Empathy, the will to understand or to attempt to understand others by imagining what it might feel like to be them – how it might feel to experience the world from inside their skin, underpins much of our lives.
It is present in the ways in which people relate to and care for one another within families and in other groups, both large and small – from global to local level. It is present, also, in the ways in which we communicate with one another through literature, art, film, advertising and digital media.
Many professions – from nursing, counselling psychotherapy, social care and medicine, to teaching, product design, architecture, advertising and stand-up comedy, depend at least partly, on empathic skill.
Abstracts might, for example, address questions such as:
- Is empathy a natural ability, or a learned and practiced skill?
- What is the relationship between empathy and sympathy?
- Is empathy always a good thing? In other words, do those who have empathic skill necessarily display helpful, caring and considerate behaviour towards others?
- How does empathy arise in human beings?
- What, if anything, can neuroscience tell us about empathy; its development and its absence?
- What role does empathy play in education? Could an un-empathic person be a successful teacher?
- What part does empathy play in the narrative arts of literature, theatre and film?
- Does social networking increase or diminish empathy in those who use it?
- How does empathy make itself known in the work of architects, designers, advertisers, lawyers, theologians, journalists, town planners; business people; TV presenters; politicians; prison officers; doctors; nurses; therapists; school teachers; priests; artists; entertainers of all kinds?
- What part, if any, does empathy play in the creation of digital media and perhaps, especially, in the creation of computer games?
- Is empathy present, to any degree, in animals?
- Is bullying a result of an empathy deficit and do those who engage in torture necessarily lack empathy? Or does well developed empathic ability informs bullying behaviour and allow the best torturers to decide how best to hurt and terrorise their victims?
- How important for ethical living, is the ability to empathise?