Sunday, May 01, 2016

Using empathy to use people

Using empathy to use people: Emotional intelligence and manipulation
By Jamil Zaki on November 7, 2013


But empathy is not always used in the service of good. Two papers last month highlight this idea through evidence that people use empathy to use other people, manipulating them through a savvy understanding of emotions.


These studies highlight at least two things. First, the “pieces” that make up empathy don’t always go together. In many cases, understanding someone’s emotions (so-called “cognitive empathy”) and sharing those emotions (so-called “emotional empathy”) can split apart. Further, understanding without sharing is a dangerous pattern, which likely underlies intimidation, used car sales tactics, and all sorts of other manipulation. Of course in many—and perhaps most—cases, we use our understanding of others to help them. This highlights the second point these papers make. Empathic ability is value neutral, sometimes helping and other times hurting people. As are so many features of our minds.


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