Clinical Empathy as Emotional Labor in the Patient-Physician Relationship

Eric B. Larson, MD, MPHXin Yao, PhC

In the article about doctor-patient relationship, the author mainly discussed the mechanisms involved in empathy, “the value of learning about emotional labor and acting methods in creating an empathic treatment relationship” and the possible future development of clinical empathy. In the first part “Clinical Empathy and Its Consequences”, the author talked about the current situation of clinical empathy and stated that empathy affected the therapeutic process affectively. In the second part “Empathic Processes”, the author divided the Empathic Processes into three parts: Intrapersonal and Interpersonal Outcomes, Antecedents and Feedback Loops and Patient and Physician Outcomes and discussed them separately. He also used the theorem from “Davis and colleagues” to prove that “a physician’s communication skills and social style have a direct impact on patient satisfaction and health outcomes”. In the third part, the author introduced us about the “Emotional Labor and Acting Methods”, which is, one may use his or her empathy to make the business or the outcome of the work better, and actually it works in most cases. The author discussed that physicians sometimes also use the same method to make their patient’s outcome better. Moreover, the author argued that there are “surface empathy” and “deep empathy” and “Physicians may try to take the patient’s role while applying communication skills that have been found to be effective in soothing patients and generating positive treatment results. While engaging in both, each acting method can change the dynamics of the situation”. At last, the author stated the point that the empathy “is not an attribute limited to those who perform direct day-to-day care, such as nurses; it also includes, and in many ways more importantly, those who diagnose and treat”. The author supports that a close relationship between doctor and patient is good and we should develop this relationship deeper in the future.

From my perspective, this article could help my paper in “the definition of clinical empathy” and answering “why should we develop clinical empathy” as well as “what does clinical empathy works”.


Empathy Is a Protective Factor of Burnout in Physicians: New Neuro-Phenomenological Hypotheses Regarding Empathy and Sympathy in Care Relationship

Bérangère ThiriouxFrançois Birault, and Nematollah Jaafari

In this passage, the author mainly discussed that “empathy can protect physicians from burnout and can make them do their work better. What I am interested in is one of the author’s point: There is an obvious phenomenological distinction between empathy and sympathy. In his part “Neuro-phenomenology of empathy and sympathy”: empathy happened when doctor actually “feel with: the patient and think in patient’s way while sympathy can only illustrate that the author “knows” what his/her patient feels but could not feel the patient’s feeling, which sometimes made a doctor hard to fully understand his/her patient and cannot make the best decision for the patient or even lead to a physician’s burnout. The author discussed the distinction between sympathy and empathy in both psychological way and medical way. The author also discussed the “Neurophysiology working” of empathy and sympathy, which could be used in my article to distinct the “clinical empathy” and “clinical sympathy” and analyze which one is better and what should we develop more in the future.


What is Clinical Empathy?

Jodi Halpern, MD, PhD

The passage “What is Clinical Empathy” mainly introduced the clinical empathy by discussing the difference of “detached concern” and “empathy”, “specify ways that emotion contribute to empathy” and “whether empathy is practical in therapeutic process”. In the part discussing the difference between “detached concern” and “empathy”, the author gave an interesting point: “When doctor asks a patient about his or her condition directly, patient will usually feel “angry, uncomfortable and disrespected” though this might be the most efficient way to cure the patient”. The author also gave us two examples about how patients dislike to be asked about their conditions directly and why showing empathy to patients first might be a good choice. In the second part “specify ways that emotion contribute to empathy”, the author mainly discussed how empathy works, especially in clinical situation. The author also state that constructing an empathic relation between doctors and patients can produce “trust” and “disclosure” from patients and promote the doctor’s efficiency and preciseness. In this part, the author also provided four ways “that physicians can capitalize on their emotional responses to enhance medical care”, and this whole part will act as an important part to my essay in discussing “how” we should develop clinical empathy as well as “why” should we keep empathy in doctor-patient relationship.


Walking a fine line: is it possible to remain an empathic physician and have a hardened heart?

Bruce W. Newton

In this essay, the author mainly discussed the differentiation of clinical empathy revealed and performed in different gender and how does empathy work in male doctors and female doctors. This is a long essay and the author discussed this topic by several parts. Putting aside the gender differentiation of empathy between different genders. I am interested in the chapters: “Why is physician empathy important”, “What is empathy” and “Should physicians have a hardened empathic heart”. In the chapter “Why is physician empathy important”, the author stated the point that “empathic communication skills promote patient satisfaction, establishes trust, reduces anxiety, increases adherence to treatment regimens, improves health outcomes, as well as decreasing the likelihood of malpractice suits”, which could be used in my essay stating the reason why empathy is important in a doctor-patient relationship. In the part “What is empathy”, the author gave us one of the definition of empathy and the role that empathy usually acts in clinical situation. The author cited Eisenberg’s point as an example, which could also be used in my passage in defining empathy. For me, the most important part of this essay is the chapter “Should physicians have a hardened empathic heart”. This chapter mainly discussed that whether physicians should show their empathy towards patients while fully control themselves and make the most logical decision and not be affected by their emotion of empathy. The answer in the passage is “Yes” and the author suggest that doctors should “pretend” to be empathic, this will be a point that I disagree with but the point “physician should not be controlled by their empathy” is what I agree I and I will also mention the point in my paper.


A systematic review of the associations between empathy measures and patient outcomes in cancer care

Sophie Lelorain, Anne Brédart, Sylvie Dolbeault, Serge Sultan

This is a research report of “whether empathy affects the clinical progress? If yes, is it positive or negative”? In the report, the author’s group used multiple databases as well as contrast method to do the experiment. They chose lots of students and patients to do this experiment and the result was mainly based on the patients’ satisfaction and the result of the therapeutic outcome. The result is clear and obvious: Although “future research should apply different empathy assessment approaches simultaneously, including a perspective-taking task on patients’ expectations and needs at precise moments”, “clinicians’ empathy has beneficial effects according to patient perceptions”. Moreover, the writer, through the result of the experiment, suggested that “This review suggests that clinician’s empathy is associated with higher patient satisfaction, better psychosocial adjustment, lesser psychological distress and need for information, particularly in studies with patient-reported measures and retrospective designs”, which can be refined as “Empathy is very important in clinical situation because it is directly related to the patient’s satisfaction, the effect, and the outcome of the therapeutic process. I would like to use the result and part of the process of this experiment in my paper when discussing “why should we develop clinical empathy” and mention “how empathy will help us”.


How to Optimize Physicians’ Communication Skills in Cancer Care: Results of a Randomized Study Assessing the Usefulness of Posttraining Consolidation Workshops

Darius Razavi, Isabelle Merckaert, Serge Marchal, Yves Libert, Sandrine Conradt, Jacques Boniver, Anne-Marie Etienne, Ovide Fontaine, Pascal Janne, Jean Klastersky, Christine Reynaert, Pierre Scalliet, Jean-Louis Slachmuylder, Nicole Delvaux

This is another research report. It mainly answered a question: “How should we train medical students’ empathy”. The authors chose some random physicians and asked them to attend a program that would train their empathy as well as the ability to communicate with people. After five-month training, sixty-three physicians completed the program and their “Communication skills improved significantly more in the consolidation-workshop group compared with the waiting-list group” and “Patients interacting with physicians who benefited from consolidation workshops reported higher scores concerning their physicians’ understanding of their disease”. The research showed us a successful way to train physicians’ empathy and I might use them in my chapter of “The future development of clinical empathy”.


Why Doctors Should Be More Empathetic–But Not Too Much More (unscholarly)

Omar Sultan Haque, Adam Waytz

This is an article from SSA, and it mainly answered two questions: Does physicians nowadays lack of empathy on the patients? If so, do they hold-up their empathy while it appears or they do not come up with any empathy for them in the first place? The answer of the article is clear: physicians do lack of empathy nowadays and they actually do not feel empathetic for the patients in the first place. The author provided two experiments by Jean Decety and colleagues of the University of Chicago to prove his point. The author summarized the as this: “Whether during a surgery, biopsy, physical exam, or even a simple blood draw, healthcare professionals routinely must inflict pain on others to make them better in the long run”, so physicians might feel tired of empathy with people and thus their empathy were wore down day-by-day. Apart from these two questions, the author also stated that “when empathy is detrimental, it should not be the goal of physicians, then, to be more empathetic. They should aim instead to find the right balance, the golden mean that optimizes care”. I would like use this passage’s main idea: “whether physicians are lack of empathy now and what the reason it happens” to my discussion of “the relationship of doctors and patients”.


Should We Train Doctors for Empathy? (unscholarly)

Jill Suttie

The passage “Should we train doctor for empathy” mainly discussed three popular topic: Why do doctors need empathy, How to build empathy in medicine and how training empathy could solve some burnout and stress of physicians. The author started her essay by giving an example of herself: she prefer doctors who can show empathy for her and she changed her doctor because his lack of empathy. In the chapter “why do doctors need empathy”, the author used the viewpoints and the researches from Darrell Kirch, president and CEO of the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC). Darrell Kirch suggested that “Every patient wants their doctor to be academically prepared—to know the medicine that they need to know” and it is obvious that doctors need empathy because empathy is “a tool that can help us see how students might interact with real people in real situations”. In the chapter “how to build empathy in medicine”, the author suggested that the time that students started to feel less empathic with patients is at their third-year time especially “when they start to see patients—suggesting that the erosion of empathy may be more about what’s happening during training rather than the capabilities students possess upon admission”. The author also suggested that one of the reason doctors don’t apply empathy is that, “doctors who don’t feel concern for their patients, he argues, are at an increased, not decreased, risk of job dissatisfaction and burnout” and “when he try to detach themselves emotionally from their patients, the quality of their work suffers”. According to the author, the way to construct empathy in clinic is that, every doctor should face their emotion and should not afraid of it. One of the person that the author mentioned, Decety, believes that “doctors must learn to accept their own empathic feelings toward patients, yet not confuse their feelings with those of their patients, so that they can respond in the best way possible”. I would like to use these two parts in my paper because they both revealed the relationship between doctors and patients at present, which is the case that doctors sometimes lack of empathy towards patients, and the solution for this problem mentioned in the passage may also be helpful for me.


Work Cited

Larson, Eric B., and Xin Yao. “Clinical Empathy as Emotional Labor in the Patient-Physician Relationship.” JAMA, vol. 293, no. 9, 2005., pp. 1100-1106doi:10.1001/jama.293.9.1100.

Thirioux, B., F. Birault, and N. Jaafari. “Empathy is a Protective Factor of Burnout in Physicians: New Neuro-Phenomenological Hypotheses regarding Empathy and Sympathy in Care Relationship.” FRONTIERS IN PSYCHOLOGY, vol. 7, 2016., pp. 763doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2016.00763.

Halpern, Jodi. “What is Clinical Empathy?” Journal of General Internal Medicine, vol. 18, no. 8, 2003., pp. 670-674doi:10.1046/j.1525-1497.2003.21017.x.

Newton, BW. “Walking a Fine Line: Is it Possible to Remain an Empathic Physician and have a Hardened Heart?” FRONTIERS IN HUMAN NEUROSCIENCE, vol. 7, 2013., pp. 233doi:10.3389/fnhum.2013.00233.

Lelorain, Sophie, et al. “A Systematic Review of the Associations between Empathy Measures and Patient Outcomes in Cancer Care.” Psycho‐Oncology, vol. 21, no. 12, 2012., pp. 1255-1264doi:10.1002/pon.2115.

Razavi, Darius, et al. “How to Optimize Physicians’ Communication Skills in Cancer Care: Results of a Randomized Study Assessing the Usefulness of Posttraining Consolidation Workshops.” Journal of Clinical Oncology, vol. 21, no. 16, 2003., pp. 3141-3149doi:10.1200/JCO.2003.08.031.

Why Doctors Should Be More Empathetic–But Not Too Much More

Should We Train Doctors for Empathy?

Research Proposal

My topic will be related to the empathy in the relationship between doctors and patient. People, especially people in the medical field, have spent years discussing whether doctors ought to be empathetic with patients and if they should, to what extent they should show their empathy to patients so that empathy will make the therapeutic process more successful? In my passage, I would like to discuss these questions: Do doctors need to show empathetic to their patients? Do doctor nowadays lack of this kind of empathy? How does empathy help doctors and patients in the therapeutic process? I will do some researches on these questions and make my answers in the paper.

Work Cited

  • Lelorain, Sophie, et al. “A Systematic Review of the Associations between Empathy Measures and Patient Outcomes in Cancer Care.” Psycho‐Oncology, vol. 21, no. 12, 2012., pp. 1255-1264doi:10.1002/pon.2115.
  • DOI: 10.1200/JCO.2003.08.031 “How to Optimize Physicians’ Communication Skills in Cancer Care: Results of a Randomized Study Assessing the Usefulness of Posttraining Consolidation Workshops” Journal of Clinical Oncology 21, no. 16 (August 2003) 3141-3149.
  • Karbelnig, Alan M. “The Sanctuary of Empathy and the Invitation of Engagement: Psychic Retreat, Kafka’s “A Hunger Artist,” and the Psychoanalytic Process.” Psychoanalytic review, vol. 101, no. 6, 2014., pp. 895-924doi:10.1521/prev.2014.101.6.895.
  • DOI: 10.1200/JCO.2003.03.070 “Taking time”’Journal of Clinical Oncology 21, no. 17 (September 2003) 3366-3367.
  • Komisar, Jonathan, and Daniel C. McFarland. “Is Empathy Associated with a Self-Ascribed Sense of Meaning among Resident Physicians Working with Patients Nearing the End of Life on a Hematology-Oncology Ward?: Is Empathy Associated with a Self-Ascribed Sense of Meaning.” Psycho-Oncology, 2016.doi:10.1002/pon.4282.
  • Thirioux, B., F. Birault, and N. Jaafari. “Empathy is a Protective Factor of Burnout in Physicians: New Neuro-Phenomenological Hypotheses regarding Empathy and Sympathy in Care Relationship.” FRONTIERS IN PSYCHOLOGY, vol. 7, 2016., pp. 763doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2016.00763.
  • Newton, BW. “Walking a Fine Line: Is it Possible to Remain an Empathic Physician and have a Hardened Heart?” FRONTIERS IN HUMAN NEUROSCIENCE, vol. 7, 2013., pp. 233doi:10.3389/fnhum.2013.00233.

Are We Defining and Using Empathy Rightly?

The word “empathy” is never unfamiliar to us. If we pay attention to our daily life, we can easily find that empathy exists in every corner of our world: at news, on the internet and in our lives. However, do we really understand and are we truly making good use of empathy? Some people claim that empathy only leads to superficial helping to people while others think that empathy should be deeper than it seems to be. From my perspective, we might have considered empathy too superficially and sometimes cognize it wrong. According to an article “The Difference Between Deep Empathy and Niceness” written by Karla Mclaren, she pointed out that people thought empathy as a simple emotion: “When people think of empathy, they tend to see it as a soft skill — as a yielding and pleasing kind of behavior. Empathy equals niceness”. She also suggested the point that empathy is far deeper then we consider it is: “Deeper form of empathy that transcends mere niceness and helps us engage with people across lines of discord, difficulty, pain, and trouble, and this deep form of empathy doesn’t look like niceness, because it works in a different way than niceness does”. Moreover, in Elisa Altola’s article “Varieties of Empathy and Moral Agency”, she defines empathy by this: “Empathy is defined in a variety of ways, and it is also often presented as a ‘‘plural capacity’’—i.e. it is thought to involve a host of different capacities, all merged under the umbrella term ‘‘empathy’’, whose idea may be very different from the normal people’s. In my following essays, I will discuss three different topics directly related to the question “Are we defining and using empathy rightly?”. I will discuss the definition of empathy in Adam Morton’s essay “Empathy for the Devil”, the scarcity of empathy on the internet and the misunderstanding of the empathy of Atticus, who is the protagonist from Harper Lee’s both novels. They are all worth discussing because empathy acted major roles in all of these three instances.



The complexity of empathy

Each of us may have our own understanding of empathy, but we sometimes use our own “definition” of empathy to either “comprehend” others’ situation or analyze their experience. In this case, although we think that we’ve fully understand others, we may fail to do so, and our fake empathy is called “pseudo-empathy”. My first article “Disagreeing with Morton” would give readers a preparatory understanding of what is empathy and how does empathy works. In the essay “Empathy for the Devil” written by Adam Morton, he raised the question of why we do feel empathy atrocious actions and how do we feel empathy. Morton gave us a good reason of why we sometimes feel empathize with perpetrators He also introduced us the term “barrier” as well as “why versus how” effect. Nevertheless, he failed to define empathy correctly. According to Morton, empathy is “a feeling invoked when a person fully understands another’s action and reason to do it” while empathy is unstable and may be different in variable situation. I used the example of Cuff, B. M. P, who believes that empathy could be invoked by various disparate ways and has different forms. In their article, Cuff, B. M. P, said: “The emotions of the target and observer are similar but not identical”. In Morton’s article, he made a mistake. He thought that empathy was a simple emotion so that he defined the term “empathy” simply. His poor definition of empathy made his passage unpersuasive and lead to his failure in convincing readers. The failure of Morton not only revealed the many people’s mistakes in understanding the term “empathy”, but also indicated that we sometimes underestimated empathy’s variety and its deepness, which may lead to misconstrue in other’s situation. We should ever keep the variety of empathy in mind and be aware when we want to express our empathy.



Cyber bullying can actually impact a person directly

After knowing the “true form” of empathy, did we use empathy in the right place and do we always have empathy among others? I think Martin L. Hoffman has already given us the answer: “No”. In Martin L. Hoffman’s article “Empathy, Justice and the Law”, he directed pointed out that we “empathize more with kin, friends, and our own ethnic group rather than strangers”. My second passage “Empathy in the Digital Age” tried to figure out if we sometimes lack empathy on the internet. From the book “God that was Awesome” written by Jon Ronson we noticed the misery experience of Justine Sacco, a real-life person, suddenly became notorious among the world after posting some “joke” messages on her twitter. Moreover, I found another real-life example in China, Zichen Liu. Liu’s personal live was revealed by others on the internet because he posted his photoshoped image and scold other people on Weibo, which is a “Chinese form” of twitter. Liu had almost the same experience with Justine Sacco: They were both bombarded by the angry people on the internet because they posted some inappropriate comments on the internet —— either photo or text. The result of both people are miserable: Justine Sacco was fired by her office and might never get a chance to work since she was literally infamous around the world and Liu’s personal life was totally revealed on the internet and he would life became unsafe and terrible —— he can’t even stay at home because angry and insane people could intrude into his house since everyone knows where he lives. As my point of view, people sometimes become cold-blooded on the internet and we do lack empathy on the internet. I used an article posted on CNN “Is the internet killing empathy”. In the article, the writers, Gary Small and Gigi Vorgan, gave us a “yes” answer and they provided their reasons to that answer, as well as an example of poor TV-news reporter felt sick during her job but laughed by people on the internet. “Empathy in the Digital Age” reveals how and why we failed to have empathy and sometimes ignore the existence of it on the internet.



Sometimes we misunderstand other’s inner thought

As an old Chinese saying goes: “One may easily know other’s face, but he will never know other’s heart”. With some misunderstanding of empathy, we misunderstand other’s emotion and sometimes over-reading their action. The misconception of empathy not only exists in the real world, but also in the fiction. The article “Had Atticus Changed Between “Watchman” and “Mockingbird””, talked over Atticus’s “unbelievable” change between the two novels and gave out the answer: Atticus had never changed. In order to prove my point, I analyzed each book (“Go Set a Watchman” and “To Kill a Mockingbird”) and found that some of Atticus’ conducts in “Mockingbird” may suggest that he had never seen black people equally and was actually a raciest in the beginning. The reason he chose to defend Tom Robinson on the court is that he believed in justice, not because of his faith of equality. I would like to say that, most of us before reading the book “Go Set a Watchman”, would consider Atticus as a hero as well as a person full of empathy with blacks while Catherine Nichols’ essay “Atticus Was Always a Racist: Why Go Set a Watchman Is No Surprise” suggested that “In many ways, Atticus’s subtle racism in Mockingbird is the story’s brilliance. Go Set a Watchman, in comparison, is unsubtle—but its passion and roughness are its charm. Where Mockingbird is polite, Watchman is rude”. In the end, we might have misunderstood Atticus in the first place because our poor knowledge of empathy and over-reading of Atticus’ motivation: we thought that he was a hero, an anti-racist and a person who always believe in equality. However, “The truth is that he never meant to” (Nichols).


Admittedly, everyone has his or her own way to comprehend and express the empathy, but each person’s empathy may not be the same. Sometimes we misunderstand others’ feeling and perform “pseudo-empathy” because the difference of empathy among eh people. To make good uses of empathy we should fully understand it and try our best to avoid the possible misinterpretation of empathy.


Work Cited


Aaltola, Elisa. “Varieties of Empathy and Moral Agency.” Topoi, vol. 33, no. 1, 2014., pp. 243-253doi:10.1007/s11245-013-9205-8.

Catherine, Nichols. Atticus Was Always a Racist: Why Go Set a Watchman Is No Surprise, Jezebel. Link:

Karla McLaren, M.Ed. The difference between deep empathy and niceness.


Martin L. Hoffman. “Empathy, Justice and Law”. Empathy: Philosophical and Psychological Perspectives. Oxford University Press. 2014. 213-254

Cuff, B.M.H, “Empathy: A review of concept” Department of Psychology and Behavioural Sciences, Coventry University, UK, December 1, 2014, 145-153.

Had Atticus Changed Between “Watchman” and “Mockingbird”?

As for the second and the last novel of Harper Lee, “Go Set a Watchman” was released on July 14th, 2016 and immediately became best-selling novel in America. Though “Go Set a Watchman” was widely considered as the continuation of “To Kill a Mockingbird”, which is one of the most popular novel in America and was once considered as “The novel that can best represent the United States”, it is obvious to most readers that the Atticus Finch in Go Set a Watchman was greatly different from the man in “To Kill a Mockingbird”. In To Kill a Mockingbird, readers regarded Atticus as the hero because he fought all hindrance to defend Tom Robinson, who was slandered that he had raped a white woman. However, Atticus, in “Go Set a Watchman”, became a totally racist who could say “Have you ever considered that you can’t have a set of backward people (Negros) living among people advance (White people) in one kind of civilization and have a social Arcadia” (Harper, Watchman 242). Many readers considered the change of Atticus in Go Set a Watchman is “abrupt”, “impossible” and “unacceptable”. However, I think that Atticus may had never changed, it was us that thought Atticus wrong in the first place.

It is not hard for us to find that Atticus, throughout both stories, was a competent attorney and regarded the law as the highest authority on earth. As a lawyer, Atticus considered everything logically, when talking about living with blacks, though Atticus know that the integration process of America cannot be avoid, still he thought blacks would violate his interests, so he interrogated Jean Louise: “Have you ever considered that you can’t have a set of backward people living among people advanced in one kind of civilization and have a social Arcaida?” Nonetheless, if we go back to “To Kill a Mockingbird”, we could easily find that Atticus’s attitude to Africa-Americans had never changed, in “Mockingbird”, Finch described black people as “Mockingbird”, which indicated that blacks are innocent but also ignorant. Also, his believed that only white people could save these “Negros” and even in “Mockingbird”, we could find that he did not treated Calpurnia, who was a black housemaid in Finch’s family, equally and usually talk with Calpurnia in a jussive tone. Moreover, in Atticus’s defending statement of Tom Robinson, the way he constructed his sentence also showed that what he believed was not equality, but the objective justice: “We know all men are not created equal in the sense some people would have us believe—some people are smarter than others, some people have more opportunity because they’re born with it, some men make more money than others, some ladies make better cake than others—some people are born gifted beyond the normal scope of men” (Lee, Mockingbird 276) and “there is one human institution that makes a pauper the equal of a Rockefeller, the stupid man equal of an Einstein, and an ignorant man equal of any college president. That institution, gentlemen, is a court. It can be the Supreme Court of the United States or the humblest J.P. court in the land, or this honorable court which you serve” (Lee, Mockingbird 277). No one could contradict that Atticus was not a good attorney. However, he may not be considered as a totally non-raciest in both novel. Catherine Nichols, in her essay “Atticus Was Always a Racist: Why Go Set a Watchman Is No Surprise” posted on Jezebel also mentioned: “In many ways, Atticus’s subtle racism in Mockingbird is the story’s brilliance. Go Set a Watchman, in comparison, is unsubtle—but its passion and roughness are its charm. Where Mockingbird is polite, Watchman is rude. And Maycomb deserves some rudeness” (Nichols), which also states that Atticus may had been a racist in “Mockingbird”, and what he did was just showed his true color in “Go Set a Watchman”.

In conclusion, Atticus Finch’s “change” in “Go Set a Watchman” should never be a surprise for us readers because we could easily find some Atticus’ racial discourse and actions in “To Kill a Mocking Bird”. Because we, as well as Jean Louise” chose to ignore Atticus’ racist nature, we considered Atticus as a hero, a brave individual who tried to fight against inequality. Nonetheless, as Nichols says in her passage, “The truth is that he never meant to” (Nichols).


Work Cited

Lee, Harper. Go Set a Watchman, Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, New York, NY, 2015.

Lee, Harper. To Kill a Mockingbird. New York: Warner, Print 1982.

Catherine, Nichols. Atticus Was Always a Racist: Why Go Set a Watchman Is No Surprise, Jezebel. Link:

Empathy in the Digital Age

In the essay “God that was Awesome” the author described a pitiful woman, whose name was Justine Sacco. Justine Sacco’s life was totally destroyed by the social media because of her inappropriate joke on other races posted tweeter and “successfully” aroused the anger of the populace As a result, she was not only fired by her company but also became infamous among the public, which made she almost impossible to find any job in the future. Surely, in this digital age, anything posted on the internet has potential to be either good, or bad. Such things do not only happen in America, but in any place in the world. There is an example of a Chinese “Internet celebrity”, Zichen Liu, who continuously posted his own obviously-Photoshoped picture on Weibo, whose function is mainly the same as Facebook, but mainly used in China. At the same time, he claimed that he was half Chinese and half French and he had neither do face-lifting nor photoshoping.

999073dd0dc180ebc23d6f66c51db0ec_r (Zichen Liu’s picture in his Weibo)

0f2a2844128d73764156d717e6f0bfa6_r(Zichen Liu’s “true appearance”, the guy in black on the left)

As he continued posting erratic pictures of his own and quarreling with the people who don’t like him by saying that they were just jealous of his beauty, the public were enraged. A user from “Zhihu”, a Chinese form of Quora, criticize Liu like this: “His method to increase his public awareness is, mainly, sending photoshoped photo of himself to make others sick or angry and scolding some well-known figures and the people who disapprove his idea. He treats people as idiot and should certainly pay for his action someday”.

Finally, the day had come: Angry people started to search Liu on the internet and found that he actually did cosmetic surgery several times. Some people even took some personal photographs by trailing after Liu into his housing estate. Not surprisingly, these personal photos were posted on the internet. Under the public pressure, Liu chose to apologize to the public for his lying and taunting to the public. However, the public did not accept his apology, angry people keep trailing after Liu and even took the video of he and his girlfriend sleeping together without cloth. Apparently, Liu could not accept his personal life been fully exposed under public’s sight. He posted a video of himself apologizing to everyone and cried with tear, wanted to earn the forgiveness from the public and promising not to appear in the Weibo anymore.

While people finally stopped their “revenge” of Liu’s taunt and lie, some people pointed out that that we treated Liu too bad and he actually did not deserve his own life been exposed to the public. From an analytic point of view, Liu did nothing harm to the society and wrangling with people is actually a normal thing on the internet. Now, we might need to think that whether we are really lack of empathy in online social media platform because no one stood out and spoke for Liu, when all of such things happened, what people do were either observing Liu being shamed by others or attack Liu by themselves. I think the answer to this question would be “Yes” and more horribly, the Internet is killing our empathy to others. In the CNN article “Is the internet killing empathy”, Gary Small and Gigi Vorgan helped us explain the reason of this of situation: Lack of empathy on the Internet. In the passage, the authors gave us the explanation from a medical way: “According to the most recent findings from the Kaiser Family Foundation, 8- to 18-year-olds on average spend 11½ hours a day using their technology. Their brains have become “wired” to use their tech gadgets effectively in order to multi-task — staying connected with friends, texting and searching online endlessly, often exposing their brains to shocking and sensational images and videos. Many people are desensitizing their neural circuits to the horrors they see, while not getting much, if any, off-line training in empathic skills. And the effects may even reach young people.”

Moreover, in Martin L. Hoffman’s passage “Empathy, Justice and Law”, Hoffman mentioned that lack of empathy may be the result of the natural limitations of empathy. In the article, the limitations of empathy means that empathizing with people around us and empathize more to physically present people than potentially unseen people.” (Hoffman 250) In all of these three cases (Justine Sacco, Liu and news reporter), almost no one in the public had ever seen, or knew them before, thus they would certainly be hard to gain empathy from the public.

The conclusion is clear: When we are surfing the internet, it is not hard to find out that we are usually pitiless among the things happened on the social media and this circumstance could be explained by both emotional ways and medical ways, but this doesn’t mean that we should not feel empathy to others on the internet. Instead, we should keep an empathic heart at every time or our empathy would be destroyed easily by the social media.


Work Cited

Martin L. Hoffman. “Empathy, Justice and Law”. Empathy: Philosophical and Psychological Perspectives. Oxford University Press. 2014. 213-254

Ronson, Jon. Part Four, God That Was Awesome, So You’ve been Publicly Shamed, Riverhead Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA), New York, 2015

Gary Small, Gigi Vorgan. “Is the internet killing empathy?”

Zichen Liu’s introduction:

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Disagreeing with Morton

In the article “Empathy for the Devil” by Adam Morton, the writer raises the question of why we do feel empathy toward ordinary actions are blind towards atrocious actions. According to the author, people usually constructor a “barrier” when empathizing other’s atrocious acts, and that because of people being too sensitive so that it makes it “harder to identify imaginatively with important parts of human possibility” (Morton 318). Morton also states that one should identify accurate empathetic emotion among all the empathetic feelings while be aware of “puzzlement about how in many very ordinary cases someone we know well could do what they did” (Morton 330). First of all, Adam Morton underlines his definition of the empathy and displays series of examples that help him to argue his point. He claims that empathy is sharing effective tone and perspective. In the main part of his essay, Adam Morton focuses on “why and how” problem which means that, most of the times, even though one has empathetic feeling toward the perpetuator and know HOW the perpetuator managed to do it, one still won’t fully understand WHY the person did that particular act and their inner motivation, and thus his empathy becomes a pseudo-empathy. According to Adam Morton, pseudo-empathy is empathetic feeling that is not accompanied by the understanding. For author, to understand the reason behind going in one direction rather than in other, “we have to overcome some barrier or inhabitation” (Morton 320). He uses examples of A-assault, X-taxi, Smoking, Propositioning and Dog poop to argue his point. These paradigms illustrate the various barriers that might be the answer to the main question of the article. The author’s perspective on the problem is that people usually feel pseudo-empathy towards ones who did atrocious acts, which limits their empathy. Overall, the author states that in order to find the accurate empathetic emotion towards ones who did atrocious actions, we need to rely on our understanding of their motives and perspective and rely on the real empathy, rather than pseudo-empathy.


Morton did absolutely a good job in both using an unusual way to explain the empathy and providing the examples for his viewpoint. I have to say that most of his examples, except the example of dog poop, are effective and precise. However, Morton tried to define empathy in his own way seems to be unpersuasive and may even be a failure. From Morton’s point of view, empathy is invoked when a person fully understands another’s action and his or her reason to act like that, but this may not be the definition of empathy. As far as I am concerned, empathy is variable in different environment and may be invoked by different cases in different situation. According to Cuff, B. M. P., in the article “Empathy: A Review of the Concept”, they defined empathy like this: “Empathy includes both cognitive and affective elements; the emotions of the target and observer are similar but not identical; other stimuli, such as imagination, can evoke empathy; a self/other distinction is maintained in empathy, although a degree of merging is necessary; empathy is affected by both trait and state influences; behavioral outcomes are not part of empathy itself; and finally, empathy is automatically elicited but is also subject to top-down controlled processes” (Cuff 150). It is not hard to find out that this definition of empathy is totally different from Morton’s, what Cuff suggests is that empathy is a complicated emotion and has more than one form. I think that Morton’s definition of empathy may be too subjectively and too shallow whereas Cuff considers that empathy is actually hard to define and we should consider empathy in several situations, and apparently the latter opinion is more persuasive.


Admittedly, Morton’s article’s structure doesn’t allow him to define empathy by cases, but it will never be a bad idea to mention that empathy is complex, unstable and we should define empathy by cases. Morton’s definition of empathy is, apparently, differ from what it should be and might mislead the people who study empathy in the first time.


Work Cited:

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

Cuff, B.M.H, “Empathy: A review of concept” Department of Psychology and Behavioural Sciences, Coventry University, UK, December 1, 2014, 145-153.


Does empathy promote justice in A Time to Kill?

The final decision which jury determined for the case of an African-American, Carl Lee, murdering two white people who had raped his little girl, made a fabulous ending for the movie A Time to Kill. Nevertheless, before the final judgement, not a person in the jury considered Carl Lee as innocent although he shot the two whites for a comprehensible reason. However, on the day of final judgment, they were moved by Lawyer Brigance’s empathy-invoking story and turned to believe that Carl Lee was innocent. (TK) The ending of this film was certainly happy, but does empathy truly promote justice in this film? As .far as I am concerned, the answer should be “No”, to justify my question, I will divide my essay into three chapter: The definition of empathy and justice, the way that empathy worked in the movie A Time to Kill, especially in the final statement provided by lawyer Brigance, and whether empathy, in this case, promoted justice.


What is empathy and what is justice?

In order to know the reason why empathy failed to promote justice in the film, firstly, one may want to understand clearly what empathy truly is. According to Hoffman, in his essay Empathy, Justice and Law, he considered empathy as “An emotional state triggered by another’s emotional state or situation, in which one feels what the other feels or may normally be expected to feel in his or her situation” (231). Another way to explain empathy is that, which Hoffman also mentioned, empathy is a result of “Feeling injustice” and “Upholding Justice”. Then, Empathic-distress, which is invoked by the feeling of empathy, usually acts as either a changer or an intensive in one’s decision-making. (231) Knowing these features of empathy, it is not hard for one to infer that empathy is a double-edged sword: Admittedly, empathy can simulate one’s desire to help the unfortunates, who rarely receive fair treatments. At the same time, empathy may influence his or her subjectively and lead one to make inappropriate, even wrong decisions.

Then, what is justice? “” says that justice is a board notion that is based on a concept of moral rightness that incorporates varying perspectives on fairness, ethics, rationality, religion and law. From my perspective, justice is the guarantee that everyone will be treated equally and will get what they truly deserve. Moreover, in the courtroom, the law, which is created by millions of the most knowledgeable people in the world, should be the only criteria of the justice. In the movie, “justice” seems to be unclear because of the character relation and the complicated plot. Nevertheless, one should always make justice depends on the law, which the jury failed to do so. Then, how does empathy influence the jury in the film?

How did empathy influence the jury in A Time to Kill?

Generally, jury members are trained, as well as asked, to be “Judicial spectators”, that is, judge cases objectively and impersonally from a spectator’s view instead of a participant’s in order to make the fairest decision, which apparently the movie was opposed to. As we all know, jury members are also human-being, so it is impossible for a person to be totally objective and emotion-resistance. In the movie, the jury, not surprisingly, were influenced by emotion invoked by Jake’s miserable story. In the closing argument of Jake, he encouraged jury to use their heart and emotion, instead of logic and prejudice, to judge things: “What is it in us that seeks the truth? Is it our minds or is it our hearts?”, “until that day that we can see each other as equals, we have a duty under God to seek the truth, not with our eyes and not with our minds where fear and hate turn commonality into prejudice, but with our hearts — where we don’t know better.” (TK) 

Then he tried to invoke jury’s empathy towards Carl Lee and his little daughter. He used a story of a little girl being raped and beaten by two white people while she was going home from the market: “They drag her into a nearby field and they tie her up and they rip her clothes from her body. Now they climb on. First one, then the other, raping her, and when they’re done, after they’ve killed her tiny womb, murdered any chance for her to have children, to have life beyond her own, they decide to use her for target practice. They start throwing full beer cans at her. They throw them so hard that it tears the flesh all the way to her bones.” (TK) Brigance’s story was so vivid and so intense that most of the jury and the audience, either cried with tears or be filled with anger. No matter how completely Jake was defeated by his opponent before, after hearing Brigance’s empathy-calling speech, the jury changed their idea instantly because they were moved by his story and comprehend the reason why Carl Lee killed the two white men when they consider themselves as the daughter’s parents, teachers or friends. I personally think that the ending of Jake’s final statement “Now imagine she’s white” (TK) is not merely a call for equality, since jury had already moved by his story under the situation that they know the girl in Jake’s story is Tonya, is black. The final sentence would make them feel uncomfortable and started to fear: How if the little girl is my daughter, my cousin, or my best friend? Will I do the same thing as Carl Lee did? If I do, do I want be considered guilty? Then, is Carl Lee doing the right thing? Under the empathy as well as pressure they gave to themselves, jury members finally came to the determination that Carl Lee is innocent and set Carl Lee to his family right after the trail.


Was justice promoted by empathy in A Time to Kill?

In the movie, Jake successfully convinced the jury and won the freedom for Carl Lee. Nevertheless, does justice truly got prevailed?

Some people might say that the justice had prevailed since Carl Lee was set free. Admittedly, we should never put Carl Lee into the poison house since the people he killed were also guilty and what he did was merely a protection of her daughter. However, from a logical perspective, should we set him, a murderer, free? From my perspective, whatever reason Carl Lee gave us could not deny the truth that he killed two people; no matter they are white or black. According to Hoffman, “Empathy could lead to unavoidable bias, and empathy bias must be kept in mind and given consideration in any legal context that might involve empathy” (254), and in the movie, the jury obviously failed to put much attention in any bias that empathy might invoke and was moved by the miserable story. (TK) As a result, empathy controlled most of the people in the courtroom and all of them started to think of this case by their emotion instead of their brain, which made them to come up with a decision that betrayed the law. The law is the basic but the most important role in deciding whether a person is guilty or not because it was created for the society’s stability and order by millions of wise men from different centuries, and that is also why we use law but not empathy on the court. Nonetheless, in the case of Carl Lee, the jury’s decision did not obey the law, the law that millions of people had worked together, systematically, for several centuries and finally enacted today. Some would say that the law also has some shortcomings because it is still being revised today and will always being revised. Moreover, the law would have nothing changed after Carl Lee’s judgement, which is the best proof that the jury’s decision was neither legal nor logical. Some might say that Carl Lee’s case is special so that we should treat him specially, but can we allow specialty in the courtroom? I think the answer is no since every person should be treated equally in the courtroom. According to Dustin Hannum, an in-school professor, “If Carl Lee could be set free by killing the people who raped his little girl, could the two whites’ mothers be considered as innocent if they kill Carl Lee, and could Carl Lee’s wife be away from the jail if she kills them?” I think the answer for these series of question is also “No”. What truly decide whether a person is guilty would never be empathy or heart, instead, it should be the fusion of several century’s people wisdom and knowledge, and its name is the law.

Empathy, in the whole movie, acted as a propeller of the scenario and gave a reliable reason to the ending of the film. Nevertheless, when it comes to the question that whether empathy promoted justice in A Time to Kill, the answer should be clear: Empathy did not promote justice in Carl Lee’s case. Instead, it mislead the jury members. Under the effect of empathy as well as empathy bias, jury forgot their identity of “judicial spectator” and made an inappropriate decision that did not follow the law. Although in the film it seems that everyone was happy in the end, no one could guarantee that Carl Lee, a good father but also a fearless murderer, would never do any other thing that may harm the people around him in the future. We should never be the jury in the film. What we should do is, as Hoffman says, “Keep empathic bias in mind and given consideration in any legal context that might involve empathy” (254).


Work Cited

Martin L. Hoffman. “Empathy, Justice and Law”. Empathy: Philosophical and Psychological Perspectives. Oxford University Press. 2014. 213-254

A Time to Kill (Motion Picture: 1996), Directed by Joel Schumacher, 1996.

Dustin Hannum, “Feeling Good-Empathy and Ethics in-class discussion” University of Rochester, September 2016.

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

Sympathy Invocation in “A Time to Kill”

From my perspective, one of the most important invocations in the film A Time to Kill happens in the meeting between Carl Lee and Jake the day before the final judgement. Some people might think that this plot is much less important than the later one where Jake uses a story of a young little girl to move the jury and successfully turns the case and set Carl Lee back to his family. However, I consider the meeting as the most crucial part of the whole story and should be the turning point of the whole story. In the meeting in jail, Carl Lee attempted, and successfully invoked the sympathetic emotion of lawyer Brigance, which made lawyer Brigance to change his way of thinking of this case and finally reversed the jury’s decision.

Mr. Brigance, did not realize his doing was actually wrong and would never be effective toward the jury until Carl Lee Hailey mentioned him: “America is in war, and you’re on the other side.”(TK) What Carl Lee wanted to express with this sentence is that, what Jake did on the court were all wrong. From the previous plot, it’s easily to find that Jake spent most of his time mentioning that Carl Lee killed two rapist instead of two innocent, taking the doctor to the court and tried to prove that Carl Lee is psychotic, trying to convince the jury in perspective on law.(TK) Fortunately, Carl Lee knew that blacks could never been treated equally by white people at that time, so he wanted to invoke Jake’s sympathy and to make him realize that he was not, and would never be, a part of Carl Lee’s community. During the whole meeting, Carl tried to draw a line with Jake and made him realize that they are different people. After Carl told him: “If you were on the jury, what would it take to convince you to set me free?”(TK) Jake finally realized that what could actually convince that jury would never be the power of law and evidence but the power of sympathy and pity. If he was one of the jury, the only way to make he think that Carl is unguilty is to make him to feel pity of Carl. The brief sentences Carl said to Mr. Brigance accurately point out Jake’s mistake and not only invoked his sympathy towards Carl Lee, but also changed his direction to invoke jury’s sympathy.

During the trail, Jake’s empathy towards Carl Lee Hailey was completely showed to the jury from the story told by Jake. In the miserable story, he described the story of a little girl being reaped and beat on her way to home. The detail of the story was so vivid and intense that everybody in the jury could imagine the unfortunate and desperate that the little girl suffered. After Jake finished his statement, many of the jury, as well as the general population in the courtroom, either cried with tear or filled with anger.(TK) Jake successfully spread his sympathy to the public, but this is because Carl invoked Jake’s sympathy inside him.

Although it took almost the whole film for Jake to understand that his weapon should be sympathy instead of law, lawyer Brigance successfully used sympathy to defeat his opponent and convinced the jury to set Carl Lee free. Nevertheless, no one should forget it was Carl Lee who invoked Jake’s empathy in the first place and saved his own life.


Work Cited

A Time to Kill (Motion Picture: 1996), Directed by Joel Schumacher, 1996.

Atticus Finch Closing Speech

First of all, I want to make sure one fatal thing, that the people of Macomb, either standing or sitting here, all believe that in the court, justice will not partiality for anyone and every person deserves their result, and this trail will certainly be transparent, fair and equally for every person who sits either on the plaintiff or the dock.

It is no exaggeration to say that the so-called evidence provided by accusers is, self-conflicting and persuading. The plaintiff claims that Mayella Ewell was raped and beaten hard by a young Negro, whose name is Tom Robinson, but there is no witness on the scene but themselves, whose testimony has not been called into serious question and has not be confirmed to be creditable.(TKM) Moreover, the only trustable evidence which indicates that Mayella Ewell has been beaten severely by a man’s left hand, has completely contradicted with the defendant’s situation. The condition of Mayella Ewell’s injury indicates that she was beaten by a left-handed person and there is finger marks all around her neck, but the defendant’s right hand has been paralyzed by cotton gin several years ago.

Furthermore, from the defendant’s experience, it is not hard to imagine that a white young woman, after tempting a Negro and feels guilty, tried to get rid of this thorn in her side. Because both she and her father know that, breaking a traditional taboo that love a person beyond races will be hounded from our mist and even despised by people around them, they have to clear away this man, Tom Robinson, even he did nothing wrong. If there is one thing that Tom Robinson was wrong, it is that he was tempted by a young white woman. If there’s another thing that Tom Robinson did wrong, it would be his over kindness and sympathy that led him to be cheated. The accusers subjectively consider blacks as liars and won’t be trusted, actually, I believe most of the people sitting here, have the same opinion with the plaintiff. However, this assumption itself is a fault and should never be considered right. And in this case, there is not a single reason to continue thinking that Tom Robinson is guilty under the circumstance of unpersuasive or even self-conflicted evidence, incredible witness and clumsy fraud. There should be no discriminate in the holy court and I believe, our jury will be extremely impartial. To say it in another way, if white is always true and can decide anything over black, we would neither need a court which is designed especially for tribunal, nor a solemn and sacred trail like this. The people who judge the case would never be the ones who always think that white is better than everyone and trusts no one except the people with the same color of their skin. The people who judge the case would be either knowledgeable or reputable, and many of whom consists of the jury. As a result, I am confident that our jury will review the case without any prejudice and focus on the evidence provided, and make the fairest decision to Tom Robinson. “In the name of God, do your duty.”(TKA)


Work Cited

To Kill a Mockingbird. Directed by Robert Mulligan. Universal Picture. 1963.

Summary & Keyword definition of “Empathy, Justice and Law”

In the essay written by Hoffman “Empathy, Justice and Law”, the author posts an important question: Should we permit empathy to exist in courts, cases and even laws? Some people say that empathy should never effect the law because it is shallow and poor logical that may cause injustice and sightless action which result in negative effects. Others say that empathy is positive and should be concerned with laws since it provides motivation, justice and public concern. From the passage, we can easily find out that the author’s response to this question is “Yes, but only empathy is not enough”(254). Hoffman divided his process into a plurality of steps, which are the definition of empathy, how empathy contribute to the law and some negative sides of empathy(230).

At the beginning, Hoffman gives us the definition of empathy: a meta-cognitive dimension of emotion which has all attribute of pro-social motive and can act as a motive of helping others. He also claims that motion such as witnessing can arouse “empathic distress”, which makes people to “feels what other feels or maybe normally be expected to feel in his or her situation”, and becomes a feeling of injustice as well as a desire of helping unfortunates. Hoffman also claims that empathy develops in our whole life time. The author firstly helps us define the empathy(232-236).

Hoffman then argues that empathy actually contributes to law a lot. He firstly states that public always believe “one should get what one deserves” and “one’s right as a citizen should be respected”. Under this circumstance, people, impelled by empathy, would have a feeling of injustice and anger, which motivates them to seek justice for others. Hoffman provides of Harriet, Frank and Yale Kamisar’s experiences to illustrate his viewpoint(237-239, 244-245).

Hoffman then discusses the impact of “empathic justice” in U.S. Supreme Court Decisions by providing several successful examples such as Brown students’ “school desegregation” in the late 19th century and abortion legalizing. These two examples successfully proof that empathy does have positive effects on laws and sometimes can even change the world into a better place(245-250).

Finally, Hoffman points out that empathy also has some limitations and negative attributes. “Though clearly a pro-social motive, empathy is limited by its fragility, dependence on the salience and intensity of distress cues, and susceptibility”. From the examples of “British nanny” and “Victim-impact statements”, the author claims that empathy can sometimes be non-logical, easy-changing or even misleading, and he says that only empathy is obviously not enough for laws and courts. As a result, we should “keep empathic bias in mind and give consideration in any legal context that might involve empathy”(250-253).

At the end of the passage, Hoffman mainly discusses the term “empathic bias” and its negative influence on the justice. To define the term “empathic bias”, we can easily find that, from the passage, Hoffman defines it as “misleading” “the fragility part of empathy” and “damaging the courtroom”(254). In the passage, Hoffman gives us several examples of “empathy bias”, such as family bias, victim-impact bias, here-and-now bias, and so on. Hoffman mentioned that only takes empathy to court is far away from enough, one should also be logical, knowledgeable and objective. Hoffman says that we should try our best to avoid “empathy bias” and make right choices(254).

Work Cited

Martin L. Hoffman. “Empathy, Justice and Law”. Empathy: Philosophical and Psychological Perspectives. Oxford University Press. 2014. 213-254