Leslie Jamison connects with ‘The Empathy Exams’


The Royal Society for the Arts recently released a brilliant little animation based on a lecture by Dr. Brené Brown in which she differentiates between empathy and sympathy. In this animation, a sad fox is at the bottom of a deep, dark hole.

An empathetic bear trundles down a rickety ladder into the hole, sits with the fox and says: “I know what it’s like down here, and you’re not alone.” A sympathetic gazelle peers down from the mouth of the hole, calling out: “Ooo! It’s bad, uh-huh. You want a sandwich?” The idea is that empathy is feeling with another person; sympathy creates distance, while empathy fuels connection.

“When bad things happened to other people,”

she says in the opening essay,

“I imagined them happening to me.

I didn’t know if this was empathy or theft.”