Countries with high economic inequality tend to have high crime, high corruption, low levels of trust, high infant mortality and lowered life expectancy– as well as difficulty growing their economies. In contrast, those with lower inequality have higher happiness, greater health, lower crime, better growth and longer life.
And so, if, say, health care for all or better unemployment benefits or higher quality schools means that those lucky enough to have well-paying jobs have to pay higher taxes, well, is that really so terrible?
If we continue to believe that it is, if we continue to split into “us” v. “them,” “haves” v. “have nots,” the empathy decline will undoubtedly continue and we will face a meaner, nastier world in which ideas about humans being selfish and competitive rather than caring become a self fulfilling prophecy by crushing the tendency toward kindness with which we are all born….
Read the entire article at Shocker: Empathy Dropped 40% in College Students Since 2000 | Psychology Today. It’s also on Huffington Post.
People with autism spectrum disorder are sometimes described as lacking empathy (the ability to feel along with others) and/or sympathy (the ability to feel for others). While this is a persistent stereotype of all people with autism, these challenges are not experienced by everyone on the spectrum.
Research into the link between autism, empathy, and sympathy has evolved over the past 40 years. Initially, it was believed that a lack of empathy and sympathy was a universal trait of autism, but more recent research indicates that this varies among individuals with the condition.
The questions of whether people with autism truly empathize or sympathize with others, what stands in the way of a traditional response, whether this can be taught, and whether an apparent lack of empathy or sympathy really reflects a lack of emotional connectedness are more nuanced than early research suggests.1
Elements of Empathy and Sympathy
A lack of expressed sympathy or empathy may not be the result of a lack of emotion in someone who has autism, but rather due to underdeveloped skills. There are several elements involved in showing empathy to others.
To connect with another person in these ways, one must:
- Recognize the other person’s feelings
- Understand the other person’s hopes, dreams, and/or expectations
- Have the emotional experience to relate personally to another’s feelings
- Have the tools to physically and verbally express empathic feelings
- Share a cultural understanding that displays of empathy are expected and desired
People with autism who struggle to show empathy and sympathy may have difficulty with one or more of these.
Awareness and Processing
Empathy is a two-dimensional emotion. It is experienced both on a cognitive level— recognizing and understanding another’s mental state—and on an affective or emotional level—feeling the emotions of others. In those with autism, these experiences can sometimes seem at odds with one another.
Research shows people with autism may struggle with cognitive empathy because they are unable to recognize and name emotions based on facial expressions. Eye scan studies found people with autism tend to look at the periphery of a face rather than pay attention to the eyes and mouth, where emotions are typically displayed.2
However, while cognitive empathy can be lower in people with autism, affective empathy—which is based on instincts and involuntary responses to the emotions of others—can be strong and overwhelming. In fact, newer research suggests that some people with autism may actually feel other people’s emotions more intensely.
Picking up on other’s emotions and experiencing them internally can feel overpowering and confusing, which may cause a person to shut down and withdraw from crowds.3
Empathy rates would be expected to correlate negatively with autism rates. If lack of empathy and autism are part of a continuum, an autism diagnosis would be further out on the tail of the bell curve, i.e. the rate of change would be less than the rate of change of empathy.
U.S. autism statistics have shown an upward trend for the last two decades. While the CDC estimate of children with ASD is 1 in 54 today (april 2020) previous CDC estimates were:
- 1 in 150 in 2002.
- 1 in 125 in 2004.
- 1 in 110 in 2006.
- 1 in 88 in 2008.
- 1 in 68 in 2010.
- 1 in 59 in 2014.