Is Empathy Overrated?

Bad idea, say the cognitive psychologist Paul Bloom and the neuroscientist Richard J. Davidson.

At their Aspen Ideas Festival talk on Thursday, Bloom allowed that a the word “empathy” as it’s sometimes colloquially used—to mean kindness, goodness, morality, and love—is unobjectionable. But in the Obama-esque sense of feeling another’s feelings, empathy, they contend, it mostly hurts the world. “To the extent that I’m an empathetic person,” Bloom said, “I’m a worse person.”

Empathy is a documented psychological phenomenon: If you see someone else poked in the hand, Bloom said, your own pain centers in the brain will light up. And scientists have demonstrated that you’re more likely to help someone whose pain you feel.,…

Empathy can also make people do evil.