feels in his or her scenario. Then he analyses the motivating power empathy has. He states that people feel distress when seeing victims in distress, and feel better when they helped those victims to alleviate the pain.(231) Therefore proves that empathy has the power of a pro-social motive. He then explains this by giving five modes of empathetic arousal which are mimicry, conditioning, direct association, verbally mediated association and perspective talking. These five modes act collectively and automatically to make one to respond to others’ misfortune. The author then points out the development of empathy. The mid-childhood children start to have “veridical empathy”, the sense of one’s body as an individual exists independently and they become aware that others have feelings. The 7-10 years olds start to develop “empathetic distress over another’s life condition”, the empathetic feeling towards other people’s life. Then children start to form “empathy for distressed groups”, the empathy towards certain groups of people that emerges after they start forming social concepts. (235)Then the empathy of this kind may evolve into a point called “witnessing”, “the experience of shock, numbness, and ‘being changed forever’” when seeing the image of some group of people suffering.(Hoffman 236) Witnessing is the emotion that is similar to empathetic distress but “becomes so intense and penetrates so deeply into one’s motive system that it changes one’s behavior beyond the immediate situation.” (Hoffman 236)This kind of emotion empowers people to dedicate themselves to eliminate the suffering of those victims. He gives three exemplars of Susan Sontag’s exposure to Holocaust pictures, Craig Kielburger’s experience with the story of a Pakistani boy who fought against child labor, and Harriet Beecher Stowe’s empathy towards slaves and composition of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Therefore, the author proves that “in any case, empathy with victim groups and witnessing can be crucial links between empathy and law.”(237) The author then provides several examples of empathy’s contribution to law, individuals whose empathy helped change laws, and empathy in US Supreme Court decisions. Aside from the positive power empathy has in the law, the author also mentions the empathy’s limitations, which are the vulnerability in the decision making process when one is influenced by the relationship with the victim, the attention shifting of bystanders due to the overly intense distress, the “in-group bias”, and the “here-and-now bias”. Thus comes to a conclusion that “empathy becomes relevant and appropriate to law when linked to legal principles, especially pro-social legal principles “.(Hoffman 253-254)

Throughout the passage, the author uses the term “empathetic bias” many times as in the sentence “I mentioned two types of empathetic bias: in-group or familiarity bias and here-and-now or salience bias.” (251)The empathetic bias is the term author uses to describe empathy’s limitation. It happens when there are many victims and one must choose whom to help, and when one victim is absent and the other is present. People tend to make inaccurate decisions during these circumstances. This term is important because it perfectly describes the human’s vulnerable nature that needs to be overcomed in order to make legal judgment. According to the author, the jury members will encounter dilemma when both victim and perpetrator are giving traumatic stories, and the only way to settle the case is to link legal concepts to it.

 

Hoffman, Martin L. “Empathy, Justice, and the Law.” Empathy: Philosophical and Psychological Perspectives. edited by Amy Coplan, Peter Goldie. Oxford University Press, 2011, 230-254