When It Comes to Empathy, Your Gut May Be Failing You

As Christine Ma-Kellams of the University of La Verne and Jennifer Lerner of Harvard write in a study they have just published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, this belief has thoroughly penetrated the mainstream.


“Indeed,” they write, “praise for intuitive processing can be found in a wide range of popular books, some from serious scholars … others from professionals and practitioners.


The presumed advantages of intuition for empathic accuracy is also endorsed in several national security contexts, as evidenced by the U.S. Navy’s $3.85 million dollar program of research on intuitive thinking processes.”

But what if this common sense is wrong? What if the way to better understand what someone else is feeling — to enhance your empathic accuracy, to use the term researchers use — is to sit down and think about it in a more rational, logical way? That’s what the researchers have found, in three experiments they just published.

 By Jesse Singal