Ruth Speaks Out

This blog is maintained by the Ruth Institute. It provides a place for our Circle of Experts to express themselves. This is where the scholars, experts, students and followers of the Ruth Institute engage in constructive dialogue about the issues surrounding the Sexual Revolution. We discuss public policy, social practices, legal doctrines and much more.

Empathy and the Me Generation

Posted on Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Psychiatrists are making comparative studies of empathy across generations. The Me Generation lives up to its name: less empathetic than previous generations.
Sara Konrath, a researcher at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research, said in a news release. "College kids today are about 40 percent lower in empathy than their counterparts of 20 or 30 years ago, as measured by standard tests of this personality trait." A total of 72 studies conducted between 1979 and 2009 were included in the current review. The analysis indicated that relative to their late-1970s' counterparts, today's college students are less likely to make an effort to understand their friends' perspectives or to feel tenderness or concern for the less fortunate.
What accounts for this remarkable finding? According to the Business Week account of the research: TV, specifically, watching violence on TV. Without having read the research, let me say that the result (a decline in empathy) is convincing, but this explanation is not. Here are a couple of other candidates for explanations:
  1. too much daycare, not enough maternal care (too much daycare in the preschool years is a risk factor for attachment disorder, and lack of empathy is a key symptom.)
  2. too many material goods and too few siblings
  3. too much "consumer sex" as opposed to "organic sex." (I define these terms in Smart Sex: Finding Life-Long Love in a Hook-Up World .)
Look at it this way: the sexual urge is the most basic social and community-building instinct we have. In the period under investigation in these studies, sex has gone from being a family-building activity to being a recreational activity, making our partners into consumer goods. What do these explanations have in common? they are all very politically incorrect. And you won't read them anywhere but here at the Ruth Institute. Blame TV indeed. Lame.

H/T: Wintery Knight


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