You've got 10 minutes with Einstein. What do you talk about? Black holes? Time travel?

Why not gambling? The Art of War? Contemporary parenting?

Each week, host Jason Gots surprises some of the world's brightest minds with ideas they're not at all prepared to discuss. Join us and special guests Neil Gaiman, Alan Alda, Salman Rushdie, Margaret Atwood, Richard Dawkins, Maria Popova, Mary-Louise Parker, Neil deGrasse Tyson and many more...

Helen Riess, M.D. – Empathy in the brain and the world

Empathy makes us human. Humans make structures that rob us of empathy when we need it most. Helen Riess is trying to reverse that trend.

Think Again Podcasts
  • Heart – mind = emotional quicksand. Mind – heart = greeting card sympathy
  • The doctor burnout epidemic and how to fix it


Empathy is the basic stuff of human connection. It's how we hear and are heard by one another. It's how we deal with one another as people rather than objects. But with massive, relentless trouble in the world, the 24 hour news cycle, the pressure to choose political and social sides, and the struggles of our everyday lives, empathy is sometimes in short supply.

My guest today is the psychiatrist and research scientist Helen Riess. She's an associate clinical professor at Harvard and runs the relational science program at Massachusetts General Hospital as well as the company Empathetics, Inc. Her new book, THE EMPATHY EFFECT: 7 Neuroscience-based keys for transforming the way we live, love, work, and connect across differences, is all about empathy: where it comes from, what its effects are, and how we can develop more of it.

That breathtaking song I mention in the intro: "Compassion" by Lucinda Williams

Surprise conversation starter clips in this episode:

Timothy Snyder on how to get past partisan politics

Leland Melvin on hands on learning

The world and workforce need wisdom. Why don’t universities teach it?

Universities claim to prepare students for the world. How many actually do it?

Photo: Take A Pix Media / Getty Images
Sponsored by Charles Koch Foundation
  • Many university mission statements do not live up to their promise, writes Ben Nelson, founder of Minerva, a university designed to develop intellect over content memorization.
  • The core competencies that students need for success—critical thinking, communication, problem solving, and cross-cultural understanding, for example—should be intentionally taught, not left to chance.
  • These competencies can be summed up with one word: wisdom. True wisdom is the ability to apply one's knowledge appropriately when faced with novel situations.
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