Empathy — our ability to understand and share the feelings of another — is a driving force of human behavior
While empathy is a force of good, it is far from perfect. For example, why are we posting more support for Paris than we are for Beirut? Where are the social media tributes for the hundreds of other people who have been affected by horrible violence this year? The short answer: There’s a cognitive bias toward what’s familiar.
“Human beings seem particularly able to feel empathy when they perceive those who are suffering as similar to them,” said Keith Humphreys, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford Medicine.
“Horrible things happen every day — indeed there was a terrorist attack in Beirut on the same day as the Paris attack — but many Americans see that as farther away from their experience and harder to empathize with,” he added.