Advancing Research is coming back in 2024 - and this time we're in-person!

Empathy is widely held as an important research mindset among designers. Many design research processes begin with the word. While empathy is broadly necessary to design practice, it is not without its problems. Most designers and researchers do not also know the dangers of empathy. Consider that:

  • We confuse and conflate empathy, sympathy, and compassion. The differences are critically important.
  • Empathic resonance in the brain is extremely biased. We find it hard to empathize with people unlike ourselves.
  • Having too much empathy may also be problematic and can be weaponized by bad actors.
  • We feel empathy only for humans and animals‚ not for objects, spaces, places, or our planet.

This talk will explore the edges of empathy and show how and why two additional emotive capacities should be cultivated: curiosity and care. A short case study for a project involving four NASA space scientists will demonstrate that when these two capacities are added to empathy, they can lead to more generative research and richer insights.