There’s No Empathy in Partisanship: New Study Highlights Key Problem in Washington

Our leaders lack empathy. That, in a sense, is one of the conclusions of a new study published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.

The study assigned participants the task of creating a compelling argument to win over subjects with opposing views. Somewhat predictably, results showed that most participants were ineffective at getting subjects to change their minds. More surprising, perhaps, was how frequently the attempts to craft compelling arguments devolved into ad hominem attacks on morals and beliefs.

Of course, Americans have been conditioned to jump from logic straight to verbal assault by the combination of what passes for news media, and the hyper-partisan tendencies of political leadership.

What is missing—and was missing in the study—appears to be a basic human emotion: empathy.


Rather than trying to win arguments through persuasion or a frontal assault on someone else’s basic beliefs, a little dose of empathy can help both sides better appreciate where their shared goals can overlap.


by Edgar Wilson