Life offers endless opportunities to test your empathy—the ability to feel for and with others—sometimes to its breaking point: …
IS EMPATHY A CHOICE?
Zaki suggests we have an essential, automatic component to empathy—a built-in biological leaning toward caring for the suffering of others—but that our empathetic response is at the same time highly contextual. In the “tightrope” study, Zaki notes that in children, experience sharing—when we take on the feelings and even movements of others—may initially develop as an “undifferentiated response” to the emotions, he writes. “However, over time, children learn and internalize social rules, such as group membership, that produce motives to feel empathy in some cases but not others.”
Cameron suggests this is another avenue around which they could build experiments. “We could look at perceptions of social norms of those around you,” he says. “Do your friends and family value empathy?”