Group Dynamics and the Public Sphere


How does morality relate to empathy?

Empathy is also a central part of our moral reactions. Our ability to feel another’s pain, and to imagine our own pain if put in the same situation, underlies our concern for the well-being of others. People who are deficient in empathy, such as psychopaths or some people with autistic traits, can behave in immoral ways. The extent to which either empathy or rational analysis influences our moral decisions depends on the situation. If we have direct, personal contact with the people affected by our decisions, we are much more likely to be influenced by empathy and emotion than if we have less immediate contact with them, if the people involved feel more abstract. Research on the “Trolley Problem” has shown us how much circumstances influence whether empathy or reason will dominate our moral decisions.


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