Empathy Erosion and Treating People Like Objects

When people cognitively empathize but fail to affectively empathize

Empathy erosion occurs when people fail to attend to the humanity—the feelings, interests, kinship, etc—of others. Either they don’t cognitively understand others’ feelings or they aren’t emotionally affected by others’ feelings.

We all vary on the empathy spectrum at any given time, but some people persistently express poor or absent capacities to empathize.

In your romantic relationships, you may want to avoid people who lack empathy. If your partner doesn’t empathize with you or other people, trying to be in a relationship with him is a losing battle.

When you empathize, you attend to the feelings of those outside of you. You understand another person as a separate individual with needs and desires unrelated to your own. At the same time, you appreciate what it would be like to be that other person. Rather than thinking from a singleminded, “me”, perspective, you adopt “a double-minded focus of attention”. (Baron-Cohen 2012)

Berit Brogaard, D.M.Sci., Ph.D., is a Professor and the Director of the Brogaard Lab for Multisensory Research at the University of Miami. Her educational background includes a medical degree in neuroscience and a doctorate in philosophy.