research proposal

Psychopath is closely related with criminal behavior and violence nowadays. The seminal 2012 FBI report states that 15-20 percent of the two million prisoners in the U.S., which are 90 percent male, are psychopaths. Many researches have been done to analysis the behavior of psychopath and the most commonly believed reason for them to commit crime so easily is that they lack the ability to empathize with others. In other words, they fail to understand and share the feelings of others, so they are not inhibited by guilt, fear, anxiety or remorse. However, there are also many researches indicating that psychopath, to some degree, is capable of empathizing with others, or at least ‘knowing’ what others feel. I find this argument very interesting and very closely related to our class discussion because it explores the nature and pro-social attribute of empathy.

The critical question in this topic is ‘Do psychopath lack empathy, or it just be hidden inside?’. Answering this question is important, since if there’s enough evidence that psychopath does have empathy and it just be hidden inside intentionally or unintentionally, we may be able to help them with cultivating empathy such that the criminal rate can be largely reduced.

 

Scholarly sources:

Pain & Central Nervous System Week, ‘A Neurological Basis for the Lack of Empathy in Psychopaths’, NewsRX LLC, 2013.

 

Meffert. H, et al.  “reduced Spontaneous but Relatively Normal Deliberate Vicarious Representations in Psychopathy.” Brain: a journal of neurology, vol. 136, no. Pt 8, 2013.

 

Newman, Joseph P., et al. “Attention Moderates the Fearlessness of Psychopathic Offenders.” Biological Psychiatry, vol. 67, no. 1, 2010.

 

Lishner, David A., et al. “Evaluating the Relation between Psychopathy and Affective Empathy: Two Preliminary Studies.” International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology, vol. 56, no. 8, 2012.

 

Cleckley, Hervey M. The Mask of Sanity: An Attempt to Clarify some Issues about the so-Called Psychopathic Personality, Mosby, St. Louis, 1955.

 

What causes ‘pseudo empathy

What causes ‘pseudo empathy’  

Due to the many researches and experiments related to empathy being published recently, the awareness of empathy as a pro-social behavior has been raised. Many people now find empathy a very useful technique in dealing with social relations. However, question raises when people find there’re many cases where their empathy does not match the actual feeling of others; Many people started questioning: ‘what causes this kind of ‘fake empathy and how can we avoid it? ’. My thesis is that this fake empathy occurs when people did not realize the difference in background when they try to empathize with others, and only if we take the background into consideration can we truly empathize with others. In my first blog posts I state my argument by referring to a scholarly resource. In second and third blog posts, I further illustrated my point by providing examples of cases where people form pseudo empathy.

To answer the question ‘what causes fake empathy’, we need to first define this’ fake empathy’ appropriately. In Morton’s article ‘article for the devil’, he gives a definition for pseudo empathy in terms of people just understanding ‘why’, not understanding ‘how’ others did what they did. However, I find this definition in terms of ‘why’ and ‘how’ is still not comprehensive and a little ambiguous, so in ‘Disagreement with Adam Morton on pseudo empathy definition’ I mainly argued that even if people perfectly understand why and how a person perform his act, they can still form pseudo empathy because the intensity of their feeling is different, and that this is due to the background of people which varies individual from individual. To fully illustrated my point, I cited Nelson and Baumgarte’s test of how cultural similarity affects perspective taking and empathy for an interpersonal target. They concluded at the end that perceived cultural dissimilarity can reduce perspective taking and empathy.

http://blogs.rochester.edu/feelinggood2/2016/10/20/blog-assignment-4/

In order to answer how pseudo empathy is formed, the cases on internet must be taken into consideration since internet is the most common place where people communicate with each other nowadays. In ‘Internet violence caused by pseudo empathy’, I further demonstrate that pseudo empathy is very easy to form, especially on the internet, because the anonymous environment gives people so little information about each other’s background. Different from that in real life, due to fast-update attributes of internet, any misunderstanding or misinterpret of a person’s motives can be spread very fast and cause tremendous harm to that person. I illustrated my point using the example of ‘Jay Chou‘s donation. After the strong earthquake that hit China’s Sichuan Province, Taiwan singer Jay Chou immediately donated 5 million RMB to Sichuan. However, rumor spread out that he only donate 5 thousands RMB. People, who didn’t know who Jay Zhou was before and had no idea of his background history, stared to ‘empathize’ with him and think he was using this little donation to humiliate people in mainland china and rooting for the independence of Taiwan. So In this case, people formed pseudo empathy towards Jay Chou. Also, facing such harrowing natural disasters, people are easy to form empathy towards victim, however, as we know this empathy leads to a bad results. This raises another concern that on the internet real empathy is easy to be manipulated and twisted into pseudo empathy, just as Tatjana Milivojević stated in his article ‘Empathy and the Internet: Positive Potentials vs. Risks’: ‘digital age enables empathy, which was once reserved for the narrowest community, to expanded globally. However, this optimistic view doesn’t take under consideration that human capacity for empathy isn’t limitless. The paradox of empathy lays within its possibility of being used as a means of control and manipulation.’

http://blogs.rochester.edu/feelinggood2/2016/10/25/empathy-in-digital-ege/

Fake empathy is also easy to form when people is influenced so much by seeing a person’s unusual behavior and lost the ability to related the action to his background in a proper way even though they know his background very well. In ‘Atticus is not a racist in Go set a watchman’, I mainly discussed the character of Atticus Finch in ‘To kill a mocking bird and Go set a watchman’. I state that Atticus did not become a racist in Go set a watchman as many people may say, and I still see the continuity in his character as he is still pursuing his justice and still holding his responsibility towards Maycomb people. People who think Atticus becomes a racist only see the action Atticus performed without considering his background: They formed pseudo empathy towards Atticus and misinterpret his motive. To make my argument, I cited paragraphs from the novel that shows Atticus believed in ‘The right to vote is a privilege to be earned by each man, that it was not something given lightly nor to be taken lightly.’ and this is his motive to deny the NAACP’s demand for vote rights. It is not about racial prejudice, but a simple rule: ‘there’s no free lunch’. Atticus is not trying to draw a line between Black and White, but a line between a well-educated man who is responsible for himself and the society and a man who is uneducated and can’t mind his own business. What he did seems very like what a racist would do, but if we want to truly empathize with him, we have to incorporate his action with his background and personality to fully understand his motive.

https://blogs.rochester.edu/feelinggood2/wp-admin/post.php?post=3882&action=edit

Based on the experiment that and the example I provide, I come to the conclusion that pseudo empathy towards a person is easy to occur when people don’t know the person’s background or they don’t have the awareness to incorporate his background when understanding his behavior.

work cited:

Heinke.MS, and WR Louis. “Cultural Background and Individualistic-Collectivistic Values in Relation to Similarity, Perspective Taking, and Empathy.” JOURNAL OF APPLIED SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY, 2009, pp. 2570-2590.

Nelson, Donna W., and Roger Baumgarte. “Cross-Cultural Misunderstandings Reduce Empathic Responding1.” Journal of Applied Social Psychology, vol. 34, no. 2, 2004., pp. 391-401

Milivojević Tatjana, Ivana Ercegovac. ‘Empathy and the Internet: Positive Potentials Vs. Risks.’ Kultura (Skopje), 2015, pp. 103-112.

Miller, galanty. ‘Atticus Finch Is Not a Racist’.2015, Facebook

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

Introduction

Due to the many researches and experiments related to empathy being published recently, the awareness of empathy as a pro-social behavior has been raised. Many people now find empathy a very useful technique in dealing with social relations. However, question raises when there’re more and more cases where people’s empathy does not match the actual feeling of others; Many people started questioning: ‘what causes this kind of ‘fake empathy and how can we avoid it? ’. My thesis is that this fake empathy occurs when people did not realize the difference in background when they try to empathize with others, and only if we take the background into consideration can we truly empathize with others.

To answer the question, we need to first define this’ fake empathy’ appropriately. In Morton’s article ‘article for the devil’, he gives a definition for pseudo empathy in terms of people just understanding why, not understanding why others did what they did. However, I find this definition still not comprehensive and a little ambiguous, so in blog post 4, I mainly argued that even if people perfectly understand why and how a person perform his act, they can still form pseudo empathy because the intensity of their feeling is different, and that this is due to the background of people which varies individual from individual. To fully illustrated my point, I cited Nelson and Baumgarte ‘s test of how cultural similarity affects perspective taking and empathy for an interpersonal target. They concluded at the end that perceived cultural dissimilarity can reduce perspective taking and empathy. I also gave an example of the dog’s death which shows the intensity of pain is different for people loved dogs and those who are not. At the end, I related my argument to the film ‘A time to kill’ and applied my theory to explain how the empathy raised among jury is pseudo empathy.

In blog 5, I further demonstrate that pseudo empathy is very easy to form, especially on the internet, because the anonymous environment gives people so little information about each other’s background. Different from that in real life, due to fast-update attributes of internet, any misunderstanding or misinterpret of a person’s motives can be spread very fast and cause tremendous harm to that person. I illustrated my point using the example of ‘Jay Chou’ ‘s donation. After the strong earthquake that hit China’s Sichuan Province, Taiwan singer Jay Chou immediately donated 5 million RMB to Sichuan. However, rumor spread out that he only donate 5 thousands RMB. People, who didn’t know who Jay Zhou was before and had no idea of his background history, stared to ‘empathize’ with him and think he was rooting for the independence of Taiwan as he didn’t care the victims in mainland China. So In this case, people formed pseudo empathy towards Jay Chou. Also, facing such harrowing natural disasters, people are easy to form empathy towards victim, however, as we know this empathy leads to a bad results. This raises another concern that on the internet real empathy is easy to be manipulated and twisted into pseudo empathy, just as Tatjana Milivojević stated in his article ‘Empathy and the Internet: Positive Potentials vs. Risks’.

In blog 6, I mainly discussed the character of Atticus Finch in ‘To kill a mocking bird and Go set a watchman’. I state that Atticus did not become a racist in Go set a watchman as many people may say, and I still see the continuity in his character as he is still pursuing his justice and still holding his responsibility towards Maycomb people. People who think Atticus becomes a racist only see the action Atticus performed without considering his background: They formed pseudo empathy towards Atticus and misinterpret his motive. To make my argument, I cited paragraphs from the novel that shows Atticus believed in ‘The right to vote is a privilege to be earned by each man, that it was not something given lightly nor to be taken lightly.’ and this is his motive to deny the NAACP’s demand for vote rights. It is not about racial prejudice, but a simple rule: ‘there’s no free lunch’. Atticus is not trying to draw a line between Black and White, but a line between a well-educated man who is responsible for himself and the society and a man who is uneducated and can’t mind his own business. What he did seems very like what a racist would do, but if we want to truly empathize with him, we have to incorporate his action with his background and personality to fully understand his motive.

Atticus is not a racist in Go set a watchman

The closing argument Atticus Finch made in ‘to kill a mocking bird’ impressed generations of people and made him a hero in American history. So it is surprise and even unacceptable, to most of people, including me, that he seems to become a racist by attending a Klan meeting in Go set a watchman. However, after reading the whole book, I changed my mind. Many people may see substantial change in Atticus character, from a hero to a racist, but I see continuity in his character that he is still pursuing his justice and still holding his responsibility towards Maycomb people. People who think Atticus becomes a racist is simply shocked so much by seeing his abnormal behavior and lost the ability to relate the action to the fact that he used to help a Black people get out of a rape charge. At this point, they formed pseudo empathy towards Atticus and misinterpret his motive of such behavior.

As he said to Jean Louis,’ Jefferson believed full citizenship was a privilege to be earned by each man, that it was not something given lightly nor to be taken lightly. A man couldn’t vote simply because he was a man, In Jefferson’s eye. He had to be a responsible man.’ (GSAW) This is what he believed, and what he held as justice in his heart all the time. However, the NAACP came over one day and simply demands their right to vote. To Atticus, they are not trying to earn their right to vote, instead, they are trying to take it without any effort by simply demanding, which is intolerable and contradict his belief of justice. Segregation is by no means fair to Negro people and is certainly injustice, but it truly happened in history, so at that time it is true that most of the Negro people are uneducated and therefore are not able to perform full citizenship as Jefferson said. In Atticus’s mind, their first job to recover from the damage caused by segregation should be to work hard to first become a well-educated, responsible man rather than asking to vote while not capable and eligible.

Because of the historical reasons, People tend to get very sensitive when it comes to black and white problems, and is easy to criticize Atticus for being a racist as he acts against the Black’s ‘simple’ demand. However, I think to Atticus their demand is by no means ‘simple’, instead, it is unacceptable and outrageous because he views the rights to vote very seriously and sacredly. By resenting NAACP people, He is not trying to draw a line between Black and White, but a line between a well-educated man who is responsible for himself and the society and a man who is uneducated and can’t mind his own business. Both white and black can be well-educated and responsible or uneducated and irresponsible, and I think Atticus is definitely open to work with Negro people who are qualified to vote and made good decisions for people.

But as far as I see from the description of the book, the NAACP people made fancy demands of full-citizenship and right to votes when they have not proved their ability to make rational decisions. ‘they doesn’t care whether a Negro man owns or rent his land, how well he can farm or whether or not he tries to learn a trade and stand on his own two feet –oh no, all the NAACP cares about is that man’s vote.’(GSAW) I think Atticus is not blaming NAACP for not being qualified, as it will be ridiculous to blame victims for getting hurt. He is blaming them for being over-ambitious and demanding a free- lunch without putting any effort into it, and that they are using the racial prejudice they received as an good excuse for doing that.

Of course, Atticus could have chosen to welcome them and show he is not a racist, but it would be irresponsible to people in Maycomb and contradict the justice he believed in heart. So at the risk of being called a racist and misunderstood by her daughter, he chose to stand out and stop them. From this I can also see that he values his responsibility to people in Maycomb more than his own fame, which corresponds to the ‘Atticus’ I know from ‘To kill a mocking bird’.

Though I’m making this argument, the book ‘go set a watchman’ still make some ambiguous suggestions that make people think Atticus as a racist, and caused the collapse of a childhood idol. When I was searching for the book, I find a very interesting comment and I think correspond to my thoughts about this book: ‘For all I know, Go Set a Watchman is a brilliant piece of fiction. So I won’t criticize the novel itself. But nor will I read it… unless they release it in comic book form and add Batman into the story. I’m just not that interested.’ Because when it comes to the Atticus Finch, I already read everything I needed to read. ’( Miller)

Work cited:

Miller, galanty. ‘Atticus Finch Is Not a Racist’.2015, Facebook

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

Internet violence caused by pseudo empathy

In May 12th 2008, an unprecedentedly strong earthquake hit China’s Sichuan Province, causing millions of death and tons of destruction. When this news came in, Taiwan singer Jay Chou immediately donated 5 million RMB and turned his upcoming concert to a fund -raising one. However, si20100428042045-1652170292nce one of the biggest characters about social media is that the truth is often twisted through broadcasting, there has been rumor about Jay that he only donated 50 thousand RMB, which is incomparable to his annual earnings and the donation made by other celebrities.
Although there have been some clarifications about the actual number of donation afterwards, once a rumor started, it could never end easily. At that time, on every comment area under the news, no matter whether it has to do with the earthquake, there were always people bringing up the topic that Jay only donated 5 thousand RMB. Some people who disliked Chou or his music even spread out libelous rumors that Jay Chou doesn’t see himself as a Chinese and doesn’t care the people in Sichuan at all. Some people, who initially heard of the right number of donation, tend to believe the rumor is true because it is everywhere. So a large group people, consisting of those who spread out the rumor and those who didn’t know the truth and chose to believe the rumor, started to criticize Jay Chou on the internet. They even appealed the public to boycotting Chou’s music as a ‘punishment’ of his behavior. This incident caused tremendous loss of Jay Chou and fully demonstrated the horrifying power of internet violence.
This kind of cyber-bulling cases raised a question: is empathy in Digital age strengthened and created positive social support, like many people suggest, or it more often leads to bad results. In the article ‘Empathy and the Internet: Positive Potentials vs. Risks’, the author Tatjana Milivojević acknowledges that digital age enables empathy, which was once reserved for the narrowest community, to expanded globally. However, this optimistic view doesn’t take under consideration that human capacity for empathy isn’t limitless. The paradox of empathy lays within its possibility of being used as a means of control and manipulation, and the anonymous environment on the internet gives people so little information about each other’s background for them to form real empathy.
Tatjana’s argument can be used to explain the example of Jay Chou’s donation. Jay Chou did nothing wrong in this case: he was generous enough to donate 5 million RMB, yet became a victim of internet violence and had a bad reputation for supporting Taiwan’s independence since then. It’s exactly a case Tatjana talked about where empathy is controlled and manipulated. In this case, facing such harrowing natural disasters, people are easy to form empathy or sympathy feelings towards the people who are suffering. Under these feelings, people have a desire to help the victim by donating money or becoming volunteers. However, Their good desire to help, which derived from their empathy or sympathy, was manipulated and led to internet violence when someone tell them intentionally that there’s one person ‘Jay Chou’ who claims he doesn’t care. In this case, the internet and media did not function in a good way, instead, it became a tool used by people who dislike Jay Chou’s music to hurt him.
On the internet, rumor is easy to spread because the platform is worldwide and update fast. To many people, hearing this rumor is even good news: they tend to believe it because it gives them a chance to relieve their distressful feelings caused by empathy. They find a good way to ‘help’ the victims in earthquake by condemning and public shaming the person Jay Chou who doesn’t care about people suffering. In this case, their empathy towards the victims, did not do any good, but manipulated and caused tremendous harm to Jay Chou.
To see it in another way, people tried to interpret Jay Chou motives by first empathizing with him. However, most of the people on the internet don’t even know the name of Jay Chou before, let alone his personality or background; therefore, it’s relatively easy for them to form pseudo empathy towards Jay Chou. Pseudo empathy is by definition empathy without understanding, just as what people on the internet did to Jay Chou, they misinterpret his motive based on rumor without relating his behavior to his background.
As we see, although in some cases internet creates huge outpourings of public support due to empathy raised, such empathy is also very likely to be controlled and manipulated by people to hurt others; Also, Internet is full of people who don’t know each other’s background and history, so it’s hard for them to form real empathy towards each other.

Work cited:
Milivojević Tatjana, Ivana Ercegovac. ‘Empathy and the Internet: Positive Potentials Vs. Risks.’ Kultura (Skopje), 2015, pp. 103-112.

Disagreement with Adam Morton on pseudo empathy definition

In his article ‘Empathy for the devil’, Adam Morton mainly discussed one question: why it is hard for us to empathize with people who do atrocious acts. According to Morton, being too morally sensitive restricts our ability to identify imaginatively with important parts of human possibility, in this case, atrocious behaviors. He begins his argument by discussing the distinction between ‘why’ and ‘how’ in understanding people’s behavior. He uses the example of A-assault and X-taxi to illustrate his point: A assaults C because he thinks C is doing work too slow; X verbally abuse a taxi driver which he regretted later also because the driver is driving too slow. In a prison meeting, X thinks he can fully empathize with A because he has been in similar situation. But according to Morton, X is wrong because although he knows ‘why’ A assault C, he doesn’t understand ‘how’ A was able to overcome his inherent moral barrier to attack people, which brings up the conception ‘pseudo empathy’. Morton defines pseudo empathy as an empathetic feeling that is not accompanied by understanding. In other words, knowing the motive or reason of another person’s act gives us a feeling of empathy, but not everything feels like empathy can do empathy’s work. Only if we understand how the person overcomes his inner barrier can we fully empathize with him.

However, I think the Morton’s definition of pseudo empathy in terms of understanding ‘why and ‘how’ is still a little ambiguous and not comprehensive enough. Sometimes, even if we are fully aware of ‘why’ and ‘how’ another person performs an act, we are still unable to truly empathize with him. The difference in background and sensitiveness that varies from individuals to individual makes it even harder for us to form real empathy.

One tends to feel difficult to empathize towards another person who has different background. Nelson and Baumgarte (2004) proposed a test of how cultural similarity affects perspective taking and empathy for an interpersonal target: To manipulate cultural similarity, participants were presented with scenarios of distressed targets who acted according to values that were ostensibly Western/individualistic or Asian/collectivistic. The American sample felt more similar to the target whose behavior was ostensibly Western, and as the model predicted, this difference in perceived similarity flowed on to heightened empathy toward the target, with cognitive perspective taking as a mediator. Nelson and Baumgarte concluded that perceived cultural dissimilarity can reduce perspective taking and empathy. (CBIC). This conclusion is not a surprise, real empathy requires us to feel closely if not exactly what another person feels, but our difference in background which gives us different perspectives of thinking and different sensitiveness towards things can often alienate our feelings. Therefore, understanding ‘why’ and ‘how’ of the acts of the person may give us a feeling of empathy, but it is not enough to be called real empathy since our feelings or our sensitiveness towards the same thing varies with our own background. For example, A’s dog that accompanied him for years just died and since A really loves his dog, he was unable to recover from the pain of losing his dog for months. B’s dog also died, and since he is not that emotionally sensitive, he felt upset for a few days and then moved on. In this case, B knows perfectly ‘why’ and ‘how’ A feels sorry for his dog’s death, but the intensity of pain, or the degrees of harsh feeling is totally different because of their different personal backgrounds; therefore in this case, B is feeling pseudo empathy, not real empathy for A.

The same thing also happened in the movie ‘A time to kill’. Jack’s closing argument successfully arise the empathy among juries which lead to the final acquittal of Carl Lee. In this case, it is also pseudo empathy because the racial prejudice was so deeply rooted in juries’ mind that they will never be able to truly empathize with black person. What Jake did was leading them to think of a white girl and form pseudo empathy towards Carl which could be enough to acquit him.

Getting back to Morton’s argument, what I suggest is that when we try to fully empathize with another person, in addition to understanding ‘how’ and ‘why’ the person performs the act, we should also take factors like different personal backgrounds into account in order to avoid pseudo empathy.

work cited

Heinke.MS, and WR Louis. “Cultural Background and Individualistic-Collectivistic Values in Relation to Similarity, Perspective Taking, and Empathy.” JOURNAL OF APPLIED SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY, 2009, pp. 2570-2590.

Nelson, Donna W., and Roger Baumgarte. “Cross-Cultural Misunderstandings Reduce Empathic Responding1.” Journal of Applied Social Psychology, vol. 34, no. 2, 2004., pp. 391-401

formal assignment final draft

Empathy and justice in A time to kill

In the film ‘a time to kill’, Jake successfully raised the empathic distress among juries with vivid image depiction in his closing argument and finally convinced them to acquit Carl Lee. In general sense, it’s one of those classic happy-ending films: bad guy died and good guy lived a happy life. However, the deeper I think about the film, the more I feel that empathy did not actually promote justice in this film. It is true that at that time, black people were often treated unequally in court due to racial prejudice; this kind of bias is certainly unfair and should be removed, and what Jake did was exactly trying to remove this bias by making use of jury’s empathy. However, I think in this case, empathy is mistakenly overused and did not help to promote justice either.

Frist of all, racial prejudice against black people had always existed in the court and often leaded to wrong decisions at that time. As mentioned in the film, Carl Lee said to Jack: ‘no matter how you call me, Negro, black, African American. You see me as different.’(TK) This is indeed true for most white people at that time; they may not be so extreme as to be a racist, but deep in their mind, they see black people as different, and most of the time, inferior to them. According to Hoffman, empathy is defined as an emotional state triggered by anther’s emotional state or situation, in which one feels what other feels or may normally be expected to feel in his or her situation.(Hoffman 231) For empathy to develop, at least one should first care about other’s feeling. It is therefore extremely hard, even impossible for juries to feel empathy for Carl Lee. To make an inappropriate comparison, white people see black people as animals like dogs or cats at that time. No one would care what a dog or a cat had experienced or felt if it killed a man. The only thing they care is the fact that this black man dared to kill two white men, their two fellows, and he has to be dead for doing that. This kind of bias lead to a phenomenon that Black people are always sentenced guilty in the court no matter what really happened; therefore to promote justice, this kind of bias should be the first to remove in court.

What Jade did in his closing argument was extremely clever and skillful, he realized that the racial prejudices in white people’s mind was so deeply rooted, so instead of proving the insanity of Carl Lee that jury didn’t even care, he tried to remove the jury’s  bias by raising their empathy. With strong emotions, he described the harrowing scene of Tonya Hailey raped by the two white men and depicted an image of the little girl covered in blood, hopeless and desperate. ‘Now imagine she’s white.’ This seems abrupt but indeed clever closing sentence successfully raised the jury’s empathy and unnoticeably, changed Carl’s role from a murder to a victim, from a black who kills to a man whose daughter is raped. When Jake finishes his closing argument, the juries are all full of tears and seem to have distressful feelings. They may not feel actual empathy directly toward Carl Lee, but at least they are feeling someone in this situation and the most important, the sympathy for Carl is stirred up. According to definitions, empathy is to put oneself into other’s shoes while sympathy is standing at a higher stage and feel sorry for someone less fortunate. Because of racial prejudice, it’s still hard for juries to feel real empathy, but it’s relatively easy for them to form sympathy as they already and always see themselves ‘standing on the higher stage’. Once the sympathy for Carl was invoked it’s easy to sway jury’s final decision. As we know, jury acquitted Carl Lee and ordered his release at the end.

However, Carl Lee is by no means innocent in this case. As the prosecuting attorney Rufus Buckley asserted: ‘He had no right to execute the law by himself.’(TK) Certainly, what happened to his daughter was heartbreaking, especially when there’s a great chance the two white men don’t have to die. Carl Lee has every right to be furious, but feelings of anger and injustice do not give him a license to kill legally. In the movie, Jake spent a lot of time trying to prove to the jury that Carl Lee was mentally insane at that time and therefore unware of what he was doing. However, from my perspective, some details presented in the film suggest that Carl Lee was perfectly sane and aware of his behavior when he killed the two white men. For example, there’s a scene that Carl walked into the court room in silence. Judging from his facial expression, I find him not insane but extremely clam. He was probably trying to make a plan to kill or even hide a gun somewhere; therefore the whole killing thing can’t be his impulsive decision. When the police officers came for him, there’s also a specific scene that he was holding one of his sons, saying goodbye to his family. At that point, he sort of admitted his guilt; otherwise he would act more fiercely when police arrested him.

In this case, making use of jury’s empathy to remove their racial prejudice is certainly clever and seems to be correct. However, the invoked empathy was so overused that it leads to the acquittal of Carl Lee, who is definitely guilty in terms of law, so empathy is actually failing the law. In fact, empathy displayed the victim-impact limitations just as Hoffman discussed in his article. ‘The heartbreaking testimony may diminish juries’ ability to process evidence’. (Hoffman 253). Hoffman point out that the arousing empathy for the victim, however, can do the accused great harm. Of course in the murder case, Carl Lee is not the victim, but Jake’s words was so emotionally intense that it shift everyone’s attention from the murder case to the rape case in which Carl Lee becomes the victim. Though all hard facts indicate Carl Lee’s guilty, the jury is biased because of their sympathy towards his daughter. This is certainly unfair to the actual victim in the murder case, the mother who lost her son. She had no chance to speak up and make others to feel her pain.

The distinction between a correct behavior and a legal behavior has always been ambiguous, and the justice seems to be extremely hard to define in this movie. Just like the old lawyer said to Jake: ‘if you win this case, justice prevails, if you lose, justice will also prevail.’ (TK) To some extent, the decision to acquit Carl is on the side of justice because he has a good reason. However, logically speaking, if Carl Lee can get out of the case without being punished, the white man’s mother can also kill him for compensation. The circulation of revenge will then never end and society will be in disorder, so there is and should be a law to constrain people’s behaviors and keep everything in order. Laws are made to create a harmonic living environment for everyone, and that should be the ultimate justice. Despite the fact that black people often receive unfair charge in the court, Carl Lee did kill people intentionally in this case, so he is breaking the harmony and putting himself on the side of injustice. Therefore, empathy in this case which lead to Carl’s acquittal is mistakenly overused and is not promoting justice.

Work cited:

Hoffman, martin, L ‘Empathy, Justice and the Law’ Empathy: Philosophical and Psychological Perspective. Ed. Amy Coplan and Peter Goldie, Oxford, UK: Oxford UP, 2011 230-54 Print.

A time to kill, Dir. Joel Schumacher, Warner Brothers, 1997

formal assignment

Empathy and justice in A time to kill

In the film ‘a time to kill’, Jake successfully raised the empathic distress among juries with vivid image depiction in his closing argument and finally convinced the jury to acquit Carl Lee. In general sense, it’s just one of those classic happy-ending films: bad guy died and good guy lived a happy life. However, the deeper I think about the film, the more I feel that empathy did not actually promote justice in this film. Instead, it’s a courtroom case where empathy displayed its limitations just as Martin L. Hoffman discussed in his article Empathy, Justice and the law.

First of all, Carl Lee is by no means innocent in this film. Just as the prosecuting attorney Rufus Buckley asserted: ‘He had no right to execute the law by himself.’ Certainly, what happened to his daughter was heartbreaking, especially when there’s a great chance the two white men don’t have to die. Carl Lee has every right to be furious, but feeling of anger and injustice do not give him a license to kill legally. Logically speaking, if Carl Lee can get out of the case without being punished, the white man’s mother can also kill him for compensation. The circulation of revenge will then never end and society will be in disorder, so there is and should be a law to constrain people’s behaviors. Once you break the law, no matter how perfect reason you have, you should be punished. What Carl did was reasonable but definitely guilty in terms of law. In the movie, Jake also spent a lot of time trying to prove to the jury that Carl Lee was mentally insane at that time and therefore unware of what he was doing. However, from my perspective, some details presented in the film suggest that Carl Lee was perfectly sane and aware of his behavior when he killed the two white men. For example, there’s a scene that Carl walked into the court room in silence. Judging from his facial expression, I find him not insane but extremely clam. He was probably trying to make a plan to kill or even hide a gun somewhere; therefore the whole killing thing can’t be his impulsive decision. When the police officers came for him, there’s also a specific scene that he was holding one of his sons, saying goodbye to his family. At that point, he sort of admitted his guilt; otherwise he would act more fiercely when police arrested him. Carl Lee knew perfectly what he did and was willing to pay the price. So it’s kind of a surprise when he was acquitted at the end.

Despite the fact that Carl Lee was actually guilty in this case, racial prejudice in the court had always existed and often leads to wrong decisions at that time. As mentioned in the film, Carl Lee said to Jack: ‘no matter how you call me, Negro, black, African American. You see me as different.’ This is indeed true for most white people at that time; they may not be so extreme as to be a racist, but deep in their mind, they see black people as different, and most of the time, inferior to them. According to Hoffman, empathy is defined as an emotional state triggered by anther’s emotional state or situation, in which one feels what other feels or may normally be expected to feel in his or her situation.(Hoffman 231) For empathy to develop, at least you should first care about other’s feeling. It is therefore extremely hard, even impossible for white people to feel empathy for Carl Lee. To make an inappropriate comparison, white people see black people as dogs or cats at that time. No one would care what a dog or a cat had experienced or felt if it killed a man. The only thing they care is the fact that this black man dared to kill two white men, their two fellows, and he has to be dead for doing that.

What Jade did in his closing argument was extremely clever and skillful, he realized that the racial prejudices rooted in white people’s mind was so deep to remove, so instead of proving the insanity of Carl Lee that jury didn’t even care, he tried to let them forget about the race problem for a moment. With strong emotions, he described the harrowing scene of Tonya Hailey raped by the two white men and depicted an image of the little girl covered in blood, hopeless and desperate. ‘Now imagine she’s white.’ With this abrupt but indeed clever closing sentence, Jake successfully raised the jury’s empathic distress and unnoticeably, changed Carl’s role from a murder to a victim, from a black who kills to a man whose daughter is raped. The juries may not feel actual empathy directly to Carl Lee, but at least they are feeling someone in this situation and the most important, the sympathy for Carl is stirred up. There’s a clear distinction between sympathy and empathy: empathy is to put oneself into other’s shoes; sympathy is standing at a higher stage and feel sorry for someone less fortunate. Because of racial prejudice, it’s still hard for juries to feel real empathy but it’s relatively easy for them to form sympathy as they already and always see themselves ‘standing on the higher stage’. Once the sympathy for Carl was raised among jury, it’s easy to sway their final decisions. As shown in the movie, the mistakenly used empathy actually leads to the acquittal of Carl Lee who is apparently guilty.

The empathy’s role in this movie is a very good example for victim-impact limitations that Hoffman discussed in his article. He stated that the arousing empathy for the victim, however, can do the accused great harm. ‘The heartbreaking testimony may diminish juries’ ability to process evidence’. (Hoffman 253) Of course in the murder case, Carl Lee is not the victim, but Jake’s words was so emotionally intense that it shift everyone’s attention from the murder case to the rape case in which Carl Lee becomes the victim. Though all hard facts indicate Carl Lee’s guilty, the jury is biased because of their empathy or sympathy toward him. This is certainly unfair to the actual victim in the murder case, the mother who lost her son. She had no chance to speak up and make others to feel her pain.

works cited:

Hoffman, martin, L ‘Empathy, Justice and the Law’ Empathy: Philosophical and Psychological Perspective. Ed. Amy Coplan and Peter Goldie, Oxford, UK: Oxford UP, 2011 230-54 Print.

A time to kill, Dir. Joel Schumacher, Warner Brothers , 1997

blog assignment 3

In his closing argument, instead of focusing on proving Carl Lee’s insane mental state, Jake raised the empathic distress among juries and successfully convinced them to acquit Carl Lee. ‘I want you to close your eyes and I want you to listen to yourselves.’ so did he said. With strong emotions of his own, he described the story of two white men raping the black girl and vividly depicted an image of blood, hopeless, desperate. ‘Now imagine she’s white’. At the end, He successfully invoked the empathic distress among juries. In his argument, he didn’t state any hard facts or other reasons but to ask the jury one question: what if it was a white girl, and what if it was their children who got raped.

From my point of view, in this case it is only apparent invocation of empathy. What Jake was trying to do is to avoid the bias of juries against the black people that stuck so deep in their mind. From some white people’s perspective at that time, Black people was different, as mentioned in the film, no matter how they called the black men, Negro, black, or black man, they regard them as different kind of beings, and most of the time inferior to them. Therefore they have some sort of detachment when it comes to understanding how the Black people feels and thinks. Some of the extreme, are so biased that they even comes to a point where they think all of black man are immoral beings, criminals and animals that don’t have feelings. So it’s hard and impossible to make them feel real empathy for black people, and this lead to a common fact in court at that time that when it comes to cases like murder of white men by black, most of people in jury would not even bother thinking of the reasoning behind before they assert the guilty of black men. It becomes a common sense that black men can’t be treated equally in court. So in his argument, Jake make the jury forget about their racial prejudice for a while and focused on how furious and injustice they would feel for a rape like this happened to a white girl, a girl of their own kind and even their own children. Only under this circumstance will they function their empathy feelings normally without bias. Once the injustice and angry feeling is aroused, they will start to reconsider their decisions in terms of reasoning and preference of justice.

Jake was very wise to realize that although the prejudice against black is so deeply rooted in some of the jury’s mind and it’s impossible to change it within a short time, especially when involving a murder of white men, it is still possible for those people to have sympathetic feelings as long as the bias is not playing the main role. And he is clever enough in using apparent invocation of empathy to successfully switch the jury’s attention from the murder case to the rape that lead to the murder in which Carl Lee became the victim.

“A Time to Kill”, Joel Schumacher, Warner Bros, 1996

defending for Tom Robinson

Gentlemen in the jury, before I started my closing argument, I want to first mention a personal anecdote of mine and hopefully you can feel the same way I did. As many of you may know, I was a good shooter when I was young and I shoot a lot for fun at that time. But there was one time that I truly felt guilty inside my heart because I shoot a mockingbird to death. I couldn’t help thinking of this: The mockingbird doesn’t do any harm to me and instead it makes pleasant music, but I just killed it for no reason. Since then, I keep reminding myself of the mockingbird and that I won’t let this thing happen again.

OK, now I’ll start my argument.

To begin with, I want to refute the accusal of   Tom beating Mayella. As Tom mentioned, he lost his left arm’s muscle ability when he was 12, while the Mayella was apparently hurt by someone using left arm. So there’s no chance that Tom could beat her in this way. Also, according to Bob’s testimony, he didn’t call doctors throughout the event, and I think this is totally unexplainable. Gentlemen, you all have your own child, please image if your child was hurt by someone else, at very first you may get extremely angry and want to find the guy, tearing him apart immediately, but the first thing you will do must be to call a doctor and check if anything goes wrong with your child. There’s no reason that Bob just leaved his daughter unattended without calling a doctor unless it was himself who beat her, which is quite possible because he is a left-hand person as proved by his writing habit.  [TKAM] Second, according to Tom’s words, Mayella tried to tempt and kiss him, a black man, a man that is considered immoral being and liar by the society. I understand her panic and guilt about breaking the taboo, and I feel pity for her because she is also the victim of the poverty and ignorance. But this should not be the reason that she tries to put an innocent man into death. At last, I want to emphasize that Tom Robinson has all attributes of a good human-being and therefore won’t do things to hurt people. Though aware of the social prejudice and race difference, He could still feel sorry for a white woman and offer his help as a friend, asking for nothing. This should be enough for us to change our prejudice opinions against all black man. Every race has good people and bad people, and there’s absolute no reason for us to judge someone though his skin color. Tom Robinson is a kind young man with no doubt. But what did his kindness get him? Being accused and the risk of losing his own life. This is certainly unfair to him. Tom Robinson is just like the mockingbirds that do no harm but sing for us. Gentlemen in the jury, please remember, you should always feel sin to kill a mockingbird.