Bearing witness to the suffering of others can reveal our moral blind spots, evoke empathy, and prompt action on behalf of those in need. However, empathy for suffering can itself be painful, and awareness of this fact can lead us to avoid reminders of others’ suffering. In this talk, Poulin will discuss research in his lab revealing that empathy can take on different forms and manifest in qualitatively different kinds of psychological and physiological experiences depending on the connections between empathy, self-focus, and goal pursuit. This research suggests that empathy and personal discomfort need not go hand in hand, and that less discomfort may translate to more prosocial action.


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