“A lot of times, that story never gets told,” says Karen Gerdes, a social worker at ASU. She is interested in empathy, which is the ability to perceive the world from other people’s points of view and to feel what they are feeling.
Empathy is a complex emotion because it involves both unconscious, involuntary responses and conscious, cognitive processes. For example, suppose you’ve had a traumatic experience, like losing a loved one.
“You see someone else who is going through that experience, and your brain automatically starts firing as if it’s happening to you. That helps you to understand a little bit better about what that person is going through,” Gerdes says.
People who are very empathic tend to be more understanding and have stronger relationships. For a social worker, empathy is also an essential part of the job.
“Social work is all about improving quality of life for people,” Gerdes says. “We do that by helping them to be their better self, and by creating a society that is more supportive. Empathy is at the core of both of those things.”
by Allie Nicodemo