How Power Erodes Empathy, and the Steps We Can Take to Rebuild It

Empathy and power have an inverse relationship, Jamil Zaki says. The more powerful people are, the less likely they are to have empathy because they’re less likely to need other people. People who come from a lower socioeconomic status or underrepresented backgrounds face disadvantages and vulnerabilities that “make it obvious how much people need each other,” he says. “As a result, people who are lower in status and power tend to practice or work on their ability to understand other people and get better at it.” By contrast, people with a lot of power are less inclined to focus on the plight of others because in doing so, they realize that they are benefitting from the systems that cause others harm, Zaki says.

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