Written by Emma Seppala.
Stanford neuroscientist Jamil Zaki’s new book, “The War for Kindness: Building empathy in a fractured world,” makes a powerful case for kindness and empathy — not only because they make the world a better place, but because they help us, too. I sat down with Zaki to talk about why empathy is endangered and what we can do about it. Our conversation has been edited for clarity and brevity.
You have spent your career researching the neuroscience of empathy. What motivated you to write this book?
First, empathy seems to be endangered. In one study, the average American college student in 2009 scored as less empathic than 75 percent of students in 1979. This suggests our care is eroding, but you might not need a study to tell you that. I, like many people, noticed a culture that feels increasingly cruel, callous and disconnected. Second, my own research suggests it does not have to be this way.
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