Teaching Students to Turn Empathy into Action

Professor Maurice Elias share key ingredients for helping students turn empathy into action.


You have to read David Brooks’ New York Times article about empathy. He challenges our emphasis on empathy as the main reason why people do good things for others. The essence of his argument is that the research on the relationship of empathy to being willing to do for others, and especially to go out of one’s way to do for others, is not impressive.


There are many significant findings, but the effect size is small — empathy is relevant but it does not explain much about what is really happening. So if we want to teach children to do good things for others, to be helpful and especially to act when it may not be convenient or popular, we need to focus on something in addition to empathy.


By Maurice Elias