Flipping the Empathy Switch

Jamil Zaki Founder

Empathy is a vital social “glue” that connects people, but it often wavers just when we need it most, such as during interactions with people from different backgrounds.  

Empathy often falters when people encounter others from different racial or cultural groups. Such “empathy gaps” drive pernicious social problems, including our society’s increasing political polarization and widespread school bullying.

Our work suggests that empathy gaps often arise not because individuals are unable to empathize with others, but because they are not motivated to “switch on” their empathic capacities in challenging settings.