Letter in response to Paul Bloom’s Critic at Large (May 20, 2013).
Paul Bloom, in his article on the irrational consequences of empathy, suggests that empathy is devoid of reason (“The Baby in the Well,” May 20th). Neuroscientific research has identified several distinct brain regions that are activated when humans are confronted with the painful experience of others. Empathy is a complex capacity that includes cognitive, emotional, moral and behavioral processes, not only to feel another’s pain but to imagine how one could alleviate his suffering and take rational steps to help that person.
Helen Riess, M.D.
Director, Empathy and Relational Science Program
Massachusetts General Hospital
Associate Clinical Professor
Harvard Medical School
Via Edwin Rutsch