Recently, there was an article describing a couple of studies that have been done on empathy, that trait that allows us to feel another’s circumstances (“Empathy is Actually a Choice,” Cameron, Inzlicht, and Cunningham, NYT July 12, 2015).
The studies suggest empathy can be learned, that it is not a limited reserve of feeling with a cap. While some individuals seem born with a fully developed pallet of empathy, others have barely a seed, which will require significant nurturing and learning.
The most interesting bit in this article was that when people realized empathy could be learned, they made efforts to improve their own empathy quotient. These people seek out situations that will build their capacity for empathy, but sometimes the lesson comes from a different direction. Part of a course I took on social justice involved going to a soup kitchen.
By Kate Murray