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The Empathy Gap: Why People Fail to Understand Different Perspectives - Effectiviology

https://effectiviology.com/empathy-gap/

effectiviology.com

The Empathy Gap: Why People Fail to Understand Different Perspectives - Effectiviology

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The empathy gap

The empathy gap

The empathy gap is a cognitive bias that causes people to struggle to understand mental states that are different from their own.

When someone is happy or angry, they struggle to understand the perspective of someone who is in a different mental state, whether that person is their future self or someone else.

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Examples of empathy gaps

The empathy gap causes us to misjudge our own emotions and behaviors. Examples include overestimating our ability to stay composed in a stressful event, overestimating the likelihood that we can control our desire for an addictive substance, such as coffee, or underestimating how much our feelings for someone affected our judgment in the past.

The empathy gap can cause people to be unprepared for situations and act differently to what they would ideally prefer.

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Types of empathy gaps

  • Cold-to-hot empathy gaps. When someone is in a cold (emotionally neutral) state, they have trouble understanding someone in a hot (emotional state). A calm person might be unable to predict how they will act when they're upset.
  • Hot-to-cold empathy gaps. Someone in this state might be passionate about a topic but fail to understand how other people feel that are not passionate about it.
  • Intrapersonal bias. An interpersonal empathy gap occurs when someone struggles to consider their own thoughts, emotions, and behaviors.
  • Interpersonal bias. An interpersonal empathy gap occurs when people battle to consider someone else's thoughts, emotions, and behaviors.
  • Retrospective bias. A retrospective empathy gap occurs when people fail to understand why they acted emotionally in the past.
  • A prospective bias. A prospective empathy gap occurs when people fail to predict the future behavior of someone who doesn't care about the same thing as much.
  • The outgroup empathy gap. This is a cognitive bias that causes people to be more empathic towards members of their ingroup than toward people in their outgroup.

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Why people experience empathy gaps

The way we process and make decisions depends on our current mental state.

When we are angry, we struggle to understand the perception of someone who doesn't care about the same thing because we are in a different mental state than they are. Empathy gaps toward people in one's outgroup can be because of a need to form boundaries around one's social group.

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Handling empathy gaps

  • Visualize different mental states and perspectives. Visualize how you will feel and think when you are in a different mental state. This technique is also helpful to understand someone else's feelings and behavior.
  • Explain the different perspectives. When you try to reduce someone else's empathy gap, it can be helpful to explain different perspectives to the one that someone is experiencing at that moment.
  • Consider past actions. We often forget how we behaved in the past, despite being a strong indicator of how we're most likely to think, feel, or act. If you know from past action that you won't be able to resist the pasty in the breakroom at work, ensure to eat something healthy before you get there.

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SIMILAR ARTICLES & IDEAS:

The curse of knowledge

... is a cognitive bias that causes people to fail to account for the fact that others don’t know the same things that they do. 

Why we experience the curse of knowledge

Since we spend the majority of the time experiencing things from our own perspective, we struggle to imagine the perspective of others.

The curse of knowledge is a cognitive bias that makes it difficult for people to account for the fact that other people’s thoughts, beliefs, and views are different from their own.

Minimize the curse of knowledge

You need to be conscious of the fact that people have different levels of knowledge than you.

  • Ask for feedback from the people you are communicating with, in order to confirm that they understand what you are saying.
  • Make sure that you explain the technical terms and concepts that you use as you are using it.

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A definition of empathy

A definition of empathy

The German word for empathy is "Einfühlung" and was coined in the late 1800s. It means "feeling into."

Empathy is about understanding other peoplee&#...

Misplaced empathy

In recent years, researchers have found that misplaced empathy can lead to exhaustion and apathy, and prevent you from helping the people who need you.

Worse, people's empathetic tendencies can be used to manipulate them into aggression and cruelty.

The identifiable victim effect

Psychologists point out that defining empathy as the act of stepping into someone's mind to experience their feeling can lead to some tricky moral dilemmas.

  • We are moved to open our hearts (or wallet) when presented with a case such as a charity campaign where a single story of a named, suffering child is showcased to the exclusion of other suffering children. Psychologists call it the "identifiable victim effect."
  • This can also help explain why many people become numb to the deaths of strangers, but be up in arms about the minor loss of personal freedoms they more directly experience.

We're (Mostly) Focused On Ourselves

  • People are spending only a small part of their time on judging you; your self-judgment is overwhelmingly larger.
  • People who seem to be mean don’t usually d...

Explicit Social Behaviors

Most of the intentions behind our actions are hidden. If a person is feeling depressed or angry, usually the resulting behaviors distort their true feelings.

By focusing on empathy you can usually break away these subversions and get to the heart of the issue faster.

Our Feelings Are Not Explicit

Most of the time you feel something, nobody else knows about it. So don’t get angry when people aren’t responding to you.

If you deceive your thoughts with your actions, don’t get angry when you fool people.