At first glance, Americans seem obsessed with other people. From magazines like People to television shows like Access Hollywood, we seem to have an insatiable appetite for the details of other people’s lives. Reality television differs from scripted television because it gives us the illusion that we are peering into the real life of other people. Much contemporary news coverage has a voyeuristic feel to it. We learn the details of the lives of people like Jerry Sandusky (child sexual abuser), Snookie (celebrity) and Whitney Houston (pop star) whether these details are relevant to an original story or not. I might assert that all this information gives us insight into the lives and perspectives of these people. From the popularity of these stories I might conclude that Americans are among the most empathic people on Earth. Data from psychological research, however, do not support this conclusion. Why not? Because people are consuming this information from a detached, objective perspective. At best, people feel sympathy for (some) of these people. But more often than not these stories provide the sweet sense of righteousness that we find so delectable. Passing judgment on others when they have done wrong is an addiction we have no interest in breaking. This addiction, like many others, has both benefits and costs. Fortunately, there is an antidote for this addiction: true empathy.
Winslow, Matthew P.
"Walking a Mile in Your Shoes,"
The Chautauqua Journal: Vol. 2
, Article 19.
Available at: https://encompass.eku.edu/tcj/vol2/iss1/19