September 24, 2013

We are looking forward to welcoming you to our Living Room this Friday 27 September. Christian and Sarah have identified some questions that they would like to explore further with you. Have a read below of the four different areas they’ve identified and see which one interests you the most. We will be asking you to focus on one area for part of the afternoon. So bring your responses, ideas, and stories to share! 

  • Is empathy always a good thing? Or is a touch of psychopathy sometimes  just what the neuroscientist ordered?

Christian’s work with psychopaths has revealed that, rather than having no empathy, psychopaths have a switch to turn it on and off. And that by default, that switch seems to be off.

Psychopaths are diagnosed using a test developed by psychologist Robert Hare, who has used it to estimate that maybe 1% of the population are psychopathic, even if they have never committed a crime. He says:

Some psychopathic features are not necessarily a bad thing for society – in some professions they may even help. Too much empathy, for example, on the part of a police officer or a politician would interfere with the job.

http://brain.oxfordjournals.org/content/136/8/2550.full.pdf

  • Now that the reach of our actions is global, can the arts help our empathy evolve beyond the local?

Our brains evolved during a time when our lives were lived very locally. Now we’re brought up close to the lives of those across the world from us on a daily basis, and we understand that our actions have effects on people we may never meet. Is it time for our localised instincts to catch up with our global actions? What might be the costs of such ‘global empathy’? And can the arts help us evolve a different response?

  • In a society very much focused on the individual what is the potential of the arts in helping us create togetherness?

When we sing together, regardless of the number of people – whether it’s 20 or 2000 – there’s an extraordinary communal sense of belonging, strengthening – of compassion, of understanding.
Grenville Hancox, Sidney De Haan Research Centre for Arts and Health, THE EMPATHY ROADSHOW by Sarah Woods.

Doing something with others is very different to doing something alone. How does it make us feel, and what are the benefits?
http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0027272

  • How do we create ‘exquisite insight’ in our relationship with others?

Me and Connie, because we’re twins, we’ve never had to unmask each other, we’ve always been unmasked, we’ve been able to have empathy for each other, but you really have to know someone first and to know what they like.
Henry, aged 10 in THE EMPATHY ROADSHOW by Sarah Woods.

What does close collaboration with another teach us about our empathic connection, and what it is to be human?
http://www.nin.knaw.nl/Portals/0/Department/keysers/Hasson_et_al_2012.pdf

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