According to the conventional wisdom, a good candidate in an election must be able to care about the problems and needs of people. Despite that, it’s not clear whether empathy really matters much to voters.

Although the capacity to sympathize with others’ suffering is often considered an essential virtue, some social psychologists assert that empathy may not be such a great quality in a leader.

Is empathy overrated as a guide for public leadership?

In his article published by the New York Times, John Tierney reports the point of view of different researchers on this subject.

On the one end, critics affirm that empathy is biased and parochial, it’s innumerate and it can be manipulated to inspire aggression. According to this view, “the best leaders have a certain enlighted aloofness”.

On the other hand, empathy is considered something that we can control and “it affords us opportunities to build more diverse and powerful social connections, and take control of our emotional lives”.

Notwithstanding this optimistic view of human nature, voters may at the end prefer reason to empathy.

Read more here.


Image source: Flickr – Matt Brown -(CC BY 2.0)