Seminar: The Empathy Commons: The Risks of Caring Without Clear Boundaries

Friday 10th May at 12pm ET
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Free Seminar and Q&A Session


While empathy is championed as a crucial trait to nurture, particularly in children and caring professions, it also presents a unique challenge. Empathy can be thought of as a common pool resource, susceptible to depletion. Its overuse can lead to serious issues such as depression, burnout, compassion fatigue, and codependency.

Elinor Ostrom's principles for managing shared resources offer valuable insights in this context. Among the first of her principles is clearly defining who rightfully draws from the shared resources. Without clear boundaries, Ostrom noted, common resources risk exploitation by outsiders or even insiders overusing privileges.

This presentation will delve into understanding empathy as a common pool resource and describe methods to reduce its exploitation. Additionally, the talk will explore philosophical dilemmas stemming from the impulse to extend help beyond established boundaries.

About the Speaker:

Barbara Oakley is a Distinguished Professor of Engineering at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan. Her work focuses on the complex relationship between neuroscience and social behavior. She created and teaches Coursera’s “Learning How to Learn,” one of the world’s most popular massive open online course with over three million registered students, along with other popular “Top Online Courses of All Time.”  Barb is a New York Times best-selling author who has published in outlets as varied as the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the Wall Street Journal, and The New York Times—her book A Mind for Numbers has sold over a million copies worldwide. She is the winner of the McGraw Prize—the colloquial “Nobel Prize for Education” and is a Fellow of both the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers and the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering.