My experience in hiring explained some of my struggle in search of empathy.  It was clear to me that people aren’t equal.  Why?  Is it taught or is it inherited?  The heritability of empathy is apparent in “twin studies” which explore the correlation of traits in people that are highly similar genetically but dissimilar environmentally.   Multiple studies have been done in the last 50 years that demonstrate a moderate to highly correlated relationship to genetics.  Interestingly, some of the studies suggest that emotional empathy (more akin to sympathy) is more strongly heritable that analytic empathy.  This all suggests that empathy as a “talent” is hard wired.  That does not mean that it cannot be enhanced.  The brain is plastic.  There is capacity for new wiring.  It also does not mean that the “untalented” should be allowed to ignore empathy as a factor in therapeutic relationships.  Empathy is necessary to more healthful outcomes.  It suggests to me that a measure of each persons empathic ability would be a logical start point.  That would provide direction in helping practitioners be more successful in the relationships that they need to build with patients.  Further, should empathy training be available to all?  




--Dave

 


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