A Dialogical Lesson on the Role of Representations in Misguiding Our Empathy

06 February 2023, Version 1
This content is an early or alternative research output and has not been peer-reviewed at the time of posting.


Humanity has always been selective in its empathy, social groups and entire populations suffered in the dark as the world stood in indifference. This indifference was often reinforced by (mis)representations: misinformation, false narratives, and distorted generalizations that dehumanized the victims of suffering and represented them as unworthy of empathy. In this paper, we introduce a lesson on the role of misinformation and misrepresentation in dehumanizing social groups and populations. Our lesson is divided to three parts: We start with a discussion of empathy and indifference and how both traits have coexisted throughout human history. We then discuss psychological and philosophical theories that have attempted to explain the causes of and solutions to our empathy deficit and our failure to generalize our empathy. Finally, we discuss how misrepresentations and misinformation have functioned to misguide our empathy and construct social groups as unworthy of empathy and respect.


Comments are not moderated before they are posted, but they can be removed by the site moderators if they are found to be in contravention of our Commenting Policy [opens in a new tab] - please read this policy before you post. Comments should be used for scholarly discussion of the content in question. You can find more information about how to use the commenting feature here [opens in a new tab] .
This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy [opens in a new tab] and Terms of Service [opens in a new tab] apply.