6. Ethics and empathy

Lesson powerpoint here

  1. Reading what another person is feeling.
  • Play Brené Brown video on the difference between empathy and sympathy.
  • Discuss what empathy is and what it is based upon. Emphasise 2 components of it: affective empathy; where we feel what another person feels and cognitive empathy; where we understand/know what another person feels.
  • OPTIONAL: As a class, complete the online emotion identification test here: http://socialintelligence.labinthewild.org/mite/ As you complete the test, discuss how you know what emotion you are seeing, what the emotion tells you about what the person is thinking (based on lesson 3) and also how you might respond to a person who displays that emotion. The test takes about 10 minutes.

2. Empathy in practice: listening really well.

  1. Role model poor listening to the pupils.
  2. Play the A&B listening game: get the pupils into pairs, and ask one of each pair to be ‘A’ and the other to be ‘B’. Ask the As to leave the room, telling them that when they return, they are going to talk about their last holiday. Whilst the As are out of the room, tell the Bs that they should listen to the As in silence and every time their mind wanders whilst the As are talking about their holiday, they should raise their hand. Get the As back in the room.
  3. Discuss what it was like for the As and Bs to listen in that way.
  4. Go through the ingredients of listening as empathically as possible (on lesson powerpoint).
  5. Get students into 3s. Ask 2 of them to have a conversation about ‘what would happen on my best day ever’, where one is questioner/listener and the other is talker. The 3rd person should offer feedback on the quality of the listening.
  6. Discuss how important empathy is for listening well.

3. Empathy and ethics.

  • Introduce class to Simon Baron-Cohen’s idea of ‘empathy erosion’. Explain that empathy is important because when it is lacking, bad things happen. There are some (distressing) stories from Baron-Cohen’s book Zero Degrees of Empathy on the slides which show what a complete erosion of empathy can make possible.
  • Discuss the different factors which lead to empathy being eroded (on slides). Ask pupils to identify where they see these things taking place.

4. Empathy building: Outrospection.

  • Play the 10 minute RSA Animate video of Roman Krznaric talking about outrospection. Ask pupils to identify what Krznaric suggests we need to do in order to become more empathic.
  • Ask pupils to evaluate how successful Wellington is at helping them to become more empathic. What experiences are they provided with which enable them to develop an appreciation of what life is like for others, especially those who lead very different lives to them? Are there elements of Wellington that lead to empathy erosion? What more can be done in the Wellington community to demand empathy of people?