Empathy means being able to understand and share the feelings of others. It is an ability Department of Psychology Chair J. Scott Jordan noted can sorely be missing in this divisive time.

image of Scott Jordan

J. Scott Jordan

“Treating others with compassion even when we disagree—particularly children, victims, members of underrepresented groups, and refugees—is a basic human decency,” said Jordan. “As psychologists, we are well versed in the value of extending empathy. Thus, I strongly believe it is time for us to lead.”

headshot of Leandra Parris

Leandra Parris

In response, Jordan and his colleagues created the Extending Empathy Project, designed to explore the idea of understanding. The project kicked off this fall with a series of speakers and round-table discussions. Already on the project, Assistant Professor of Psychology Leandra Parris spoke on trauma, and Jordan explored the brain’s roots of empathy.

“I don’t always see empathy in psychologists,” said Parris. “It’s good to remind all of us what it is and how to use it.”

The sessions are having an impact on students. “I liked the real-life comparisons of sympathy and empathy, and how often people make things about themselves,” said senior psychology major Rachel Geary, who attended Parris’ talk. “As someone who is interested in school psychology, I’m understanding that each of us has to realize our limits to move past them.”

The talks are free and open to the University community.
Upcoming events include:

November 9
Assistant Professor Dan Lannin
“Why We Don’t Listen…”
Noon, 209 DeGarmo Hall

November 30
Professor Gary Cates and a panel of students
“Extending Empathy Through Academic Intervention”
Noon, 209 DeGarmo Hall

December 7
Professor Val Farmer-Dougan, students, and dogs
“Helping Shelter Dogs and Students: A University-Pet Shelter Collaboration”
Noon, 208 DeGarmo Hall

For additional information on the project, contact the Department of Psychology at (309) 438-5789.