All posts in “Empathy”

3D glasses

#GeekReads: 5 Quick Reads that Made Us Smarter

In this week’s #GeekReads; reading emotions in 3D; socially-relevant curricula; investigating the racial wealth gap; standing up (or staying seated) for what’s right; Pixar’s first non-white lead.

Amplified emotions. New research finds that 3D displays of facial expressions evoke stronger emotional reactions than 2D photos. From Aalto University via Psy Post.

Shifting curriculum. A white fifth-grade teacher shares her journey of shifting classroom curriculum to explore the subjects that matter most to her students. From Valerie Strauss via The Washington Post.

Getting ahead. Reporter Mel Jones examines some of the reasons why the racial wealth gap still exists among Millennials. From Adrian Florido via NPR.

More to the story. Rosa Parks’ refusal to give up her bus seat on December 1, 1955, was one day in the life of a battle-tested freedom fighter. From Nshira Turkson via The Atlantic.

Sanjay’s Super Team. Pixar’s new animated short tells the story of a young boy’s journey to bridge the generational and cultural gaps between his American and Indian heritage. From Madeleine Thomas via Pacific Standard.


Case Study: Peace of Mind for Terminally Ill People

Persuasion Strategies: How We Partnered with Compassion & Choices to Make Aid in Dying a Legal Option for Terminally Ill People and Their Families in California

For more than 20 years, advocates had worked unsuccessfully to pass a law allowing the option of medical aid in dying in California.

In 2014, Compassion & Choices approached Goodwin Simon Strategic Research, Wild Swan Resources and Wonder: Strategies for Good to lead public opinion research and to develop a successful messaging and storytelling strategy in California.

Previous unsuccessful efforts made it clear that the issue did not fall along neat partisan lines in otherwise “blue California.” Voters and legislators had both previously rejected efforts to allow this option for terminally ill people.

Our research showed that people’s lived experiences – including their experiences with doctors who had somehow “gotten it wrong” when it came to a terminal diagnosis, as well as watching their own loved ones die, made many Californians uncomfortable with this type of legislation.

Our role: Using Public Opinion Research, Psychological Analysis & Storytelling Strategies to Understand and Shape Attitudes

Goodwin Simon, Wild Swan and Wonder worked in partnership
 with Compassion & Choices to develop the research methodology and messaging strategy. To begin, Wonder led a media audit to determine how the issue had been framed in California and other states as well as social listening research to understand how ordinary Californians talked about the issue.

Wild Swan developed a psychological analysis of the media audit and social listening research led by Wonder. Wonder also led a pop culture analysis to better understand how stories about aid in dying have been told over the past 20 years in television shows, documentaries and feature films. Together, we created and tested message and story strategies in various qualitative research methods led by Goodwin Simon among African-American, Asian/Pacific Islander, Latino and Anglo voters in California.

Goodwin Simon developed an analysis of the qualitative research, which included a psychological and narrative analysis by Wild Swan and Wonder. The analysis helped us to better understand the competing needs, concerns, values and other conflicts that would prevent voters from being supportive and the messages and stories they needed to hear to manage those heartfelt conflicts.

Goodwin Simon, in partnership with Wild Swan, also developed a statewide survey that tested legislative language among California voters. Based on our research, we created a message and storytelling guide that guided Compassion & Choices in their public communications and legislative advocacy.

Complimenting their grassroots advocacy work, we worked with Compassion & Choices to feature the stories of California families struggling with the terminal illness of a loved one and how the law would give those families peace of mind even if they didn’t use the option. Compassion & Choices tapped their network to find families willing to share their stories.

Those emotionally powerful stories helped to generate empathy among reluctant audiences – even those who would never consider the option if they were terminally ill. The stories featured diverse characters including Catholics, Latinos and Republicans.

In an op-ed in the Sacramento Bee, civil rights icon Dolores Huerta recounted the prolonged, agonizing death of her mother from breast cancer. In her appeal to legislators, she wrote:

For those caring legislators who could never imagine considering this option for themselves if they were terminally ill – because it may conflict with their values and beliefs – this vote must be especially tough.

My lifelong work as an advocate for social justice has taught me that these difficult moments require our utmost compassion, the wisdom to imagine walking in another person’s shoes and the ability to respect the wishes of others. Those of us who have cared for a loved one and witnessed a lengthy and painful dying process are urging legislators to act now. 

Our messaging strategy also emphasized the many safeguards included in the legislation to assure concerned Californians that the law would work as intended.

Change Created: After More Than 20 Years, Advocates Succeeded in Making Aid in Dying a Legal Option for Terminally Ill Californians and Their Families

On October 5, 2015, Gov. Brown signed legislation making California the largest state in the nation to allow the option for medical aid in dying – more than 20 years after voters rejected a similar proposal at the ballot box.

In his letter approving the legislation, Gov. Brown reflected the messaging framework we developed that had proven most powerful in persuading reluctant audiences – honoring and respecting the decision of a terminally ill person. He wrote:

In the end, I was left to reflect on what I would want in the face of my own death. I do not know what I would do if I were dying in prolonged and excruciating pain. I am certain, however, that it would be a comfort to be able to consider the options afforded by this bill. And I wouldn’t deny that right to others.

Advocates are now looking to take the momentum from the victory in California to advance aid-in-dying policies in other states.

Rhinos butting horns

#GeekReads: 5 Quick Reads that Made Us Smarter

In this week’s #GeekReads; overcoming political polarization; the brain-body divide; disrupting flawed mental templates; losing one’s inner monologue; the good that comes from gratitude.

Reframing the argument. Liberal and conservatives both find it hard to frame arguments that appeal to their political opponents’ values. From Rotman School of Management via Psy Post.

Brain-body divide. Cognitive scientist Guy Claxton argues that cognitive processes aren’t as separate from senses and motor functions as once thought. From Jack Meserve via Science of Us.

Disrupting the narrative. A group of writers seek to change the way Islam is seen and represented in American culture. From Emma Green via The Atlantic.

Inner monologue. We often talk to ourselves as a way of processing our own thoughts and emotions, but what happens when a stroke silences some of that inner monologue? From Claire Cameron via Nautilus.

Giving thanks. Gratitude can increase empathy and support personal well-being. From Tania Lombrozo via NPR.


Traveler with suitcase

#GeekReads: 5 Quick Reads that Made Us Smarter

In this week’s #GeekReads: life in the liminal lane; dealing with cyber-bullying; the influence of environment on brain structure; understanding the empathy gap; gender labels on toys.

Chronically liminal life. A new generation is redefining the boundaries of the liminal state by suggesting transition is not simply life’s interlude, but life itself. From Pamela Weintraub via Nautilus.

Do not feed the trolls. A Muslim activist deals with Internet trolls by donating a dollar to UNICEF for every hate-filled tweet she receives. From Amanda Froelich via True Activist.

Our flexible brains. A recent study found that while brain size is largely determined by genetics, cerebral anatomy is more strongly influenced by environment. From Kate Wheeling via Pacific Standard.

Empathy gap. In light of the recent attacks in Beirut and Paris, one writer unpacks the imbalance in American reactions to concurrent and tragic acts of violence. From David A. Graham via The Atlantic.

Free to be you and me. In an effort to ditch gender labeling when it comes to toys, Mattel has created the first Barbie ad featuring a boy. From Rachel Bertsche via Yahoo.


Robot in the sand

#GeekReads: 5 Quick Reads that Made Us Smarter

In this week’s #GeekReads; empathizing with robot ‘pain’; emotional expressiveness and gender stereotypes; Ferguson in the classroom; literary trigger warnings; when jealousy and empathy collide.

Robo-empathy. A study finds that people have visceral, automatic empathy responses to seeing robots in painful situations. From Greta Weber via Slate.

‘Manly’ restraint. In a recent experiment, participants viewed emotional restraint as a sign of intelligence in men, but as something suspect in women. From Tom Jacobs via Pacific Standard.

Learning from protest. A course called Black Lives Matter: Race, Resistance and Popular Protest at NYU’s Galltin School inspires engaged discourse in an environment of mutual respect. From Errin Whack via NPR.

Reading is risky. Reading carries the potential for emotional and psychological upheaval, offering us challenging experiences that are rarely under our control. From Frank Furedi via Aeon.

When jealousy and empathy collide. A new study suggests we show less neural empathy for those we dislike or view as competition. From Christian Jarrett via Science of Us.

#GeekReads: 5 Quick Reads that Made Us Smarter

In this week’s #GeekReads: variations in what makes us human; empathy’s ability to bridge racial divides; a brief history of groundbreaking television; the neurobiological underpinnings of empathy; debunking anti-immigration myths.

Uniquely human. Scientists release new data from the 1,000 Genomes Project that quantifies the DNA variations of 2,500 people from across the globe. Despite millions of differences in human DNA, we are more alike than different. From Francie Diep via Pacific Standard.

Empathy and race. Can empathy help us to transcend racial divisions? President Obama and Ta-Nehisi Coates offer different perspectives on empathy and race. From John Paul Rollert via The Atlantic.

Learning the Facts of Life. Recent studies suggest that diversity in television combined with the power of storytelling can positively shape attitudes toward people of color, LGBT people and working women. From Lori Chandler via Big Think.

I can relate. A new study helps close the gap in our understanding of the neurobiological mechanisms of empathy. From University of Vienna via PsyPost.

State of immigration. A new report debunks anti-immigrant myths and makes the case for collecting broader and better data on immigrants and their children. From Yasmin Anwar via Futurity.


Tweet us your #GeekReads at @w0nderlab.

Image: flickr/MsSaraKelly, Public Domain 


Behind the Mask

#GeekReads: 4 Quick Reads + 1 Watch that Made Us Smarter

In this week’s #GeekReads: unlocking our unconscious memories; relating to characters; an optimistic view of behavioral economics; gender normativity; talking about race in a “color-blind” world.

Unlocking the unconscious. New research has identified a region of the brain that has the ability to hide fear-related memories in the brain, as well as the ability to retrieve them. From Christopher Bergland via Psychology Today.

What’s in a word? Egyptian author Alaa Al Aswany talks about how one word in a Dostoyevsky novel captures the empathy-inducing potential of literature. From Joe Fassier via The Atlantic.

Irrational you. A behavioral economist argues that it’s not pessimistic to say that humans are often irrational; sometimes acknowledging irrationality creates room for improvement. From Dan Ariely via Big Think.

Gender essentialism. While gender definitions are expanding, gendered norms still trump many other social norms that structure our agency and lived experiences. From Charlotte Witt via Aeon.

The “color-blind” bind. Research explores the impact teaching “racial color-blindness” could have on identity formation for children of color. From Jesse Singal via Science of Us.

Tweet us your #GeekReads at @w0nderlab.

Image: flickr/JD Hancock CC BY 2.0

Sleepy eyes

#GeekReads: 5 Quick Reads that Made Us Smarter

In this week’s #GeekReads: the impact of sleep deprivation; misunderstanding fear and anxiety; brain structure and emotional instability; diverse stories of African-American life; mothers’ empathic influence.

Tired eyes. Research suggests that a lack a sleep negatively affects how well we are able to distinguish facial expressions of others. From Natalie Shoemaker via Big Think.

Misunderstanding fear. Neuroscientist Joseph LeDoux says we conflate instinctive threat responses with more consciousness-based feelings of fear and anxiety. From Casey Schwartz via Science of Us.

Emotional continuum. A recent study shows correlation between brain volume in the lower frontal lobe and the ability to regulate emotions. From Karolinska Institutet via Psy Post.

Multitudes of stories. In the second of a series of posts discussing Ta-Nehisi Coates’ book, Between the World and Me, sociologist Tressie McMillan Cottom reminds readers of the many strands of black life in America. From Tressie McMillan Cottom via The Atlantic.

The (mental) lives of others. A study shows that when mothers tune-in to their babies’ thoughts and feeling early on, it help their children empathize with the mental lives of others later in life. From Saskia Angenent via Futurity.


Tweet us your #GeekReads at @w0nderlab.

Image: flickr/Lauren Garza, CC BY 2.0

Danbo walks the tightrope

#GeekReads: 4 Quick Reads + 1 Watch that Made Us Smarter

In this week’s #GeekReads: re-categorizing fear and anxiety; the pitfalls of overconfidence; insights from an Afghan therapist; facing fears; dissecting Daffy Duck.

Dissociating disorders. Although fear and anxiety are grouped together under “anxiety disorders,” research indicates there is a distinct difference in how the two react to the reduction of serotonin in the brain. From Sage Publications via Psy Post.

Slow it down. Psychologist Daniel Kahneman discusses the blight of overconfidence and the benefits of slowing down our thoughts. From David Shariatmadari via The Guardian.

Talk to her. In a place where symptoms of depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder are widespread, a woman offers her empathy and calm presence as medicine for her mental health patients. From Mariam Jalalzada via The New York Times.

Prepare for takeoff. Author and professor Gina Barreca, fearless in many aspects of life, considers the complex sources of her overwhelming fear of flying. Via Psychology Today.

Character sketches. Loony Tunes animator Chuck Jones shares how a combination of simplicity, movement, and discipline  made each character so distinct and memorable. From Dan Solomon via Fast Company.


Tweet us your #GeekReads at @w0nderlab.

Image: flickr/Carlo Ciccarelli CC BY SA 2.0

Einstein Robot with Microscope

#GeekReads: 5 Quick Reads that Made Us Smarter

In this week’s #GeekReads: constructing consciousness; choosing empathy; functions of the hippocampus; embracing change; social media echo chambers.

Build-a-brain.  Is it possible to construct consciousness in an artificial brain? From Michael Graziano via Aeon.

Limitless empathy. Research suggests that empathy is a choice and how much we choose to empathize depends on what we want to feel.  From Daryl Cameron, Michael Inzlicht, and William A. Cunningham via The New York Times.

Social mapping. The hippocampus, which is a region in the brain responsible for telling people how near or far an object is, may also guide how emotionally close we feel to others and how we rank them socially. From Mount Sinai School of Medicine via Psy Post.

Managing change.  In many aspects of life, change is met with resistance, but discussing anticipated problems helps to create an environment of synergy and support. From Joseph Grenny via Psychology Today.

Social media extremists.  The self-selecting nature of social media often serves to reinforce rather than expand our political worldviews. From Robert Montenegro via Big Think.


Tweet us your #GeekReads at @w0nderlab.

Image: flickr/Jenn and Tony Bot, CC BY NC 2.0


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