Members in the Media
From: Pacific Standard

The Dark Side of Empathy

Pacific Standard:

Public figures from President Obama to Neil deGrasse Tyson have suggested a lack of empathy is one of our species’ fundamental problems. “Empathy is about standing in someone else’s shoes, feeling with his or her heart, seeing with his or her eyes,” writes author and prominent business-world thinker Daniel Pink. “Not only is empathy hard to outsource and automate, but it makes the world a better place.”

A lovely thought. But new research suggests it isn’t always true.

A paper just published in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin provides evidence that feelings of empathy toward a distressed person can inspire aggressive behavior. For some people, at least, feeling another’s pain is insufficient: You also experience the urge to harm the person they are in conflict or competition with.

Read the whole story: Pacific Standard

More of our Members in the Media >


Our culture doesn’t like aggressive behavior, war, etc. But in some other time or place in humanity, or in nature, is was probably useful to have empathy for one person associated with anger for the enemy. It’s direct empathy, it doesn’t consider the whole world but just people around you.

APS regularly opens certain online articles for discussion on our website. Effective February 2021, you must be a logged-in APS member to post comments. By posting a comment, you agree to our Community Guidelines and the display of your profile information, including your name and affiliation. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations present in article comments are those of the writers and do not necessarily reflect the views of APS or the article’s author. For more information, please see our Community Guidelines.

Please login with your APS account to comment.