Empathy as the key to equality and human rights: an investigation of emphatys role in inter-group relations and discrimination

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Schultz, Nadine
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Human ability to reason has been credited extensively within the field of human rights for achieving equality, which is the basis for human rights. Human rights are traditionally a highly rational matter in scholarship. In fact, however, reason does not function without emotions. Equality depends on an emotional appeal. Empathy, a universal human faculty, can be seen as connecting individual minds via neurological processes. It is speculated therefore that it is through empathy and less through pure reason that another person is perceived as being equal – equal in the sense of being an equally sentient being. This leads to the theory that impaired empathy leads to discrimination. Discrimination usually occurs in inter-group relations. Identification with norms and ideas of collectives can lead to a reduced empathic view and exclusion of out-group members. An out-group member, here frequently called “the other”, is easily stereotyped, prejudiced and dehumanized. It can be assumed that it needs empathy to overcome discrimination, which is based on an “empathy gap”
Second semester University: Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznan.
discrimination, equality, human rights, psychology