Open in the App Open in the App Open in the App
Get the key ideas from

Against Empathy

The Case for Rational Compassion

By Paul Bloom
13-minute read
Audio available
Against Empathy: The Case for Rational Compassion by Paul Bloom

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.

 

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

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.

Go Premium and get the best of Blinkist

Upgrade to Premium now and get unlimited access to the Blinkist library. Read or listen to key insights from the world’s best nonfiction.

Upgrade to Premium

What is Blinkist?

The Blinkist app gives you the key ideas from a bestselling nonfiction book in just 15 minutes. Available in bitesize text and audio, the app makes it easier than ever to find time to read.

Discover
3,000+ top
nonfiction titles

Get unlimited access to the most important ideas in business, investing, marketing, psychology, politics, and more. Stay ahead of the curve with recommended reading lists curated by experts.

Join Blinkist to get the key ideas from
Get the key ideas from
Get the key ideas from

Against Empathy

The Case for Rational Compassion

By Paul Bloom
  • Read in 13 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 8 key ideas
Upgrade to Premium Read or listen now
Against Empathy: The Case for Rational Compassion by Paul Bloom
Synopsis

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.

Key idea 1 of 8

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.

Upgrade to continue Read or listen now

Key ideas in this title

Upgrade to continue Read or listen now

No time to
read?

Pssst. Sign up to your secret to success: key ideas from top nonfiction in just 15 minutes.
Created with Sketch.