Advanced study of selected theoretical and research topics of contemporary interest in psychology.
This course provides an overview of empathy in psychology, including its development. Students will examine the role of empathy in personal and social transformation, and have the opportunity to choose topics so that they can examine empathy in multilevel contexts (e.g., classrooms, businesses, parenting, and policy formulations designed to fill in the empathy deficit.) The course will also examine some of the controversies about empathy: How much of what we call empathy is cognitive, how much affective? Should empathy be used to describe an outcome or process? What is it that we come to know through empathy? Is action necessary for empathy? How is it connected to altruism and compassion? Are there gender differences in empathic capacities? Can we really ever know "the other?" Students will also have a chance to study about the neurological basis of empathy given the recent discovery of "mirror neurons".
Student learning goals
Become familiar with the way in which empathy functions in humanistic therapies and community empowerment;
Learn to read and understand both quantitative and qualitative studies about empathy;
Recognize empathy and respond with empathy to others;
Recognize the issues involved in determining the role of empathy in altruism, depression, and prejudice reduction;
Assess policies designed to develop empathic responding, such as requiring diversity training;
Recognize how empathy fails, including barriers to empathic responding.
General method of instruction
The class will include lecture and large and small group discussions.
Although there are no official prerequisites for this course, you will have an easier time in it if you have some background in psychology and/or education. UWB courses that would be particularly helpful are: BIS 333 Individual and Society (as taught by Drs. Wadiya Udell or Diane Gillespie), Interactive Learning: Theory and Practice, Narrative Psychology, and Introduction to Community Psychology. Students can bring any number of interests to the course, including therapy, education and learning, community organizations, diversity, group dynamics, research dynamics, truth and reconciliation, and development. In education, for example, the Seattle Public School system is piloting The Roots of Empathy program (http://www.rootsofempathy.org/), a rich possibility for student research and study.
Class assignments and grading
Participation in the class is important and will be a part of the grading. Students will also take a midterm and final exam and do a small hands on research project involving empathy.
Participation grades will factor in preparation for and involvement in class and small group discussions. Examinations will cover reading, usually through an application of the material to a situation provided. Students have a number of choices for a project: assessing a videotape of themselves in an empathic exchange or they can choose a text listed on the syllabus and work in a group on topics including schools, businesses, interpersonal communication, policy, or parenting.