Week 6: Compassion for Others

Newspaper Articles:akshay-paatil-e_h2C2dCc1U-unsplash

Elizabeth Bernstein (2017) Find Compassion for Difficult People.  Wall Street Journal  https://www.wsj.com/articles/find-compassion-for-difficult-people-1501519713

Dacher Keltner (2016) Managing Yourself: Don’t let Power Corrupt You.  Harvard Business Review  https://hbr.org/2016/10/dont-let-power-corrupt-you

Adam Hoffman (2013)  When Empathy Hurts, Compassion Can Heal .  Greater Good   Click to download.



Jinpa Thupten  Compassion is Natural. So why is It So Hard for Us?  (3:30 mins)

Paul Gilbert.  The Fears of Compassion (30 mins)  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OGenTEtED3g

Paul Gilbert.  How Mindfulness Fosters Compassion (22 Mins)  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pz9Fr_v9Okw

Brene Brown.  Ted Talk on Vulnerability (20 mins)  https://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_on_vulnerability?language=en

Carol Dweck.  Developing a Growth Mindset (9.37 mins)  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hiiEeMN7vbQ

Jack Kornfield  The Ancient Heart of Forgiveness (56:55 min)  (scroll down the page for the video – there is also an article)


 Research Articles:

Gilbert P., McEwan K., Matos M. and Rivis A. (2011)  Fears of compassion: Development of three self-report measures.  Psychology and Psychotherapy: Theory, Research and Practice


“Fear of compassion for self was linked to fear of compassion from others, and both were associated with self-coldness, self-criticism, insecure attachment, and depression, anxiety, and stress. In a multiple regression, self-criticism was the only significant predictor of depression.  These findings suggest that it is not just the absence of compassion that is important but also the fear of compassion. This means that people may actively resist engaging in compassionate experiences or behaviours. Therapeutically, this active resistance to compassion may be generated by various fears, that would need to be addressed within the therapeutic context. More worrying perhaps is the possibility that with increasingly competitive societies there is increasing fear of compassion (Gerhardt, 2010; Gilbert, 2009).”


Susan Fiske, Amy Cuddy and Peter Glick (2006)  Universal dimensions of social cognition: warmth and competence.  Trends in Cognitive Science

“Like all perception, social perception reflects evolutionary pressures. In encounters with conspecifics, social animals must determine, immediately, whether the ‘other’ is friend or foe (i.e. intends good or ill) and, then, whether the ‘other’ has the ability to enact those intentions. New data confirm these two universal dimensions of social cognition: warmth and competence. Promoting survival, these dimensions provide fundamental social structural answers about competition and status. People perceived as warm and competent elicit uniformly positive emotions and behavior, whereas those perceived as lacking warmth and competence elicit uniform negativity. People classified as high on one dimension and low on the other elicit predictable, ambivalent affective and behavioral reactions. These universal dimensions explain both interpersonal and intergroup social cognition.”


Karina Schumann, Jamil Zaki, and Carol S. Dweck (2014)  Addressing the Empathy Deficit: Beliefs About the Malleability of Empathy Predict Effortful Responses When Empathy Is Challenging.  Journal of Personality and Social Psychology

“Empathy is often thought to occur automatically. Yet, empathy frequently breaks down when it is difficult or distressing to relate to people in need, suggesting that empathy is often not felt reflexively. Indeed, the United States as a whole is said to be displaying an empathy deficit. When and why does empathy break down, and what predicts whether people will exert effort to experience empathy in challenging contexts? Across 7 studies, we found that people who held a malleable mindset about empathy (believing empathy can be developed) expended greater empathic effort in challenging contexts than did people who held a fixed theory (believing empathy cannot be developed). Together, these data suggest that people’s mindsets powerfully affect whether they exert effort to empathize when it is needed most, and these data may represent a point of leverage in increasing empathic behaviors on a broad scale.”


Daryl Cameron et al.  (2019)  Empathy is hard work:  People choose to avoid empathy because of its cognitive costs .  Journal of Experimental Psychology

“Empathy is considered a virtue, yet it fails in many situations, leading to a basic question: When given a choice, do people avoid empathy? And if so, why? Whereas past work has focused on material and emotional costs of empathy, here, we examined whether people experience empathy as cognitively taxing and costly, leading them to avoid it. We developed the empathy selection task, which uses free choices to assess the desire to empathize.  We found a robust preference to avoid empathy, which was associated with perceptions of empathy as more effortful and aversive and less efficacious. Experimentally increasing empathy efficacy eliminated empathy avoidance, suggesting that cognitive costs directly cause empathy choice. When given the choice to share others’ feelings, people act as if it is not worth the effort.”


Oveis, Horberg and Keltner (2010)  Compassion, Pride and Social Intuitions of Self-Other Similarity.  Journal of Personality and Social Psychology

“Compassion and pride serve contrasting social functions: Compassion motivates care-taking behavior, whereas pride enables the signaling and negotiation of rank within social hierarchies. Across 3 studies, compassion was associated with increased perceived self-other similarity, particularly to weak or vulnerable others. In contrast, pride was associated with an enhanced sense of similarity to strong others, and a decreased sense of similarity to weak others. The influences of compassion and pride on perceived self-other similarity could not be accounted for by positive mood, nor was this effect constrained by the ingroup status of the target group or individual. Discussion focuses on the contributions these findings make to an understanding of compassion and pride.