Empathy during the 2020 existential crisis is metabolically costly | Lisa Feldman Barrett | Summary and Q&A

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October 18, 2020
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Empathy during the 2020 existential crisis is metabolically costly | Lisa Feldman Barrett

TL;DR

Empathy and open-mindedness require the brain to make predictions and understand different perspectives, but it can be hindered by experiential blindness and metabolic limitations.

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Questions & Answers

Q: How does the brain make predictions and use past experiences to understand others?

The brain uses its own past experiences, knowledge from books and movies, and information from other people to make predictions and make sense of the world. By anticipating and understanding others' sense data, we can infer their feelings and thoughts.

Q: How does experiential blindness impact empathy?

Experiential blindness occurs when our predictions fail to understand or make sense of someone's experiences or emotions. Without shared experiences or similarities, it becomes challenging to predict what others feel or think, leading to a lack of empathy.

Q: What are the consequences of experiential blindness in healthcare?

Experiential blindness can result in under-prescribing medication to children of color or misdiagnosing female patients by male physicians. These blind spots can lead to serious consequences, including patients being harmed or even dying due to incorrect inferences or predictions.

Q: How do different cultures affect our ability to empathize?

Cultures influence our ability to empathize by shaping our predictions and understanding of others. In some cultures, people focus on predicting others' actions without inferring their internal states, while in other cultures, like ours, we constantly make inferences about what others are thinking and feeling.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • Empathy is the ability to understand and predict what others are feeling or thinking based on our own experiences and knowledge.

  • Experiential blindness can occur when our predictions fail to make sense of someone's experiences and emotions, leading to a lack of understanding.

  • Empathy is not a magical ability, but rather a process of making inferences and predictions based on similarities and shared experiences.

  • Factors such as race, gender, and culture can affect our ability to empathize with others, and experiential blindness can have serious consequences, such as under-prescribing medication or misdiagnosing patients.

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