Psychology Colloquium - Choosing Empathy
Colloquium | March 7 | 3:30-5 p.m. | Tolman Hall, Beach Room 3105 Tolman
Empathy--people's ability to share and understand each other's emotions--is a powerful social force, but also can collapse when it is most needed, for instance during interactions between groups. Many theories of empathy hold that it occurs automatically, something like an emotional reflex. If this is the case, then its limits might be unavoidable. In this talk, I will lay out an alternative account, under which empathy is a motivative phenomenon that people approach or avoid in response to their goals. This means that altering the motivational landscape of a situation might allow people to empathize even when doing so does not come naturally to them. I will present evidence for this account, and also highlight the benefits of empathy for both empathizers and their communities.