Research Proposal

I found myself interested by one of the most cherished values of the United States- Individualism. This value is not only apparent from the rules and regulations concerning ownership in this country such as severe punishments for plagiarism in the academic world but also it is reflected in many different daily life values. Those daily life values can include the cherished need for personal space, privacy, freedom of expression amongst others. All those commonly held values play a very important role in shaping the morals and ethics of a people which on their own determine much about the constitution, systems of justice, immigration statues and different other political and socio-economic aspects. For these reasons, I want to know more about how individualism has affected personality traits of Americans and how it has affected empathy in general. Does Individualism as opposed to collectivism breed a more empathetic society? If so, how does that shape what we believe to be ethical? As the theme of my class is Empathy and Ethics, the way individualism impacts people’s ability to empathize and how that affects our justice and law making fits in this theme. We have had many discussions regarding what real empathy is, what people need to empathize with others, how empathy affects our systems of justice and law and so, relating that to one of the important values of Americans is just broadening the theme of the class.

Some of the important questions that are central to this topic are for example: Has our society become more and more individualistic? and if so, how did that affect empathy? How has our need for freedom shaped our personalities? Do some of the things we respect like one’s time make us more individualistic or collectivistic? How do our personalities affect our systems of laws?  As I dig deeper in the topic, more and more questions will surface. Answering those questions might not be simple most especially if some of them might have subjective answers but trying to find the general answers or at least the most accepted ones will help this topic. I will use of articles, journals and books to investigate individualism and to answer the questions central to my topic.  

MLA cited list:

Changming Duan , Meifen Wei, Lizhao Wang (2009). The Role of Individualism-Collectivism in Empathy:  An Exploratory Study, http://hkier.fed.cuhk.edu.hk/journal/wp-content/uploads/2009/10/ajc_v15n1_57-81.pdf

Ghorbani, Nima, et al. “Individualist and Collectivist Values: Evidence of Compatibility in Iran and the United States.” Personality and Individual Differences, vol. 35, no. 2, 2003., pp. 431-447doi:10.1016/S0191-8869(02)00205-2.

Heinke, MS, and WR Louis. “Cultural Background and Individualistic-Collectivistic Values in Relation to Similarity, Perspective Taking, and Empathy.” JOURNAL OF APPLIED SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY, vol. 39, no. 11, 2009., pp. 2570-2590doi:10.1111/j.1559-1816.2009.00538.x.

Robertson, Chris, and Paul A. Fadil. “Ethical Decision Making in Multinational Organizations: A Culture-Based Model.” Journal of Business Ethics, vol. 19, no. 4, 1999., pp. 385-392doi:10.1023/A:1005742016867.

Mattila, Anna S., and Paul G. Patterson. “Service Recovery and Fairness Perceptions in Collectivist and Individualist Contexts.” Journal of Service Research, vol. 6, no. 4, 2004., pp. 336-346doi:10.1177/1094670503262947.

 

Limitations of empathy in both real and virtual life

Empathy, a humane ability to recognize thoughts and feelings within another conscious being, is beneficial to all parties in most social contexts. However, ideal empathy only occurs when the empathizer is able to fully inherit all the feelings and experiences of others while in real life, this is hard to be achieved. Various factors such as unfamiliarity with others, deficiency of information and difference of referents will unconsciously lead to people’s failure of identification with another’s emotional state. Such kind of empathy’s drawbacks, though sometimes wisely guides people to make moral choices, deserves people’s attention to perform empathy appropriately. In my introduction to blog series, I am going to shed light on empathy’s limitations from real life to virtual world, and explain how they come into effect.

 

 

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Empathy’s dependence on referents

Generally speaking, empathy’s limitation lies mostly in its dependence on empathizer’s referents. Since empathizer can never directly know what the object is thinking about, he only infers the object’s inner state. And to achieve this, Dan H. Buie contends that “The empathizer finds a referent within his own mind, a referent that could, if expressed, reasonably be manifested by cues similar to those he observed in object”. According to the post “Changes and continuities in Atticus’s characters”, this limitation is most notably illustrated through Jean Louise’s transition from failing to empathize with Atticus, to being softened at the end of the novel(GSAW). Then what on earth causes this transition? And what is the reason behind the complete change of her attitude? According to the post, when Jean was young, Atticus defends Tom Robinson by declaring, “In courts, all we are legally equal.”(TKMB) Although Tom Robinson was finally died of racial discrimination, Atticus’s spirit of searching for justice and equality, in the eye of little Jean Louis, was admirable and irreplaceable. At the same time, the heroic figure of Atticus is built in Jean’s heart, which also constituted the referent she held then. However, her lack of empathy towards Atticus happens when she found that she could no more find similar referent to empathize with him. The idolized figure to fight against racists is now replaced by the one who attends Citizen’s Council and opposes the efforts of NAACP, while the referent, as what she believed Atticus should be, still remains. Then why she softened at the end of the novel? According to the post, during her time in Maycomb, she gradually realized that the admirable roles in her heart, Uncle Jack and Atticus, are revealed to be not the perfect ones as she expected them to be. Atticus does share some thoughts of a racist. Jack is not as mild as she thought who hit her almost to pass out. Along with her realization, her referent of Atticus unconsciously changes from a sparkling figure built from childhood to a flawed human seen from an adult’s perspective. If we take all these discussed above to think about Jean’s transition, it is not hard to understand the reason why Jean changes from being angry to feeling softened.

 

 

ingroup

In-group Bias

Apart from empathizer’s inference based on referents, people also fails to empathize because of the in-group preference of empathy. In literary works, such kind of preference is easily to be ignored when scholars try to find approaches to empathizing with devils. Adam Morton, who contends that overcoming the barriers of morality will help people empathize with devils, further to better empathize with ordinary issues, is one of them. According to the post “What attitude should we hold towards empathy for atrocities?”, he describes this morality-limited empathy as “we want to take empathy as easy, to ease everyday interaction, and we want to take it as difficult, to keep a distance between us and those we despise.” And “a deeper understanding, and a more solid empathy, for some very ordinary actions” will be achieved if we are able to empathize with atrocities. However, to empathize with evil-doers is not as simple as his reasoning seems to be. Just as Fuchsman, Ken indicated, “Empathy is most likely to emerge with those with whom we are familiar, those that are an ‘us’”. This means that people tend to empathize with those who are in the “same” group. To satisfy this requirement, the pre-condition to empathize with devils requires the empathizer to be in the same group as the object, which in this case, is to be a group member of “devil communities”. To conclude, people’s morality, though leads to people’s failure of empathy, prevents them from becoming evil-doers and helps them empathize with “similar” moral people. Even if the limitation performs a good role to benefit social justice here, it still deserves our concern when in multicultural social contexts, people might be affected by empathy’s in-group limitation through decision-making, leading to partial and biased choices.

 

onlinecyberbully

Cyber bullying online

In online community, however, based on its anonymous nature, such kind of in-group limitation may exaggerate people’s empathy on social media, leading to extreme reactions.  According to the post “Demeaning words online–Exaggerated empathy’s limitation protected by anonymous mask”, it addresses the question why people empathize more for Sun Yang while leading to lack of empathy for Mack Horton. With regard to the post, Mack Horton’s remark of Sun Yang as “drug cheater” in interview, which is uploaded later online, has brought huge outpourings of rage towards him on social media. People condemned Mack Horton as violating Olympic spirits and lacking of respect towards competitors. The truth is, according to the post, Sun was using a medication for his heart problem, but unfortunately, it contained a substance which had just been banned as a new type of stimulant while related departments have not updated that rule. Objectively speaking, nothing should be regarded as wrong on the side of Mack since Sun did take banned medicine. Meanwhile, on the side of Sun, he should not be labelled as “Drug Cheat” regarding that the nature of his violation should be regarded as an accident instead of an intended action. According to the post, the in-group preference was exaggerated under the protection of anonymous “mask” so that social media users can express their ideas, even in extremely demeaning words, without having to be responsible. With the development of social media moving forward, such kind of empathy preference is affecting more and more social media users. And more importantly, such kind of exaggerated, irresponsible or even illegal empathy pouring may sometimes result in severer consequence than that in real life.

 

In a word, the involvement of empathy did help people to live and work morally, but we should still be aware of the limitations brought by. The very nature of empathy, specifically, its dependence on referents and in-group preference in both real and virtual life deserves people concern while we are seeking for a better way to apply and perform empathy to consolidate interpersonal relationships and pursue social justice.

Work Cited:

Fuchsman, Ken. “Empathy and Humanity.” The Journal of psychohistory, vol. 42, no. 3, 2015., pp. 176.

 

Buie, D. H. “Empathy: Its Nature and Limitations.” Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, vol. 29, no. 2, 1981., pp. 281.

 

Empathy Reveals the Veil of Cruelty

Empathy is like an iceberg and when penetrating the meaning of the word “empathy”, plenty of scholars contend their own thoughtful definitions and explanations. Besides the meaning of “empathy” itself, people extend to explore the reasons and the methods of attaching empathy rationally and accurately. However, instead of shrinking our scope on delving how and why we should generate empathy, I prefer to neglect the consummate ideality of empathy initially and bring empathy into practice and see what can eventually come out.

After comprehending Adam Morton article “Empathy for the devil”, two eminent novels “Go Set a Watchman” and “To Kill a Mockingbird” written by Nelle Harper Lee and Jon Ronson’s article about social media “God that was Awesome”, I found empathy reveals the veil of cruelty. There are surface and potential meanings of the term “cruelty”. Initially, superficially cruelty can be the evils in Morton’s article whose misbehaviors are not easily forgivable and understandable, can be the indifferent social media which enables people to judge others based on anonymity, and also can be Jean Louise’s vehemently disagreement and furious abomination of her father Atticus Finch. However, without the role of empathy, the instinct humanity and morality of human nature prevent people from acknowledging the existent cruelty. In this circumstance, valuable ethics become a blocking wall of feeling the devils and the purpose of empathy is to destroy this impediment. It is empathy that allows people with decency and morality accurately understanding the devils, enables the users of social media to be aware of the potentially vicious slander when commenting on others and let Jean Louise generate complicated emotions to her beloved father.

empathyblindnessFurthermore, potential and subsequent cruelty occur when people dedicate themselves to fully empathize with others but sometimes eventually the limitations of empathy and misunderstandings of others come out. For instance, pseudo-empathy is generated because of the lack of understanding as Adam Morton says “a connection with an evil action that preserves moral character at the price of describing the wrong kind of barrier, such as decency and morality toward devils or disgusting things, makes pseudo-empathy, an empathetic feeling that is not accompanied by understanding”. (Morton 327) Moreover, people hold wrong understanding of the unseen people in the social media as the scholar Martin L. Hoffman says that “the limitations of empathy include that we empathize with people nearby and empathize more to physically present people than potentially unseen people.” (Hoffman 251) Knowing the surface of the facts without exploring the roots and the backgrounds of the people in social media, people tend to be cruel and their unintentional comments turn out to be trenchant sword to hurt others mentally and even physically. Third, for the main character Jean in “Go Set a Watchman”, Jean Louise relies on her father’s belief and has enormous “self-oriented” empathy but lack of independent conscience pursuing and “other-oriented” empathy. (Hoffman 233) When she empathizes that Atticus changes into a mature and “flawed” conscience, she starts to resist everyone who has different attitude from her. Her indifference and rigorous antipathy hurt people who cherish her most and make everyone suffer because her limitation of empathy.

To elaborate, as for the blog post 4, I illustrate that potential cruelty appears when people conduct empathy only based on the recall of their own experience instead of completely placing themselves in others’ situation. I also have a disagreement of Adam Morton’s definition of pseudo-empathy and assert that “self-focused” (recalling own experience) should be in accordance with “other-focused”. I summarize Adam Morton’s two examples and instance an example related to my own experience to demonstrate my perspective. Furthermore, I adopt a scholar source written by Coplan Amy to support my argument that in order to fully understand and get rid of pseudo-empathy, both “self-oriented” perspective and “other-oriented” perspective is needed to be taken into consideration.

In the blog post 5, I assert that the anonymous character of Internet is misused by public and the cruelty appears when the public tend to wrongly empathize with the victims based on the insufficient information. My own example of this illustrates how the public’s perspectives shift and how people’s empathy goes in fade when they hear of different aspects of facts and I conclude that the audience as us are the cruel people who should be responsible for the miserable mental damages obtained by innocent unseen online victims.

For blog post 6, I concentrate on the cruelty of Jean Louise when she endeavors to empathize with her father Atticus’s change. Her over-empathy and over reliance on Atticus block her from considering about her own responsibility of setting her own moral watchman. This over “self-oriented” empathy in some extent hides the “other-oriented” empathy and thus causes her misunderstanding of people who have different conscience from her.

Consequently, after reading all my blog posts, the readers can understand why empathy reveals the veil cruelty in two ways: empathy is helpful for us to discern the cruelty and cruelty can also be generated by empathy’s limitations.

 

 

the links of Blog 4,5,6

How can we overcome pseudo-empathy A disagreement about Adam Morton

Empathy in the Digital Age

A Watchman of Jean’s Conscience

 

Cited from:

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

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

 

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.

The Real Empathy Improve Our lives Both On Internet And Reality

We, as the new generation of the undergraduate students, have literally lived in the information-overloaded age. Since the moment that we were born, the internet played an unseparated part throughout our own development. The giant flow of information that comes with the rapid development of the internet undoubtedly brings us a lot of benefits, just as what you are doing: search the key word “empathy” in the search engine. However, we are also exposed to numerous of conflicts on the internet that are caused by people’s incapability of truly understanding the others. Under this circumstance, a major question has raised up: how to truly empathize with others in order to a make benign environment both in internet and the real life?

 

To anwer this very question, wempathye first need our definition of real and pseudo-empathy. In Amy Colpan’s “will the Real Empathy Please Stand Up? a Case for a Narrow Conceptualization.”, she gives the definition of two kinds of empathy. The first one Is self-oriented empathy, pseudo-empathy, in which according to Colpan, “We use our own selves and our responses to various simulated or imagined scenarios as a way to gain access to or understand another person’s situated psychological states”. This would result in inaccurate prediction and failed stimulation of other’s thoughts, feelings and desire, thus setting up such a large number of fight both in reality and internet. The other one is other-oriented empathy, the real empathy, in which “a process through which an observer simulates another’s situated psychological states, while maintaining clear self–other differentiation.”(Colpan). Only by this process, we are able to obtain experimental understanding of another person, the understanding from “inside”. To do so, lots of unnecessary fight will be avoided.

 

In the first post, I reflect “Empathy of The Devil” by Morton, whose mainly concern is why people do not empathize with the atrocious behaviors, and believes that this is because of the barriers of decency, which are same as those they would face in committing atrocious behaviors. In Morton’s perspective, we can display to ourselves an emotion that the perpetuator might have under the situation that she or he conducts atrocious acts, but we cannot understand the reason why the perpetuator passes the barrier of decency to behave atrociously. When viewed from Colpan’s perspective, Morton’s point does not hold water. According to Colpan, this kind of emotion-sharing process is called “Emotional Contagions”, in which we can catch others’ emotion but transmit no understanding. It is clear for us to tell that sometimes people’s incapability or misunderstanding of each other, which would cause fights, is because there are lack of empathy between them. Because of the “Emotional Contagions”, people sometimes just get a sense of emotions by the conductors of, what they might think, atrocious acts. Then massive of accusation would be created by these people who are lack of empathy.

 

In the second post, I discuss the hot issue that is often mentioned by people, Empathy in Digital Age. In my perspective, pseudo-empathy prevails in social media. Because of the short size of each post in social media and lack of face-to-face interation, people would often view other people’s posts with the self-oriented-perspective-taking, which is same as pseudo-empathy according to Colpan. Hence, they would often misunderstand the intention that their author sending these posts. Instead, they would focus on one of the negative points that are indirectly reflected by these post, thus creating the endlessly fight on the social media.

 

In the last one, I state my own point after reading the novel “Go Set a Watchman”.  I believe that the other-oriented empathy is the special ability that can be trained and is the symbol of maturity. originally, owing to lack of empathy, Jean Louis feels unexpectedly shocked by witnessing her father, Atticus, attending a council encouraging segregation between races. By seeing so, her impression of Atticus as an undaunted hero who always pursues justice collapses, thus creating a tense relationship between she and Atticus. However, after several conversations with uncle Jake, she finally eases her tense relationship between her father. This novel also convey idea that with the development toward maturity, people would gradually obtain the ability of empathize with real empathy. In the last post, I illustrate development of a young lady, Jean Louis, in which she is gradually able empathize other with real empathy, though experiencing ups and downs. Eventually, when she is able to understand her father with the real empathy, she not only mitigates her mentally struggling with identifying with the town where she grown up and accepting the inconsistent acts of Atticus in her childhood and her current situation, but also she becomes a wise, independent young lady.

 

To sum up, our human beings have a nature tendency to empathize with self-oriented empathy, pseudo-empathy. That is the reason why there are so many flights on internet and in reality. Nevertheless, in my view, the most effective way to meliorate this situation, no matter in daily reaction and on internet, is to train ourselves to have the ability to empathize with other-oriented perspective, to understand others from within.

Work cited

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

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

Morton, Adam. “Empathy for the Devil – Oxford Scholarship.” Empathy for     the Devil – Oxford Scholarship. N.p., 06 Nov. 2014. Web. 20 Oct. 2016.

COPLAN, AMY. “will the Real Empathy Please Stand Up? a Case for a Narrow Conceptualization.” The Southern Journal of Philosophy, vol. 49, 2011., pp. 40-65doi:10.1111/j.2041-6962.2011.00056.x.

 

Introduction to an epiphany

This blog sequence will address some of the complex situations that arise with empathy. Empathy is something that allows people to think about situations from a different perspective.This sequence will take a specific focus on empathy on a larger scale. This exploration will help come to a conclusion on the question of, “When empathy(or a lack thereof) plays a role, how is there an impact on the joint thinking of large groups of people?” As the thread evolves, it will become clear that when a group is involved in scenario that involves empathy, the joint thinking among the group is close to identical. Even within a group of people with considerable differences, the response to an empathic situation is similar.

The thread begins by critically analyzing the arguments made by Adam Morton. My point that is made about Adam Morton can show what happens when somebody examines a situation of empathy, though disregards the theory that I bring up about joint thinking. Morton makes a variety of points in regards to empathizing with people who are “evil”. I take a specific focus on his discussion of “pseudo-empathy”, primarily because this is when issues arise. Throughout his essay, Morton relies on the use of the terms “empathy” and “pseudo-empathy”. In saying “pseudo-empathy”, he claims to be referring to empathy with an absence of understanding. It ends up that Morton’s reference to people who have “Empathy for the Devil” actually just have “pseudo-empathy”, which is not empathy at all. These ideas help to give an alternate example of a potential result of a situation with empathy. Adam Morton sees a select few people respond to evil acts with empathy. The vast majority of people respond with “pseudo-empathy”, which is also known as no empathy. In other words, the joint response of the group is the same. As this thread will go on to prove, the actions of the majority need to be taken for truth as opposed to an attempt to fit them in with outliers. While Adam Morton seems puzzled as to why people empathize with the devil, he just looking at the actions of a minority of the group. He has no reason to puzzled.

The bridge to the entire sequence is blog post 2, which gives us a very specific example of large group empathy playing out. As the example used here is looking at a social media reaction. Social media encompasses millions of people, which denotes the large group. This post looks at both the specific example and another source that further explains the example. The outside source that is examined comes from a man named P.J. Manney. He helps to make sense of the overall large group impacts that come from empathy. Manney discusses the idea of an “out group”, which can only be created with a very large group of non empathizers. Once these people agree on a particular “out group” that deserves no understanding or empathy, everyone feels the right to pounce on members of the out group. This is why when people make major mistakes in the public eye, people become ruthless and forget that this person has any real role other than this one bad action. In this post, there is also the example which helps to give a more concrete idea of the out group. I took Walter Palmer, the American dentist who killed the popular lion named Ceil on a trophy hunting trip in Zimbabwe. The general public saw him as being in the out group of people that don’t value the lives of animals, thus they had no empathy for him. He was highly criticized and had to adjust his day-to-day life in order to avoid the negative media attention everywhere he went. This criticism came from people across the world who have many sets of values, though found similar in showing no empathy for this out group.  

The final thread to the blog sequence elaborates on the progression of Atticus Finch in several of Harper Lee’s novels. When a reader experiences Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird prior to Go Set a Watchman, there is a clear sense that Atticus Finch (the father in the book) seems to shift from an activist for race equality to a racist. I explain how this historical example shows the strong role of a lack of empathy over a longer time period. While readers see Atticus Finch as a rare activist following his defense of Tom Robinson, there’s more to it. The reader cannot forgot the strength that the joint thinking of the Southern community has. For To Kill a Mockingbird, both Scout and the readers are able to maintain a fantasy world for some time. Though, reality caught up and we realized that Atticus Finch is just like the rest of his racist peers. Going along with the ideas of P.J. Manney, we have to remember that most of the South in this time had placed African Americans in an out-group. It is not likely that Atticus will go against this huge group. During this time, there was a non-existent sense of empathy among white people. As sweet as his defense of Tom Robinson seemed, it just is not that simple. Atticus had a great passion for his job, and he was able to bear the embarrassment of defending a black man for a short period of time. While it took a while for it to become completely obvious, everyone can now see that Atticus has always been apart of his community and their views on African Americans.

Overall, it has become obvious that even large groups of people will respond similarly to the same stimulus. The three examples discussed in the sequence all differ, though each similarly shows that groups respond to empathy related situations in nearly identical ways. These are all examples from people’s actions, but it would be realistic to say that this thesis could also be backed with psychological research. Everyone shares something in their brain that allows such a similar reaction regardless of race, gender, culture or values.

Works Cited

Manney, P.J. “Is Technology Destroying Empathy?” LiveScience.  30 June 2015. Web. 23 October 2016. <http://www.livescience.com/51392-will-tech-bring-humanity-together-or-tear-it-apart.html>

WHAT DOES TAKE TO EMPATHIZE WITH ACTIONS WE ABHOR?

WHAT DOES TAKE TO EMPATHIZE WITH ACTIONS WE ABHOR?

empathy For a long time, people have debated on the question of what we really need to empathize with actions we tend to dislike. Different people have different opinions about this question. Understanding what real empathy is will help us answer this. Empathy as some define it is “the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to the actions of another and hence experiencing the feelings of another” (Merriam Webster Dictionary). Using a sequence of three blogs “Asking why”, “Technology puts empathy at risk” and “Does Atticus Finch change and how does his daughter forgive him?” and an essay by Paul Formosa, I will answer the question of what it takes to empathize with other people most especially when they have done what we dislike. I argue that we need to accept that humans are in general capable of both good and evil and to understand different contexts in which humans act is key to empathizing with them. In “Asking why” I will explain that we need to understand the motives and the environment (context) of the evil doer in order to empathize with them. Paul Formosa supports my claim in “Asking why” where he explains that we need to understand why a person did something to empathize with them.  I will then use both “Technology puts empathy at risk” and “Does Atticus Finch change and how does his daughter forgive him?” as my examples to show that understanding the context of an action and the true nature of the actor (humans can do both good and evil) both combined give us the right angle to view the world from hence leading to real empathy.

What is it about an action we need to understand in order to empathize with the actor? Is it how the action was performed or why it was performed? In his essay “Empathy for the devil” Adam Morton explains that because people have “Internalized code of conduct” that normally prevents them to do evil actions, they find it hard to empathize with atrocious actions. Morton hence argues that for people to sort of silence that code of conduct, they need to visualize “how” as opposed to “why” a person performed an atrocious action in order to empathize with them. Morton explains that imagining how a person did an evil action makes us surmount our inner code of conduct which understanding why wouldn’t achieve according to him (319). Morton says that why only gives us the motives and desires but not the real way in which a person was able to surmount their own code of conduct that normally prevents them to do evil actions (319). I agree with Morton’s point on why we find it hard to empathize with evil actions- we have an internal code of conduct. However, I disagree with the method Morton proposes to empathize with atrocious actions. I argue that understanding how a person did an atrocious action is a problem since it requires us to imagine and we cannot always rely on our imagination to be accurate or even close to the reality in the first place. On the hand, understanding why a person did something needs us to talk to the person and grasp their motives, desires and the role their environment might have played in determining their action(context).

human-natureWhat can we then say are the prerequisites to empathize with a person? In his essay “Understanding evil actions” Paul Formosa explains that we are often unable to empathize with evil because we are “puzzled by it”. He explains that we tend to find evil very unusual and surprising and against our normal way of behaving. He then explains that understanding why people do evil things gives us their motives and hence an understanding of their context and point of view. Therefore, understanding why a person performed an action gives us the first prerequisite to empathizing with actions we find evil. The second prerequisite is to understand the true human nature which is that people change and there is no saint in any of us. No matter how good a person might be, they sometimes do bad things. Also, even though people do bad things sometimes, it doesn’t follow that they are entirely bad.  We all do bad things maybe not of the same intensity but we all do a certain level of good and evil. Therefore, we should not have big expectations of the goodness or evilness of anyone. The definition of empathy demands that we understand and be sensitive to someone’s action. This can be grasped from knowing someone’s motives, desires, their environment and the person’s true nature. Both the context of an action and the true nature of the performer are what we need to empathize with them.

empathy

If one of these people tried to view the number from the other’s direction, they would see that the other person isn’t wrong but that they are just viewing the number from a different position.

Most of times, humans tend to be quick to judge other peoples’ actions or behaviors. However, we might be surprised how quick our judgements can change once we are willing to listen to other people’s views before making conclusions. In the movie “To Kill a Mocking Bird”, Atticus Finch defends Tom Robinson (a black man) accused of raping a white woman. Since Atticus defends Tom even though he is a black man, we are given reasons to think that Atticus believed in human equality and despised discrimination against black people. However, Atticus later changes into a racist (in Go set a watchman). When Jean Louise- his daughter who grew up looking up to his father-finds out that her dad turned to be racist, she is very disappointed in her father that she decides to leave her home town. The very first problem that she meets that makes it hard to empathize with her father is her “inner code of conduct” (as Morton explains). She believes that all human beings are equal. This belief of hers makes it hard to understand how anyone most especially her father (who used to be good) could be racist. The way Jean Louise is able to empathize with her father is that her father explained to her that he joined the council because he believes that black people in that society are “backwards” and hence should not be allowed to rule or vote (Harper, 246-247). This conversation makes Jean Louise understand her dad’s motive to join the council. Jean Louise is also able to understand that almost every white person in Maycomb was racist at the time hence makes her understand the influence this racist environment might have had on her father. This makes her understand the “context” (his reasons and his environment) that is attached to her father’s story. After understanding that, she also realizes that she took her dad to be a “God” who can’t do anything wrong- she had always expected him to be perfect as her uncle Jack explains to her (Harper 273). After understanding her father, Jean Louise decides to stay. This example illustrates Paul Formosa’s and Morton’s point that once we overcome we overcome the “puzzlement” and the “inner code of conduct”, we can then empathize with others.

That being said, empathizing with people we don’t necessarily know or can’t talk to directly like fellow internet users can be even more tricky. As I mention in “Technology puts empathy at risk”, it is hard to get the right context of a story we read on social media or in the news. Let us take the example of Jean Michel Habineza who was accused of insulting Rwandan leaders. During a debate at Pepperdine University, Jean Michel Habineza (a Rwandan debater) tried to compare the politics in the united states and politics in Africa where he made a point that African leaders should have more preparation towards their careers because currently in Africa “People move from fighting in the bush to being presidents the next day” (Tanya Garcia, “Rwandan Debaters focus on empowering the youth”, Pepperdine University Graphic). Rwandans started media shaming him that he has insulted Rwanda and her leaders. But if we think about it, he had never mentioned any specific country in Africa nor did he say that he was talking about Rwanda specifically. The use of internet hence had robbed the Rwandan people, the right context in which Jean Michel was saying what he said. People did not bother to ask him why he had said that or if he was referring to anyone in particular which would have given them the right context of what he said. It was hard for internet users to empathize with Jean Michel since people did not understand the context of his story.

Empathy towards evil actions could be easily attained if we can change our usual approach to viewing people’s actions. We would better empathize with people if we tried to understand their motives, environments and their general nature first before we jump to conclusions. This approach is the key to real empathy.

Work cited:

Adam, Morton. “Empathy for the devil.”  Empathy: Philosophical and Psychological Perspectives. Ed. Amy Coplan and Peter Goldie. Oxford University Press, Oxford; New York; 2011.

Formosa, Paul. “Understanding Evil Acts.” Human Studies, vol. 30, no. 2, 2007., pp. 57-77doi:10.1007/s10746-007-9052-y.

Gary Small. Gigi Vorgan. “Is the internet killing empathy”, Special to CNN February 18, 2011 http://www.cnn.com/2011/OPINION/02/18/small.vorgan.internet.empathy/

To kill a Mocking Bird. Directed by Robert Mulligan.                                                       Universal Pictures.1962

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

Merriam-Webster, Inc. Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Thesaurus, Merriam-Webster, Springfield, Mass, 2010.

Tanya Garcia. “Rwandan Debaters focus on empowering the youth”. Pepperdine University Graphic, September 26, 2015

Interaction design Foundation  https://www.interaction-design.org/literature/article/empathic-design-is-empathy-the-ux-holy-grail

We must understand before we judge: https://twitter.com/gregmortenson/status/698414846753124353

Cruelty: http://izquotes.com/quote/93971

Links to my blog sequence:

Asking Why: http://blogs.rochester.edu/feelinggood2/2016/10/20/blog-post-4-2/

Technology puts empathy at risk: http://blogs.rochester.edu/feelinggood2/2016/10/24/ttechnology-puts-our-humanity-empathy-at-risk/

Does Atticus Finch change and how does his daughter forgive him: http://blogs.rochester.edu/feelinggood2/2016/10/27/does-atticus-finch-change-and-if-yes-how-does-his-daughter-forgive-him/

 

 

Visualizing Empathy – Part 1

Empathy 1

As we’ve learned throughout this class, empathy is a slippery concept. It seems that we have seen as many definitions of the term as we have authors who have addressed themselves to explaining it (or some part of it). And of course there’s always the confusion of when empathy is “legitimate,” versus when we might be experiencing what Adam Morton calls “pseudo-empathy” (327). How well do we need to understand the particulars of a person’s situation to empathize with that person? How much of that person’s experience do we need to have shared in order to empathize? If we have shared some part of it, does that count? What are the “important” parts? Perhaps a thorny, related question is, can it be insulting to a person for us to assume we can empathize with her if we base that assumption on an exaggerated idea of our familiarity with her suffering? We’ve likely all been in the position of having someone tell us that they “know how we feel,” when we are quite certain that they have no idea. Which, come to think of it, is another way of saying that we can all empathize with that feeling. So is that empathy enough? Yes, empathy is definitely a slippery concept.

Empathy 2

As we’ve learned throughout this class, empathy is a slippery concept. It seems that we have seen as many definitions of the term as we have authors who have addressed themselves to explaining it (or some part of it). And of course there’s always the confusion of when empathy is “legitimate,” versus when we might be experiencing what Adam Morton calls “pseudo-empathy” (327). How well do we need to understand the particulars of a person’s situation to empathize with that person? How much of that person’s experience do we need to have shared in order to empathize? If we have shared some part of it, does that count? What are the “important” parts? Perhaps a thorny, related question is, can it be insulting to a person for us to assume we can empathize with her if we base that assumption on an exaggerated idea of our familiarity with her suffering? We’ve likely all been in the position of having someone tell us that they “know how we feel,” when we are quite certain that they have no idea. Which, come to think of it, is another way of saying that we can all empathize with that feeling. So is that empathy enough? Yes, empathy is definitely a slippery concept.

empathy-3

Empathy 3

As we’ve learned throughout this class, empathy is a slippery concept. It seems that we have seen as many definitions of the term as we have authors who have addressed themselves to explaining it (or some part of it). And of course there’s always the confusion of when empathy is “legitimate,” versus when we might be experiencing what Adam Morton calls “pseudo-empathy” (327). How well do we need to understand the particulars of a person’s situation to empathize with that person? How much of that person’s experience do we need to have shared in order to empathize? If we have shared some part of it, does that count? What are the “important” parts? Perhaps a thorny, related question is, can it be insulting to a person for us to assume we can empathize with her if we base that assumption on an exaggerated idea of our familiarity with her suffering? We’ve likely all been in the position of having someone tell us that they “know how we feel,” when we are quite certain that they have no idea. Which, come to think of it, is another way of saying that we can all empathize with that feeling. So is that empathy enough? Yes, empathy is definitely a slippery concept.

Works Cited
Morton, Adam. “Empathy for the Devil.” Empathy: Philosophical and Psychological Perspectives. Ed. by Amy Coplan and Peter Goldie. Oxford, UK: Oxford UP, 2011. 318-30.


Image references
Empathy 1
http://personalitygrowth.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/Empathy.jpg?2aa4f6

Empathy 2
http://www.relatably.com/m/img/empathetic-memes/d8965e281b3d08be099b706edadd15d0565d561ae35e9d07bb8fa0d637c8a678

Empathy 3
Borrowed from the blog post of Shalini Shah
Link TBD

Visualizing Empathy – Part 2

empathy-3

Empathy 3

As we’ve learned throughout this class, and as the image above demonstrates, empathy is a slippery concept. It seems that we have seen as many definitions of the term as we have authors who have addressed themselves to explaining it (or some part of it). And of course there’s always the confusion of when empathy is “legitimate,” versus when we might be experiencing what Adam Morton calls “pseudo-empathy” (327). How well do we need to understand the particulars of a person’s situation to empathize with that person? How much of that person’s experience do we need to have shared in order to empathize? If we have shared some part of it, does that count? What are the “important” parts? Perhaps a thorny, related question is, can it be insulting to a person for us to assume we can empathize with her if we base that assumption on an exaggerated idea of our familiarity with her suffering? We’ve likely all been in the position of having someone tell us that they “know how we feel,” when we are quite certain that they have no idea. Which, come to think of it, is another way of saying that we can all empathize with that feeling. So is that empathy enough? Yes, empathy is definitely a slippery concept.

empathy-3

Empathy 3

As we’ve learned throughout this class, empathy is a slippery concept. It seems that we have seen as many definitions of the term as we have authors who have addressed themselves to explaining it (or some part of it). And of course there’s always the confusion of when empathy is “legitimate,” versus when we might be experiencing what Adam Morton calls “pseudo-empathy” (327). How well do we need to understand the particulars of a person’s situation to empathize with that person? How much of that person’s experience do we need to have shared in order to empathize? If we have shared some part of it, does that count? What are the “important” parts? Perhaps a thorny, related question is, can it be insulting to a person for us to assume we can empathize with her if we base that assumption on an exaggerated idea of our familiarity with her suffering? We’ve likely all been in the position of having someone tell us that they “know how we feel,” when we are quite certain that they have no idea. Which, come to think of it, is another way of saying that we can all empathize with that feeling. So is that empathy enough? Yes, empathy is definitely a slippery concept.

As we’ve learned throughout this class, empathy is a slippery concept. It seems that we have seen as many definitions of the term as we have authors who have addressed themselves to explaining it (or some part of it). And of course there’s always the confusion of when empathy is “legitimate,” versus when we might be experiencing what Adam Morton calls “pseudo-empathy” (327). How well do we need to understand the particulars of a person’s situation to empathize with that person? How much of that person’s experience do we need to have shared in order to empathize? If we have shared some part of it, does that count? What are the “important” parts? Perhaps a thorny, related question is, can it be insulting to a person for us to assume we can empathize with her if we base that assumption on an exaggerated idea of our familiarity with her suffering? We’ve likely all been in the position of having someone tell us that they “know how we feel,” when we are quite certain that they have no idea. Which, come to think of it, is another way of saying that we can all empathize with that feeling. So is that empathy enough? Yes, empathy is definitely a slippery concept, as is illustrated by the image below.

empathy-3

Empathy 3

Works Cited
Morton, Adam. “Empathy for the Devil.” Empathy: Philosophical and Psychological Perspectives. Ed. by Amy Coplan and Peter Goldie. Oxford, UK: Oxford UP, 2011. 318-30.


Image references
Empathy 1
http://personalitygrowth.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/Empathy.jpg?2aa4f6

Empathy 2
http://www.relatably.com/m/img/empathetic-memes/d8965e281b3d08be099b706edadd15d0565d561ae35e9d07bb8fa0d637c8a678

Empathy 3
Borrowed from the blog post of Shalini Shah
Link TBD

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.