Mark Zuckerberg has just announced Facebook’s latest innovation: the introduction of an “empathy” button as an alternative to the thumbs-up “Like” icon that accompanies every post. The plan, he says, is to create “a quick way to emote” so people can register their response to anything from personal tragedies such as a death in the family to political tragedies such as the refugee crisis….
Empathy must matter if it’s got Facebook’s attention. But what is it? As psychologists will tell you, it’s the ability to step into the shoes of another person, understand their feelings and perspectives, and – crucially – to use that understanding to guide our actions.