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Students Show a Dramatic Drop In Empathy

kdawson posted more than 3 years ago | from the well-boo-hoo dept.

Education 659

MotorMachineMercenar writes "Several news sources report that today's college students show a precipitous drop in empathy (here's MSNBC's take). The study of 14,000 students shows that students since the year 2000 had 40% less empathy than those 20 and 30 years before them. The article lays out a laundry list of culprits, from child-rearing practices and the self-help movement, to video games and social media, to a free-market economy and income inequality. There's also a link so you can test your very own level of narcissism. Let's hope the Slashdot crowd doesn't break the empathy counter on the downside."

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empathize my dick (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32400398)

you, suck it good for fucking homo.

Re:empathize my dick (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32400446)

i'm butt-fucking your mother

Re:empathize my dick (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32400708)

I feel very sorry for your dick.

Oh god.. (5, Insightful)

Anrego (830717) | more than 3 years ago | (#32400404)

.. the linked test reminds me of those "what job are you best suited for" tests we got in school. The ones which after answering at least 100 very transparent and subjective questions would recommend you become a garbage man, an astronaut, or maybe a carpenter.

And all the questions are the same.. they could have essentially made the whole thing two questions:

1) are you empathetic
2) are you _NOT_ empathetic

Personally I think people are just as self centered now as always and we've just gotten better (supposedly) at measuring it.

It's like how mental illness would appear to be on the rise. It could be legitimate change, or it could be that we've come up with fancy names for kids who back in the day would've just been called "a little slow" and/or ended up in a job where no one would notice.

Re:Oh god.. (4, Interesting)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 3 years ago | (#32400424)

It's much more sinister than that. Gotta look at it from 2 perspectives: ideal and pragmatic. Everybody daydreams about a Star-trek utopia, where all races without a need for money hold hands and dance around the replicator without a care in the world.

But - humans, like everything else that walks or swims or flagellates in nature, are just animals. The primitive, tribalist pack mentality is seen at all levels of human interaction, from sports teams to H.O.A.'s to the ethnocentricism of entire corporations, countries, and races. Modern technology enables the development and prosperity of more and more lone wolves. People are becoming greedier and greedier with unprecedented thirst for power and control. Think about the countless empires of the past, and recently Nazi Germany and now the United States. Only the naive believe that their bleeding-heart protests and righteous indignation will force the arm of nature itself. We are wicked creatures. The meek will not inherit the Earth.

Why do we find pleasure in others' pain? Why do we laugh when Wile. E. Coyote has an anvil dropped on his head or when Dick Van Dyke trips over the ottoman? Simple: more resources are available to us when others are taken outta the game.

We. Are. Fucked. The best thing you can do is just get yours -- live your life under the radar, grab a bag of popcorn, and chuckle bitterly at the evening news.

Re:Oh god.. (4, Informative)

Third Position (1725934) | more than 3 years ago | (#32400478)

You're getting closer to the truth. See Robert Putnam. [boston.com]

Re:Oh god.. (1, Insightful)

Macrat (638047) | more than 3 years ago | (#32400630)

Very true.

You forgot the corporate environment, where the best asshole gets the promotions.

Re:Oh god.. (5, Informative)

BasilBrush (643681) | more than 3 years ago | (#32400830)

Why do we laugh when Wile. E. Coyote has an anvil dropped on his head or when Dick Van Dyke trips over the ottoman? Simple: more resources are available to us when others are taken outta the game.

That's wrong. We only laugh when we know that the person/animated character is not seriously hurt. Every animated character that comes to harm, may at first appear harmed, but always reappears later in perfect health. Even in the more extremely violent animated comedy - Itchy and Scratchy. The same is true of real life. If someone falls, our first reaction is the need to know whether they are OK or not. If they are uninjured, then we may find it funny. If they are injured, then we do not find it funny.

(Of course there are sociopaths to whom this general rule may not apply. Also when we are completely removed from witnessing or emotional involvement in the incident or the victim, e.g. The Darwin Awards.)

In fact the laugh probably originates as an "all clear" signal amongst ape ancestors. When danger has disappeared, or it was a false alarm, we laugh. Thus the association between laughing and pleasure.

Re:Oh god.. (2, Insightful)

omfgnosis (963606) | more than 3 years ago | (#32400882)

I think, as a contrary point of view, it might be that people's perception of human nature reflects their perception of themselves or their own place in humanity.

It's not controversial to say that humans have a competitive nature (and by extension, can exhibit greed even at the needless expense of others), but it's no more controversial to say that humans have a cooperative nature (and by extension, can exhibit empathy and altruism even at the needless expense of themselves). It's probably also not controversial to say that both characteristics can coexist, even in the same conditions, and that both characteristics can be beneficial for individuals and groups alike.

The meek will not inherit the Earth, but perhaps the unyieldingly principled and ethical will. Justice doesn't demand submissiveness of those who seek it—in fact, it demands forcefulness. We can live in the world as it exists and continue to make the world we want to live in. But not if we take the attitude that the best thing you can do is just get yours.

Re:Oh god.. (2, Funny)

Codename Dutchess (1782238) | more than 3 years ago | (#32400466)

Personally I think people are just as self centered now as always and we've just gotten better (supposedly) at measuring it.

We've gotten better at tallying these 2 numbers?

1) are you empathetic
2) are you _NOT_ empathetic

I'm glad your post makes sense. Thanks!

Broken test (2, Funny)

biryokumaru (822262) | more than 3 years ago | (#32400504)

Also, the test is broken. You still receive a point for the lowest option, so the minimum score is 20%. This is why psych majors need to take more math.

Re:Broken test (2, Informative)

CheshireCatCO (185193) | more than 3 years ago | (#32400558)

That's taken into account in the rating, though. You can't really judge a score (if you can at all) without context of the rest of the population anyway. So floating the bottom score above zero points doesn't change much any more than having an effective minimum score on the SAT does.

Re:Broken test (1, Interesting)

biryokumaru (822262) | more than 3 years ago | (#32400598)

But it would trivial to simply design the test so that the outcome isn't idiotic.

Re:Broken test (1)

machine321 (458769) | more than 3 years ago | (#32400874)

If you don't answer the question at all, you get a zero. Your problem is you cared enough to answer.

Re:Oh god.. (1)

Xelrach (726281) | more than 3 years ago | (#32400634)

Hell you weren't joking, this is actually one of the questions: 'To what extent does the following statement describe you: "I am an empathetic person."'

Re:Oh god.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32400668)

I'm somewhat concerned and puzzled about my result. Apparently I'm more cold-hearted than 80% of the other test subjects. Given how I answered the questions, I see how I got that score. Yet when I compare myself to other people, especially in immediate situations when someone is in distress, I am frequently there to help, and when I do help, I am often the person who initiates the help if other people are involved. I also see it as a matter of course and genuinely don't expect anything in return. I just don't walk around pitying people and I don't give to charity or beggars for rational reasons. I'm not sure if I'm looking at this the wrong way or if the test is just not very good.

Re:Oh god.. (4, Insightful)

MrHanky (141717) | more than 3 years ago | (#32400690)

We're getting better at measuring it? With that kind of test? It's basically asking "are you a good/bad person?" in a number of different ways. Maybe people are more (or less) honest about how they answer that kind of questionaires now, maybe they have a less idealised views of themselves, maybe they just don't give a fuck about what an anonymous questionaire says about them. Then there are questions like "Before criticizing somebody, I try to imagine how I would feel if I were in their place" -- which, if you can't help but doing that anyway, makes you come across as a callous motherfucker if you correctly answer "Does not describe me well". It's a shit test, and measures nothing.

Re:Oh god.. (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32400808)

It's a shit test, and measures nothing.

You could show a little more empathy for the people who made the test you insensitive piece of shit.

Re:Oh god.. (2, Interesting)

SomeKDEUser (1243392) | more than 3 years ago | (#32400864)

In fact, this test is worse than that: it asks for your ethnic background. Basically, it assumes that you feel that you are more connected to a group of human based on essentially the colour of your skin.

And then the bastards claim that "young people these day have no empathy".

Also this test does not measure actual empathy (as in, what you do for your neighbour -- where current generations are in fact better than their elders) But essentially how good you are at emoting over things.

Claiming you care emotionally about the fate of uncounted souls less fortunate than you are is a lie. You are human, you can only feel about people you can see/know. But you can intellectually wish for a better world and work actively towards realising it.

That may not mean you will score high on this test, but that the world is in fact becoming a better place.

Feel empathy for the students and their debt (2, Interesting)

cornicefire (610241) | more than 3 years ago | (#32400414)

The guy who wrote Beating the College Bubble [edububble.com] says that the cost of college debt is so high, everyone should feel empathy for the students [edububble.com] , not demand empathy from them. I agree. (For a Slashdot review, read this [slashdot.org] .)

Re:Feel empathy for the students and their debt (1)

RabbitWho (1805112) | more than 3 years ago | (#32400608)

College is free where I'm from, maybe that's why I scored so high.

Re:Feel empathy for the students and their debt (1)

e9th (652576) | more than 3 years ago | (#32400884)

Is there a qualifying process, or is admission open to everyone?

Re:Feel empathy for the students and their debt (5, Interesting)

cappp (1822388) | more than 3 years ago | (#32400702)

What's odd is that the numbers constantly show that this generation is one of the most socially involved yet. They volunteer all the time. Do charity work. Involve themselves in causes in record numbers. Call their mothers. I guess it could be argued that in an increasingly competitve world all these things look great on a college application but that doesn't explain why college kids keep doing these things. I doubt any social service really helps in the employment fields, and I'd doubt if the Employment offices on campus suggest otherwise.

I found a decent summary article at http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2006-10-23-gen-next-cover_x.htm [usatoday.com] which had some intersting counter points

A growing body of academic and market research suggests millennials — who are in their mid-20s and younger — are civic-minded and socially conscious as individuals, consumers and employees.

61% of 13- to 25-year-olds feel personally responsible for making a difference in the world, suggests a survey of 1,800 young people to be released today. It says 81% have volunteered in the past year; 69% consider a company's social and environmental commitment when deciding where to shop, and 83% will trust a company more if it is socially/environmentally responsible.
Two-thirds of college freshmen (66%) believe it's essential or very important to help others in difficulty, suggests a survey of 263,710 students at 385 U.S. colleges and universities. The 2005 report, by the Higher Education Research Institute at the University of California at Los Angeles, found feelings of social and civic responsibility among entering freshmen at the highest level in 25 years.
Volunteerism by college students increased by 20% from 2002 to 2005, says a study released last week by the federal Corporation for National and Community Service.

Maybe I'm overstating the point but I just don't see how volunteering as a local fireman whilst studying Physics, or working with disabled kids whilst studying History, or spending hours in retirement communities while trying to do something fancy with election data from the last 20 years, can be defined as anything but empathetic. That's the kind of thing my peers were fulling their time with.

Finally, regarding the debt question - in my experience I've found that those with the biggest debts are the ones with most empathy. Those with debts of over 200k are damn near living saints. Same goes for those on financial aid really. It's a damn small sample I know but it sure as hell felt like the ones doing the most good on my campus were also the ones recieving the most aid. There's always space for a cynical interpretation but it's of unknown value in this situation.

Who cares? (5, Funny)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | more than 3 years ago | (#32400426)

I don't give a rat's ass about what college kids feel!

Re:Who cares? (5, Funny)

An Onerous Coward (222037) | more than 3 years ago | (#32400508)

Ha! My test said I'm empathetic as hell. Take that, you hard-hearted, non-empathizing bastards!

Re:Who cares? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32400636)

I sure hope they don't let you anywhere near a voting booth.

Re:Who cares? (5, Insightful)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 3 years ago | (#32400658)

I know, I read the first question, which was,

1. I often have tender, concerned feelings for people less fortunate than me.

and humbly thought, "How can I possibly feel that way about everyone?" The study is biased.

Re:Who cares? (1)

oldhack (1037484) | more than 3 years ago | (#32400770)

I've got your empathy RIGHT HEEER.

Kum-ba-ya! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32400434)

Let's hope the Slashdot crowd doesn't break the empathy counter on the downside.

I'm feeling a lot of negative vibration from this statement.

In what units do you measure empathy? (3, Funny)

mykos (1627575) | more than 3 years ago | (#32400440)

Subject one contains 160 milliempathetals, while subject two's milliempathetals measure only 96.

Re:In what units do you measure empathy? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32400836)

I measure it in a couple of things, such as, "nights spent staying up 'til 2 in the morning trying to make a friend realize that she is a valuable human being and to stop contemplating suicide" or bedtime stories I've read to her, and things like that.

Posting anonymously, lest it be no more than gloating.

They are the day care generation (2, Informative)

boomgopher (627124) | more than 3 years ago | (#32400442)

No, that's not a scientific opinion. But it is my opinion.

I'm not taking that test (1, Funny)

istartedi (132515) | more than 3 years ago | (#32400444)

I'm not taking that test. Fuck you. I've got better things to do with my time. How'd I do? D'oh! Points off for asking. Not that it matters.

This Narcissism Crap (5, Funny)

Black Gold Alchemist (1747136) | more than 3 years ago | (#32400454)

You know, after hearing this, I felt the need to write extensively about the subject on facebook, so everyone can see what I feel.

and the score is (1)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 3 years ago | (#32400462)

37.1% 26/70 - I need to work on this, it is about 30.1 percent too high for my liking.

Re:and the score is (1)

Sigilium (1611915) | more than 3 years ago | (#32400776)

31/70 and I am not a student for almost 10 years now
soon a score like this will be normal, so what ...

Re:and the score is (1)

besalope (1186101) | more than 3 years ago | (#32400804)

35.7% 25/70

Remember, 14/70 is bare minimum, so you can only shave off 17.1% off your score.

Re:and the score is (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32400870)

I got a 31.4% and I like to help people out when I come across someone in need. So much for needing 'empathy'.

Don't care (1)

oldhack (1037484) | more than 3 years ago | (#32400486)

Somebody Else' Problem.

Ghost of the time? (1, Insightful)

santax (1541065) | more than 3 years ago | (#32400488)

I see this around me all the time. Mind you, I am still young -31- and yet I can see the youngsters around me (and not only the youngsters, people of all ages seem to be affected) just don't care about anything or anyone anymore. I am not surprised by this either. Look at what great examples we have given this next generation. The lies about WMD, the lies about drugs, people telling you that is perfectly normal to own a gun, that it is normal to shoot at someone just for trespassing/burglary. That is cool to join the army and fuck up another sorry son of a bitch that you had absolutely no conflict with. We are teaching our children to be selfish... The people who are selfish are the people that drive the ferrari's around at wallstreet. They are being held up as icons by a complete generation. We are teaching our kids to become like them... No I am not surprised. Just very worried.

Re:Ghost of the time? (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32400596)

There is a great deal of irony in your post in that you are opining about lack of empathy in young people, yet you show a lack empathy for a great portion of (US) society for which it IS completely normal to own a firearm.

Re:Ghost of the time? (1)

Ostracus (1354233) | more than 3 years ago | (#32400600)

I see this around me all the time. Mind you, I am still young -31- and yet I can see the youngsters around me (and not only the youngsters, people of all ages seem to be affected) just don't care about anything or anyone anymore. I am not surprised by this either. Look at what great examples we have given this next generation. The lies about WMD, the lies about drugs, people telling you that is perfectly normal to own a gun, that it is normal to shoot at someone just for trespassing/burglary. That is cool to join the army and fuck up another sorry son of a bitch that you had absolutely no conflict with. We are teaching our children to be selfish...

And engage in illegal copyright infringement...oh wait!

Re:Ghost of the time? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32400610)

I see this around me all the time. Mind you, I am still young -31- and yet I can see the youngsters around me (and not only the youngsters, people of all ages seem to be affected) just don't care about anything or anyone anymore. I am not surprised by this either. Look at what great examples we have given this next generation. The lies about WMD, the lies about drugs, people telling you that is perfectly normal to own a gun, that it is normal to shoot at someone just for trespassing/burglary. That is cool to join the army and fuck up another sorry son of a bitch that you had absolutely no conflict with. We are teaching our children to be selfish... The people who are selfish are the people that drive the ferrari's around at wallstreet. They are being held up as icons by a complete generation. We are teaching our kids to become like them... No I am not surprised. Just very worried.

you are old. you fucking faggot. if you don't stop spewing this emotional garbage, i'll shoot you right in the ass

captcha: cuddle

Re:Ghost of the time? (3, Insightful)

couchslug (175151) | more than 3 years ago | (#32400670)

Nice job sliding the anti-firearm propaganda in there, but don't forget that firearm ownership happens to be very common in "wholesome" parts of the country where crime is rare and weapons are treated with respect. The military participation thing is not only historically "normal", but considered to be self-sacrifice (the marketing of particular wars IS a separate issue!).

Kids today are understanding that it makes sense to cover your own ass. Being an empathetic emo doesn't do that, and never did. Some of us are ancient enough to remember times before universal emophilia (hey, I coined a word!) and aren't nostalgic FOR emophilia. In tough times, get tough.

Re:Ghost of the time? (4, Insightful)

orthicviper (1800010) | more than 3 years ago | (#32400686)

people who would burglarize are the kind of no-empathy-having oxygen-thieves whose self-centered motivations cause all the misery in the world. examples of people like you that think we shouldn't pump some rounds of lead into their useless noggins are reason why youngsters these days have no empathy.

Re:Ghost of the time? (-1, Flamebait)

santax (1541065) | more than 3 years ago | (#32400796)

I'm gonna print this one out. It will come handy to make my point... See: if you teach children that if someone gives you a little push you should react by cutting of his arm then you're part of the problem. Shooting an unarmed burglar is precisely the same. And this is what we mean with: losing empathy. When you start to think like that, you are no longer protecting yourself. No you are also taking revenge. I am not telling you to help the burglar with raiding your home. But a reaction (especially violent ones) should be in proportion. But this is just one of many examples. I have actually seen people walk by a a little kid (10-12 yrs or so) that was getting the living shit kicked out of him... Adults... just walked by. No man, we are doing some wrong here. I know (at least 'my' town) 15 years ago you could not beat up anyone on the streets without everything jumping in between. Nowadays people try so hard to not see. That being said, don't have a solution for it either and can only hope to better with my kids. Albeit I'm sure I will do many things wrong. Just like every good parent does.

What does gun ownership have to do with anything? (5, Insightful)

Alaren (682568) | more than 3 years ago | (#32400718)

Speaking of lies...

People "check out" of their communities for a host of reasons, each as individual as the last. It is woefully short-sighted to believe that our generation has any more or less in the way of bad examples. Politicians have been lying for as long as there have been politicians. Regulating arms has been a hot political topic for as long as governments have been using arms regulation to suppress the dissatisfied underclass. Joining the military for an opportunity to kill or torture or pillage or rape with impunity has even inspired governments to recruit from the ranks of their criminal class. These are not new problems.

What is comparatively new (only a few hundred years old) is (small-l) liberalism, in which minority viewpoints race from vilified, to tolerated, to accepted, to embraced. There is a huge section of adult society that basically worships any cause that claims to be tearing down some other, more established cause--an attitude once expected only of adolescents and madmen. In our race to destroy the trappings of tradition and establishment in favor of something shiny and new, we've forgotten to build lasting replacements to those edifices we so gleefully destroy. Religion? Superstitious nonsense--screw "sense of community," it's a pointless side effect. Social clubs? The decadent excess of a dominant class looking for ways to ostracize others. Family? A convenient lie, used mostly to oppress women and marginalize homosexuals, easily entered into and easily dissolved by the courts.

You want to know why people don't care about anything? Most of them don't have anything to care about.

Now don't get me wrong, there are some good reasons to challenge certain established norms (including some I've mentioned). But there's so much more to "evolving" a culture than tearing down its past. We Westerners have become exceedingly adept at deconstructing what we've got--what we're struggling with now is building a future.

Re:What does gun ownership have to do with anythin (1)

Kell Bengal (711123) | more than 3 years ago | (#32400866)

I find your comments about tearing down social constructs without constructing replacements as a little odd. Each individual lives life only once. It is meaningless to say that we have not constructed replacements for religious community, when any other community that the person experiences is just as legitimate for them as the one their parents enjoyed. Likewise with the family; if a child grows up with two male parents, for that child it is just as normal as a nuclear family. Why does any replacement need to be an institution that is 'lasting' beyond the lives of the people it exists to serve? If you have been living under a rock recently, there's been a lot of progress going on in microculture development both online and off. Exciting things are a foot for those who take the time to find and involve themselves in them.

Re:Ghost of the time? (4, Insightful)

nmb3000 (741169) | more than 3 years ago | (#32400758)

What?

The lies about WMD

What in the world does alleged lying have to do with empathy? Poor performance of the intelligence community hardly seems relevant, but at least you're making your bias clear from the get go I suppose.

the lies about drugs

Which lies? That they often unhealthy (both legal and illegal ones), that they're unnecessary and even counter-productive to live a happy and productive life? Or some other lies?

people telling you that is perfectly normal to own a gun

What is abnormal about owning a gun? Of course, if you're hopped up on drugs you probably shouldn't own a weapon.

that it is normal to shoot at someone just for trespassing/burglary

I see, maybe we should punish them with love instead? Breaking into someone's home is akin to invading another country. All bets are off when it comes to protecting family and property. If you come into my home with violent intent, just how much violence is too much? Baseball bat? Knife? Gun? Should I just ask you to leave nicely and hand over my wallet if you won't?

That is cool to join the army and fuck up another sorry son of a bitch that you had absolutely no conflict with

That's kind of the definition of war. How many Nazis did WWII soldiers have personal conflicts with?

The people who are selfish are the people that drive the ferrari's around at wallstreet

Being wealthy and choosing how you want to spend your wealth is selfish?

They are being held up as icons by a complete generation

People on Wall Street are about as far from an "icon" for young people as is possible.

No I am not surprised. Just very worried.

No reason to be, I doubt humans are less empathetic in general now than ever before, only that people are more honest about it now. I imagine this might be from a certain amount of the GIFT [penny-arcade.com] extending from online communities into real-world interactions. We've gone from interacting only with a small local community to dealing with thousands/millions of people online plus our local community. It's harder to feel empathy with so many anonymous people communicating only with text so it isn't too surprising that some apathetic feelings creep in.

When you're actually dealing with somebody sitting in front of you, face-to-face, I think most people would exhibit a higher level of empathy.

Re:Ghost of the time? (5, Insightful)

jazzkat (901547) | more than 3 years ago | (#32400810)

Small sidebar.

Santax: "(The lies about WMD, the lies about drugs), (people telling you that is perfectly normal to own a gun, that it is normal to shoot at someone just for trespassing/burglary)"

The two categroies of events have nothing to do with one another. I'm not sure what environment you live in. Perhaps you're in an urban area where, if something is going wrong, you are pefectly able to dial 911 with 99% certainty and a police officer is just two minutes away. But not all of us live in those areas.

Here's the thought process behind many of those law-abiding citizens who legally carry firearms.

Any time you have to use any implement in a life-threatening emergency, whether it be a fire extinguisher to put out a fire or an implement to make a human threat to your life stop being a threat, it is a life-changing event for you and should be avoided at all costs.

But here’s the reality. Out where we live, at any one time there may be between 1 and 4 Sheriff deputies covering the entire 527 square miles of the county. In the neighboring county, if you call 911 at 3AM on a Tuesday morning, you will get the CELL PHONE of the on-call Deputy. Maybe he’s awake, maybe not.

There have been a high number of burglaries in this area – two involving a homeowner being shot, one of those a deadly shooting.

If you hear a knock at your door and see a guy with a 12-gauge and ski mask on your porch, the cops may be 20 minutes away. You need a way to make this person stop being a threat immediately. If he sees that you have a certain implement of minor destruction (IMD) and runs away, great! Your goal of making the person stop being a threat has succeeded. It is a gravely unfortunate circumstance, however, that in some cases merely displaying IMD’s does not work – the person is too intent on getting your possessions and won’t hesitate to use whatever force is needed. In these cases the only way to stop the threat is to use equal force and hope for the best... knowing full well that there are heavy legal and psychological burdens to deal with after the fact. You’ll (hopefully) still be alive afterward, but as I said, these situations should be avoided at all costs.

It's a very heavy decision to make, possibly having to take the life of another to preserve my own life... but at least with a weapon I am able to make that decision.

Santax, around here there aren't many residents who *do not* own a gun; thus the "normal" mode of living is to own a gun. And if someone is intent on breaking in to your house, you do not have the luxury of a full psychological profile to determine if that person is going to kill you or not - you have to neutralize the threat or accept a very high risk of being killed. Whether "neutralize" means the guy is scared away when you pull your gun, or "neutralize" means you have to shoot until the threat stops, that's up to the burglar.

This has nothing to do with empathy, nor the lies that were told about WMD or are told about drugs. I'll put it this way... I don't eat meat because I'm empathetic towards the plight of factory-farmed animals. However, since I don't burglarize, my empathy towards those who may be intent upon breaking into my house and killing me is non-existent. I have two friends who feel the same way.

Re:Ghost of the time? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32400856)

Nice spew of far left bullshit. Please save the commentary for your weekly email to Olbermann. Empathy is a great attribute to have, but not to the point of becoming a self-imposed victim to the real world. You seem to have a problem with military service, yet you sit on your laurels comfortably in your walled garden, oblivious to things that go bump in the night right outside that wall; oblivious to those service members standing all around your wall ready to die for your opportunity to opine on /. with rhetoric not far from what a prolapsed anus might put to paper with pen.

More disturbing than the summary is the trend of a limited world scope. It's easy to pick on a handful of individual causes, but it seems nobody tries to connect the dots for themselves anymore.

Re:Ghost of the time? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32400880)

"people telling you that is perfectly normal to own a gun, that it is normal to shoot at someone just for trespassing/burglary"

perfectly normal. i hope i catch you breaking into my house one day.

Dumb question (0, Troll)

techno-vampire (666512) | more than 3 years ago | (#32400510)

One of the questions asked if you feel protective towards people who are being taken advantage of. Apparently, whoever wrote this has empathizing with a victim confused with wanting to protect the victim. Sometimes, the best way to help in cases like that is with tough love. You stand back, let it happen and let them learn from the experience.

what did you expect (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32400516)

you (the west) hold up crack dealers and gangsters as heroes (50cent et al), corporate psychopaths are held up as examples of "successful business leaders" and have TV shows (the apprentice) where people are expected to emulate these leaders in "ruthless business decisions", where kids see a class of people rip off their savings and retirements (bankers) and have 0 consequences, where a celebrity class are held up as models of behaviour where you dont work but shop on your working husbands/wifes credit cards or your rich dads inheritance

and you are surprised there is less empathy ?
i'm surprised there are no fucking lynch mobs

Re:what did you expect (4, Insightful)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 3 years ago | (#32400714)

i'm surprised there are no fucking lynch mobs

I agree wholeheartedly with your first paragraph, but apathy and lack of empathy go hand-in-hand in the United States. As you correctly pointed out, it's mostly about getting as much money doing as little work as possible. To participate in a lynch mob would mean having to crowbar oneself out of their La-Z-Boy chair.

Besides, we prefer to keep our government-sanctioned lynch mobs in others' countries. That way we can cheer 'em on from our sofas, as if our military were our favorite sports team at an away game.

Take the test? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32400518)

Why so they can 'feel' better? Bunch of bleedin hearts. When's the last time they got a good m-m-m-monster kill!

Not true (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32400526)

People were self-centered before, and is self-centered now. The fortunate few who work with spiritual / humanistic matters, are the lucky few to reap most benefits off empathy, helping their fellow neighbours in the process as well as uplifting their own spirit.

However, the environment is much different now. Many people are today free to chose whatever they want. The resources and assistance is available everywhere.

When life is HARD, you will see a big rise in empathy..

This will never be modded up though, due to the retarded system that hides posts. So most people will never actually get this in this lifetime..

Re:Not true (1)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 3 years ago | (#32400614)

like it's a bad thing that there is an abundance, fuck empathy, ipods are much more satisfying.

Re:Not true (1)

theshowmecanuck (703852) | more than 3 years ago | (#32400798)

Hyper parents who teach children that they don't have to respect others, not take responsibility for their own actions (after all their child never does anything wrong), or never let their children do things on their own to learn how to learn from mistakes and failures... they're to blame. When things go wrong, when we make mistakes, or are allowed to make mistakes and have to own up to them... to have to eat a bit of humble pie... that makes us a bit more human and better able to empathize with others. Being coddled until you are 30, having your parents 'protect' you from life means kids grow up with some sort of unrealistic sense of entitlement and 'why the fuck should I worry about the next guy' attitude and don't take responsibility for the own actions because their parents always come to their aid, and accuse others of the problem when their kid is ultimately to blame. Parents who want to be their children's friends first and their parents second need to get their heads out of their arses for the sake of their children, and the people who have to work with their children later. Being a parent means teaching their children life (and it isn't always rosy), not living it for them.

Test for replicants (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32400530)

Holden: You're in a desert, walking along in the sand, when all of a sudden you look down...
Leon: What one?
Holden: What?
Leon: What desert?
Holden: It doesn't make any difference what desert, it's completely hypothetical.
Leon: But, how come I'd be there?
Holden: Maybe you're fed up. Maybe you want to be by yourself. Who knows? You look down and see a tortoise, Leon. It's crawling toward you...
Leon: Tortoise? What's that?
Holden: [irritated by Leon's interruptions] You know what a turtle is?
Leon: Of course!
Holden: Same thing.
Leon: I've never seen a turtle... But I understand what you mean.
Holden: You reach down and you flip the tortoise over on its back, Leon.
Leon: Do you make up these questions, Mr. Holden? Or do they write 'em down for you?
Holden: The tortoise lays on its back, its belly baking in the hot sun, beating its legs trying to turn itself over, but it can't. Not without your help. But you're not helping.
Leon: [angry at the suggestion] What do you mean, I'm not helping?
Holden: I mean: you're not helping! Why is that, Leon?
[Leon has become visibly shaken]
Holden: They're just questions, Leon. In answer to your query, they're written down for me. It's a test, designed to provoke an emotional response... Shall we continue?

Ah Yes Evil Capitalism (3, Interesting)

technomancerX (86975) | more than 3 years ago | (#32400532)

So am I the only one noticing the growing trend to vilify capitalism and individualism in this country? Last I checked self-determination and free market capitalism were some of the founding principles of this country, yet I'm increasingly seeing these traits being blamed for all of society's problems. I find this highly disturbing, along with the disappearance of a major political party interested in smaller, less pervasive government.

Re:Ah Yes Evil Capitalism (0, Troll)

0123456 (636235) | more than 3 years ago | (#32400602)

So am I the only one noticing the growing trend to vilify capitalism and individualism in this country?

If you're only just noticing then you must have missed most of the last century when 'progressives' took over the US government to the point where even most so-called 'conservatives' today would have been considered far-left a century ago.

Re:Ah Yes Evil Capitalism (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32400618)

Hey, I know you! You're that reverse superman guy!

Re:Ah Yes Evil Capitalism (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32400632)

Yes, the Puritans left to pray at the altar of Free Market Capitalism, and later settlers came to respect the Self-Determination of the indigenous peoples.

Re:Ah Yes Evil Capitalism (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32400720)

Last I checked the US wasn't founded by Puritans it was founded by revolutionaries who broke away from England due to unfair taxation.

Re:Ah Yes Evil Capitalism (1)

Xtravar (725372) | more than 3 years ago | (#32400696)

along with the disappearance of a major political party interested in smaller, less pervasive government.

What, the Tea Party doesn't count? /ducks

Re:Ah Yes Evil Capitalism (1, Interesting)

Backward Z (52442) | more than 3 years ago | (#32400762)

WTF are you talking about?

Eating McDonald's Happy Meals and Spaghetti-O's were a couple of my founding principles--I used to eat that shit all the time when I was five years old. Nowadays, it has no place in my life.

Just... maybe... just... maybe... we're... outgrowing... capitalism...?

And what major political party is disappearing, again?

Bigger problems? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32400534)

Have you seen the unemployment numbers for recent graduates? The current generation of college students has been thrown under the bus by their elders (who would rather cut services to the point that it kills the economy than raise taxes on retirees). When you've got no job, no health insurance and no prospect of relief you need to be thinking about how you're going to eat, not wasting time feeling sorry for someone else.

Re:Bigger problems? (3, Insightful)

couchslug (175151) | more than 3 years ago | (#32400800)

When you haven't ruthlessly focused your education on acquiring a variety of JOB skills that, along with hobbies that help make you employable, expect not to be employed. Your elders made the mistake of telling you is "do your own thing" without warning you that choices have consequences. Your school, like many, may have been more focused on SELLING a degree than fitting clients for work.

What did you study?

I took my lessons from MY elders, the Depression babies who had to scrabble. Life is a shit sandwich, and the more bread you have the less shit you taste. Education is for making MONEY, because without MONEY, you have fewer choices. Hobbies and recreational education are for fun, but don't typically pay the rent. If you can't get a job that fits your education, do any damn thing you have to. Consider skilled trades (I've never met a mechanic who couldn't make a living) instead of pushing paper. (Come to think of it, that's one area where some of your elders screwed you by discouraging manual labor. Mechanics and weldors, for example, can make serious money and are highly mobile.)

Unique and special snowflakes may disregard the above advice, but they are either employed or don't need to be.

Progress (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32400552)

Students are more concerned with themselves then faceless biomass of humanity. Progress is being made.

If true, is this a good or a bad thing? (5, Insightful)

King_TJ (85913) | more than 3 years ago | (#32400554)

I'd argue that one of the "poisons" of modern society is all the garbage where "nobody loses". We have contests in school these days where everyone wins a prize.... Instead of coming in "last" and "losing", you get a 4th. or 5th. place ribbon. Instead of letting people score poorly on tests, you've got people trying to change the scores around. And instead of "hurting someone's feelings" - there's this whole thing of labeling them as having some sort of "disorder", implying they can't help their actions and they need special consideration/treatment.

If this generation is lacking some of THAT empathy, that's a step in the right direction!

Re:If true, is this a good or a bad thing? (1)

Totenglocke (1291680) | more than 3 years ago | (#32400792)

Exactly. If you read the questions on that "test", it's not measuring your ability to feel for others, it's measuring if you want to absolve people of the consequences of their actions. When something bad happens to a good person, yes, I feel bad for them. If something bad happens to a bad person or someone does something stupid to bring it on themselves, then no, I don't feel bad for them.

Highly subjective test is highly subjective! (3, Interesting)

kheldan (1460303) | more than 3 years ago | (#32400572)

These sorts of tests/surveys are pretty useless. Unlike something like the MMPI [wikipedia.org] , which is difficult at best to game, the linked survey is very transparent; you can answer it specifically to get the results you want. That being said it seems that especially since the world economy took it's drastic downturn the world in general has become (for lack of a better term) a more evil place, overall; when times are good and there is plenty for all, it's easy to "pretend" to be not-evil. When the going gets rough, you find out what people are really like beneath the surface.

Too many adverbs (2, Funny)

RabbitWho (1805112) | more than 3 years ago | (#32400576)

5. When I see someone being treated unfairly, I SOMETIMES don't feel very much pity for them.
Sometimes! Of course sometimes! If i've had a terrible day and if the person being treated unfairly is my boss who takes every opportunity he can to insult criticize and put everyone else down and who we therefore bully relentlessly.. then yes SOMETIMES i don't feel much pitty. If you treat people like crap they'll do the same to you.

even with all those silly adverbs 84.3% I got. I cry when I watch the news and if I see a talk show that mentions a family that lost their baby (for example) I find it difficult to get up the next day i feel so sad. I still wouldn't trade it for a stone heart because then I'd run around drawing Mohammad and insulting people I didn't know and adding to the amount of pain and anger and suffering in the world. I can't do too much good or benifit but i can do my best not to make things any worse.

Re:Too many adverbs (1)

XanC (644172) | more than 3 years ago | (#32400854)

It's a good thing you cry at the news, or else you'd *gasp* draw Mohammad!

Do you satisfy all the conflicting requirements of every one of the world's religions?

Out of context (1)

wtansill (576643) | more than 3 years ago | (#32400590)

None of the questions have any surrounding context that would add or subtract from any feelings of empathy I may or may not have. Whether I (or anyone else, for that matter) feels empathy towards a subject depends greatly on the circumstances. Do I feel empathy towards the folks being impacted by the gulf oil spill? Sure. Why? Because their way of life is being altered in ways we can't even begin to measure through no fault of their own. Do I feel empathy for a guy who burned himself to a crisp because he was too realize he shouldn't smoke while fueling his Prius? Very little, actually. Don't do stupid shit ya dumbass!

Spoiled rich cares care less no surprise (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32400592)

It's no wonder the kids of today don't care, given how greedy, irresponsible and selfish most of the first-worlders are.

The simple truth is that most people ethically suck and the world's going to crap because of human greed.

Rather a Poor Metric (5, Interesting)

CheshireCatCO (185193) | more than 3 years ago | (#32400604)

OK, while I can imagine a lot of reasons why the current generation of college kids might be less empathetic than 20 years ago*, this is not a good way to measure that. For all the researchers know, students are just more self-aware and self-critical today than they were 20 years ago. In some ways, getting a high score might be more likely to say that you're less empathetic and just oblivious to your callousness.

* This isn't my experience, though. I feel, as a college professor, like my students behave just as empathetically towards each other as we did 15 years ago.

Re:Rather a Poor Metric (1)

wjc_25 (1686272) | more than 3 years ago | (#32400790)

Exactly! The implicit assumption of the survey is that everyone has a completely accurate view of themselves, and that it is possible to answer these questions objectively and accurately. It's not, of course. No one has the ability to judge themselves objectively, or to judge others objectively; bias is inherent in the observer.

If anything, these results show that students see themselves more negatively today. Is that a good or a bad thing? When it comes to these types of things, self-opinion doesn't indicate things accurately. The people with the worst tin ears never realize they're tone deaf; the humblest people never think of themselves as humble.

Full disclosure: I got around dead center in the survey. As for whether I'm actually empathetic or not? Depends who you ask.

Re:Rather a Poor Metric (1)

nine-times (778537) | more than 3 years ago | (#32400820)

Another problem that i have with tests like this: I would guess that people are more likely to select the answer that they think they're supposed to select rather than the one that's actually true. Even giving this test the benefit of the doubt, it's more a test about whether young people like to claim they're empathetic than whether they really are empathetic.

Desperate rationalization (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32400616)

This entire thing is nothing but a desperate attempt by deeply flawed people to try to justify the bullshit they've been pushing. The test is complete bullshit, and the conclusions are ludicrous. kdawson should be ashamed for posting such drivel.

Only in Michigan (1)

SpudB0y (617458) | more than 3 years ago | (#32400664)

I'm tired of these types of studies that are done on a narrow population. Michigan is a dying state. The rust belt is moving into irrelevance, and thusly the inhabitants may feel competitive. These college surveys are not necessarilly representative of the nation as a whole.

Re:Only in Michigan (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32400726)

competitive? No, but detroit is full of niggers, mostly unemployed unless you consider being a gang member, drug dealer, rapist, or criminal to be a job. Or Holland, home of the geek compound, known for its gay orgies and rampant homosexual acts. Fortunately, the rest of the US is nothing like that.

I took the quiz (1, Redundant)

mmmmbeer (107215) | more than 3 years ago | (#32400672)

I took the quiz, but when I realized how stupid and biased it was, I quit answering and clicked the button at the bottom. Unsurprisingly, I got a really low score. I'm willing to bet that plenty of participants didn't answer all the questions, and that skewed the results.

prophecy fulfilling? (1)

Titan1080 (1328519) | more than 3 years ago | (#32400676)

I think most of the doomers/end of world/armageddon types, would be happy to see this drop in empathy; it helps reinforce their silly ideas about 'the end times'.

Ubuntero (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32400688)

Mark Shuttleworth's fault, obviously. Empathy is simply not ready. They should have kept Pidgin as the default choice.

Terrible test (3, Interesting)

revlayle (964221) | more than 3 years ago | (#32400692)

I come off as not empathetic... however, I try very hard to see everything from everyone's point of view, I try to see all sides and be in someone else shoes before making any judgement. However, people do a lot of stupid stuff and I believe that they deserve the consequences for doing said stupid things. I may see *why* they did that stupid thing and try understand their motivation, but not sorry for them when they face the consequences. I expect people to view me the same way when I do stupid things. Life also is not fair, people bitching that things go wrong all the time for them (even if it clearly not their fault or when things aren't really that bad) are speaking to the choir... we all go thru that shit, suck it up and try to see the good days (or at least the "not bad" days). The bad days are frustrating, we get it... we don't want to hear it all the time :)

Re:Terrible test (1)

RabbitWho (1805112) | more than 3 years ago | (#32400752)

If someone calls you a donkey you should check and see if you have a tail.

Glaring omission (4, Funny)

spruce (454842) | more than 3 years ago | (#32400694)

Isn't this one we can pretty much all agree is /b/'s fault?

Worthless test (3, Insightful)

SplatMan_DK (1035528) | more than 3 years ago | (#32400700)

It is sad to see such an important topic treated like this. The test is practically worthless. It has absolutely no control questions and the structure makes no distinction between what people think of themselves and how they act in real life.

I suspect the majority of people scoring over 50 points are in fact egocentric narcissists who think they are very empathic.

Please. We might be ./ers but we are still IT geeks. We can easily spot a mediocre or poorly constructed "test" and there is really no reason to waste our time with something on this level of quality (or lack thereof).

Yes. Really.


- Jesper

surprise (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32400704)

students are exposed to dehumanising, alienating system, express symptoms of alienation and dehumanisation. news at 6.

So? (1)

kimvette (919543) | more than 3 years ago | (#32400716)

Why should I feel sorry for them? I have no empathy for them whatsoever!

This sentiment itself is the real narcissism (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32400748)

Older generation says kids these days just don't get it. Film at 11.

With this story, it seems to me is that the really narcissistic part is that someone came up with a study to justify his own belief that yes, in his day, the young people were better. The same thing that generation after generation has said when they reach a certain age.

Hell, I'm only 25 and I'm already finding I start to say the same thing about the current crop of people ages 16-21. But I have to take a step back and realize that people having different priorities at different stages of life is not the same thing as "better" or "worse". Neither is "different" the same as "worse". It certainly wouldn't occur to me to construct a survey to "prove" that it is in fact "worse".

Ob /. results Poll (1)

davidwr (791652) | more than 3 years ago | (#32400772)

I scored:

*In the bottom/least-empathetic quintile.
*In the 2nd quintile.
*In the 3rd quintile.
*In the 4th quintile.
*In the top/most-empathetic quintile.
*What do you care?
*None of your business, now get off my lawn!
*I don't know yet, I paid CowboyNeal to take the test for me.

Empathy is SOCIALISM!!!!!!!1!1!!! (1)

Improv (2467) | more than 3 years ago | (#32400774)

So is social justice! Anything but the prosperity gospel and conservapedia is slavery and is therefore against the founding fathers!!!!1!

very poor questions (1)

Ambassador Kosh (18352) | more than 3 years ago | (#32400782)

For instance question 12 rates you very low on empathy if you don't agree that questions have only two
possibilities.

12. I believe that there are two sides to every question and try to look at them both.

If you believe that questions have many possible answers and you need to weigh those answers
then you will score low on that question. So looking at a wider view actually makes you less
empathetic on their test.

Hate to say it.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32400786)

But one of the other things that have changed is a religious upbringing is a lot less common. It would be intresting to compare the empathy results with a history and other upbringing factors. The reason I think that religion is important is because it teaches things that science can not; the most important being that the universe not just some cold random place where you should grab what you can to make your meat brain happy. 2nd most important is other meat brains are important too and not just computers which would have no extrinsic value; the soul is an extrinsic value.

If you take away the soul you wind up with a very shaky moral foundation, because people become not much more then overly developed computers. Emotions (especially those of others) became worthless because they are just chemical reactions. Since you are just a chemical reaction yourself you feel hopeless to raise above greed, sadness, anger, etc. Thus one needs to instill a belief even if it is false that we are part of something greater or are something greater then the meat brain.

Now people will say that without religion there would be less wars but I think I have pointed out that religion is a tool, one of the most powerful. It is those who wield it who are the ones that decided if it is going to be used for war or peace. Wars are a result of greed and/or in a few cases a need but religion is twisted or in some cases designed to fit war. Getting rid of religion to stop war is like getting rid of yapping dogs to make sure there will never be another summer of sam, crazy people will find another justification or excuse for there deeds because they know they are doing wrong.

News? (1)

Bugamn (1769722) | more than 3 years ago | (#32400802)

Are you saying that it was discovered now that people are more centered? I read Slashdot's comments almost everyday.

The test doesn't work on the literal-minded (1)

davidwr (791652) | more than 3 years ago | (#32400814)

Take question 2, "Sometimes I don't feel very sorry for other people when they are having problems."

This is a true or false statement, with "fudge room" only on what "sometimes" and "very sorry" mean.

If you've unambiguously felt very sorry for other people when they were having problems at least a handful of times the recent past then it's a true statement. If you haven't felt this way at all in the past, it's a false statement. If you aren't sure or you've only done it less than a handful of times, then you are one of the few who can pick anything but "Does not describe me well" or "Describes me very well."

A better wording would be:

I feel very sorry for other people when I know they are having problems:
*Rarely or never
*Occasionally but nowhere near half the time
*About half of the time
*A lot more than half the time
*Almost always or always

Other questions have similar "extreme-answer-likely problems" for those of us who take questions like this literally rather than trying to read the mind of the person writing the questions.

It is a cruel world out there (1)

siddesu (698447) | more than 3 years ago | (#32400842)

You eat, or you get eaten, etc. Will get even worse as Europe goes bankrupt, and the US brings about the next big war. Give it another 20 months, give or take, and you'll see.
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