William Shatner: Empathy must be taught

What a group of orphaned elephants can teach us about emotion and learned social skills.

WILLIAM SHATNER: There was a herd of elephants put in a preserve. Young elephants were taken away, orphans whose mothers were shot for the tusks, were put in an elephant orphanage which was a large tract of land that had other animals. They began to see that rhinos were being gored and kill and they didn't know what was happening until they finally made the discovery that those young bulls, those young elephants were killing the rhinos. And they surmised, I guess, that it was because these orphans who had seen so much, elephants are so sensitive, were put in these preserves and had no guidance. And when they took a mature bull elephant and put it among the young elephants, all the deaths of rhinos and other animals stopped. The older elephant had taught the younger elephants how to behave. That's part of the community of elephants, and we're all part elephant. Those learnings are applied to mankind as well.

I don't know that it's any different between a boy and a girl to learn those social skills. It's a learned; it is a community; it is tribal learning. All young animals are tuned to it. That's the only way young animals live. They aren't tuned to it they die. So it must be in our DNA by evolution to hold together as against to being separate. And that means the family unit becomes part of a larger unit and you have a community that holds together for each other's benefit. But that has to be learned, and I don't think it's any different from a boy to a girl. You have to walk in the shoes to experience what the other person is experiencing. And if it has high heels it's difficult for a man to walk in those shoes.

  • Empathy is defined as the act of recognizing, understanding, and being sensitive to the feelings and experiences of others.
  • Sharing a story about young elephants at a nature preserve, William Shatner argues that empathy is a learned skill, not an inherited trait.
  • "That has to be learned, and I don't think it's any different from a boy to a girl. You have to walk in the shoes to experience what the other person is experiencing."

Using the logic of neuroscience to heal from a breakup

Healing from a break-up should be taken as seriously as healing from a broken arm, says psychiatrist Dr. Guy Winch.

Photo by Ken Stocker on Shutterstock
Sex & Relationships
  • According to a study from anthropologist Dr. Helen Fisher, when humans fall in love, regions of the brain that are rich in dopamine (a neurotransmitter that plays a key role in feeling pleasure) light up and parts of the brain that are used in fear and social judgment are operating at lower rates.
  • The surge and decline of hormones in our brains when we experience a breakup are also similar to those felt when withdrawing from an addiction to drugs - and the pain felt during a breakup has appeared on MRI scans as similar to the physical pain felt with a severe burn or broken arm.
  • Understanding the neuroscience of heartbreak can help us better understand how to heal from the physical and emotional pain caused by a breakup, according to well-known psychiatrist and author Dr. Guy Winch.
Keep reading

The value of owning more books than you can read

Or, how I learned to stop worrying and love my tsundoku.

(Photo from Wikimedia)
Personal Growth
  • Many readers buy books with every intention of reading them only to let them linger on the shelf.
  • Statistician Nassim Nicholas Taleb believes surrounding ourselves with unread books enriches our lives as they remind us of all we don't know.
  • The Japanese call this practice tsundoku, and it may provide lasting benefits.
Keep reading

How will AI shape the future of storytelling?

Can technology act as a feedback loop for human emotions?

Videos
  • Technology will change the way that humans tell and experience stories in the future.
  • Palmer presents an idea for AI film that watches the viewer and changes the narrative based on their emotional responses to chaotic events.
  • By acting as a feedback loop, the AI will make storytellers aware of their implicit bias and become conscious of subconscious behaviors.
Keep reading