Empathy and the Brain

Posted by Julia Rappaport on June 17, 2014

New evidence suggests that we are less empathetic toward people who are different than us.

In this video, part of Facing History’s series on new learning and scholarship, watch psychologist Jennifer Gutsell discuss how we perceive difference and the actions we can take to increase our empathy toward those that look and act differently from us, that believe in different things, or live in different places. Using examples from pop culture, neurobiology, and psychology, Gutsell explores key questions including:

How do we empathize with others?


Are we more likely to empathize with people that look and act like us and why?

Classroom Challenge: How Can You Increase Your Empathy?

In this video, Gutsell shares steps each of us can take to actively increase our ability to empathize with others. Challenge yourself and your students to try one of her suggestions as a classroom activity or after school:

  • Write something from your own perspective. Then write something from the perspective of someone else – someone who is different from you.
  • When you read or watch a story about war in another country, think about what your worries or fears might be if you lived in a country where war was part of your daily life.

What steps do you think you could take to increase your empathy?

This video is part of Facing History’s ongoing digital revision of our Facing History and Ourselves: Holocaust and Human Behavior resource.

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Topics: Identity, Teaching Resources, Video

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Welcome to Facing Today, a Facing History blog. Facing History and Ourselves combats racism and antisemitism by using history to teach tolerance in classrooms around the globe.

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