Extending Empathy Beyond the Familiar

Sue Gerhardt provides a follow-up to the 60 Minutes “Born Good?” program, looking at the challenges in being empathetic outside of familiar social interaction.


What I think is much more astonishing is the way that humans have taken these group living instincts and extended them so much, into complex capacities like empathy. Empathy is a much bigger step up the developmental ladder. It isn’t just about figuring out who is helpful or unhelpful – it’s a whole new level of understanding other people. Empathy is the ability to focus on other people’s experiences and feel our way into sharing them to some degree ­– taking us further inside other people’s minds and making it possible for us to co-ordinate ourselves with each other in much more sophisticated ways.


By Sue Gerhardt