Westport Day School

Empathy

Empathy “ … refers to the reactions of one individual to the observed experiences of another” (Davis 1983). Empathy allows us to understand one another and to accomplish what would otherwise be impossible. Empathy has both cognitive and affective dimensions: perspective-taking (PT) is the tendency for a person to take the “psychological point of view of others.” Empathic concern (EC) taps feelings of sympathy and concern for others. Schlesinger (1994) defined empathy as the midpoint on a continuum between alienation and identification with another person.

We foster empathy in our students at WDS. Through direct instruction and through modeling, we help students decenter and take the perspective of others. We also facilitate the development of emotional empathy, so that our students become better able to feel with others. Increased empathy provides better information to act upon in interpersonal situations, a larger perspective on life, and a deeper feeling of connection to others.

References:

Davis, M. H. (1983). "Measuring individual differences in empathy: Evidence for a multidimensional approach. ." Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 44: 113-126.

Schlesinger, H. (1994). "How the analyst listens: The pre-stages of interpretation." International Journal of Psychoanalysis 75: 31–37.