The Racial Bias in Our Empathy

Science is highlighting the link between empathy and familiarity, with a focus on racial bias. A new study from the University of Queensland School of Psychology is showing that if we want to increase our capacity for empathy, we need to familiarize ourselves with those who neither look nor act like us.

A number of studies in the past have shown that empathy has a strong racial component. This explains why 2,000 people can die in some far off land and the news barely makes a blip in the West. Meanwhile, a train derailing and killing eight will get wall to wall coverage. It’s not that those eight lives are worth more than the 2,000 lost somewhere else, but the viewers reaction to those eight deaths will be remarkably different. The news, being a for-profit business, knows this and uses the method to boost ratings.

However, this new University of Queensland study differs from previous work in this field by showing us this racial bias towards empathy isn’t set in stone, as previously thought.

by Lizabeth Paulat