Against Empathy Book Summary - Against Empathy Book explained in key points
Listen to the Intro

Against Empathy summary

Paul Bloom

The Case for Rational Compassion

4.3 (152 ratings)
16 mins

What is Against Empathy about?

Against Empathy (2016) provides a wealth of scientific research to show empathy for what it really is: a flawed emotional reaction that has led countless people to make bad decisions. While many voices have called for others to have more empathy, Paul Bloom shows us that empathy can make things worse rather than better.

Table of Contents

    Against Empathy
    summarized in 7 key ideas

    Audio & text in the Blinkist app
    Key idea 1 of 7

    Empathy is an emotional response that allows us to understand and feel what others go through.

    You often hear the word empathy being used in conversation, likely about some heartless person who could use more of it. But what exactly is this valuable emotional resource?

    Empathy is defined as an ability to understand and share the feelings or situation which another person is going through.

    To see empathy in practice, we might look at the aftermath following a public tragedy like the massacre at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut where 20 children were killed by gunman Adam Lanza on December 14, 2012.

    Immediately upon hearing this news, the author’s wife felt the need to visit the school which their own kids attended, even though there was little reason to think they’d be in danger.

    Later that day, the author stopped for a coffee, and at the cafe, there was a woman weeping. She didn’t know any of the victims of the shooting, but she also had kids the same age and felt devastated.

    When President Obama made a public address to share his sympathies about the tragedy, he too was in tears.

    In all of these cases, we see people with children finding it very easy to put themselves in the shoes of the parents in Newton who’d lost their sons and daughters.

    These are examples of emotional empathy. Emotional empathy differs from cognitive empathy, which is the ability to understand a person’s emotional state without feeling it yourself.

    Cognitive empathy is what con artists and bullies use to understand a victim’s weakness and exploit it. Unlike emotional empathy, they don’t feel their victim’s pain, but they can take advantage of it.

    Emotional empathy can also manifest itself in physical ways. You might see someone take a hard fall, hit their head, and then yourself feel pain in the same spot where the poor stranger injured himself. Similarly, the writer John Updike described feeling a tightness in his throat whenever his grandmother had one of her “choking fits” at the dinner table.

    Want to see all full key ideas from Against Empathy?

    Key ideas in Against Empathy

    More knowledge in less time
    Read or listen
    Read or listen
    Get the key ideas from nonfiction bestsellers in minutes, not hours.
    Find your next read
    Find your next read
    Get book lists curated by experts and personalized recommendations.
    Shortcasts New
    We’ve teamed up with podcast creators to bring you key insights from podcasts.

    About the Author

    Paul Bloom is a professor at Yale University and a leading psychologist who specializes in the study of how ethics, religion and language influence people’s perceptions. His writing has been published in leading outlets such as the New York Times, the Guardian and Slate. He is the author of Just Babies, How Pleasure Works and Descartes’ Baby.

    Who should read Against Empathy?


    • Students of psychology and philosophy
    • Readers who want to learn more about empathy
    • Fans of true crime stories

    Categories with Against Empathy

    Books like Against Empathy

    People ❤️ Blinkist
    Sven O.

    It's highly addictive to get core insights on personally relevant topics without repetition or triviality. Added to that the apps ability to suggest kindred interests opens up a foundation of knowledge.

    Thi Viet Quynh N.

    Great app. Good selection of book summaries you can read or listen to while commuting. Instead of scrolling through your social media news feed, this is a much better way to spend your spare time in my opinion.

    Jonathan A.

    Life changing. The concept of being able to grasp a book's main point in such a short time truly opens multiple opportunities to grow every area of your life at a faster rate.

    Renee D.

    Great app. Addicting. Perfect for wait times, morning coffee, evening before bed. Extremely well written, thorough, easy to use.

    People also liked

    Start growing with Blinkist now
    26 Million
    Downloads on all platforms
    4.7 Stars
    Average ratings on iOS and Google Play
    Of Blinkist members create a better reading habit*
    *Based on survey data from Blinkist customers
    Powerful ideas from top nonfiction

    Try Blinkist to get the key ideas from 5,500+ bestselling nonfiction titles and podcasts. Listen or read in just 15 minutes.

    Start your free trial