Sunday 12 January 2020

Empathy Not as Good as Taking the Other’s Perpective

An article about how empathy may reduce our discomfort around “the other type of person”, but it didn’t change our feelings.

While we might hope that empathy would fuel tolerance, that’s not what this study found. According to lead author Elizabeth Simas, an associate professor at the University of Houston, empathic concern did seem to be associated with less discomfort with the other side—but at the same time, it came with more negative feelings. Those higher in empathic concern expressed a greater desire to censor out-party speakers, as well as “more schadenfreude when a person was injured trying to hear a speaker from the opposite party.”

“Empathic concern is an emotional form of empathy, while perspective taking is a more cognitive form of empathy,” says Simas. “That is, empathic concern involves reacting to another’s suffering with feelings of sympathy or compassion. In contrast, perspective taking does not involve an emotional reaction to another person’s situation.” The goal isn’t to feel what they’re feeling. Instead, it’s to understand why they feel the way they do.