What even is empathy?

May 02, 2022 Mark Fabian Season 3 Episode 7
What even is empathy?
Show Notes

Regular ePODstemology host Dr Mark Fabian is joined by philosopher of science Dr Riana Betzler from Washington University in St Louis to discuss the nature and study of empathy. In popular culture, empathy is one of these haloed qualities that we generally perceive as good and desirable. Yet in recent years some psychologists, notably Paul Bloom at Yale, have argued that empathy is overrated, indeed, harmful, because it biases our moral judgements towards our in groups. Riana’s research is principally concerned with the scientific practices upon which these debates turn. Are scholars in favour of or against empathy using the same definition of the term? Are meta-analyses of empirical results reliably distilling the true effects of empathy, or are they in fact horribly undermined by differences in the way empathy is operationalised across studies? How do these questions play into broader trends in psychological science like the supposed theory crisis and recent critiques of factor analysis? Tune in to find out. 


Paul Bloom’s book Against Empathy: https://www.amazon.com/Against-Empathy-Case-Rational-Compassion/dp/0062339338 

Jessie Prinz Against Empathy: https://philpapers.org/rec/PRIAE-5 

Anna Alexandrova on theory avoidance in psychology: https://oxford.universitypressscholarship.com/view/10.1093/oso/9780199300518.001.0001/oso-9780199300518-chapter-6 

Discretionary time and wellbeing: https://www.apa.org/pubs/journals/releases/psp-pspp0000391.pdf 

Chancellor and Lyubomirsky on humility: https://compass.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/spc3.12069 

Dan Batson’s view of empathy: http://people.uncw.edu/hakanr/documents/batsononempathy.pdf 

fMRI study of compassion: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0149763419306918 

The psychologically-rich life questionnaire: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0092656619300649 

Settler mortality instrumental variables paper: https://www.aeaweb.org/articles?id=10.1257/aer.91.5.1369 

interpersonal reactivity index: https://fetzer.org/sites/default/files/images/stories/pdf/selfmeasures/EMPATHY-InterpersonalReactivityIndex.pdf 

Anna Alexandrova and Daniel Haybron (2016). Is Construct Validation Valid? https://www.researchgate.net/publication/303753840_Is_Construct_Validation_Valid