We are touched when faced with the hardships of others, whether caused by unemployment, poor schools, crime, poverty, poor health, or the financial insecurity of credit and mortgage debt. Some people are strapped because they chose poorly. But millions of ordinary citizens, the author explains, have only bad options in the first place or are ambushed by unconscious cognitive bias. We may want society to insulate people from the damages of bad fortune and yet we don't act. Our empathic wiring evolved to care for our families and close neighbors, less for strangers with unfamiliar customs or for future selves we can only dimly imagine. And so we are left with an empathy gap between people separated by culture, personality, current mood, geography, and time.
Trout travels the leading edge of scientific research on empathy, free will, and decision making, to show how the same science of judgment that improves our decision making can create concrete, realistic, and often money-saving policies to improve human well-being. Decent people can vault the empathy gap, reinforcing cherished American ideals like equality, access to health care, decent education for all, and effective opportunity. Individuals and governments alike can learn to practice this intelligent and responsible empathy.
This is one of the best books I have read in a long time. I found every chapter fascinating and have listened to it several times. I even bought a hard copy of the book. I love the way the author made use of much of the research on behavior published in Scientific American Mind each month to formulate ideas to improve society. This is very cutting edge. Some may call it liberal but they lack an understanding of how the human mind really works. We don't have as much free will as we'd like to think and society's problems aren't just caused by people's laziness. I thought the author had some very workable, intelligent ideas. I only wish our decision makers would take the time to read and understand this book.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful
While this book was a little on the technical side and a bit dry, the information was very compelling. Many people might say the author has a liberal agenda, but the main foundation of the book is built upon quality social science data and anyone can learn something important from it. I think excerpts from this book should be taught in civics and humanities classes across the country. In my mind the arguments put forth are good fodder for those who want to be effective and influential citizens in the political process; and J.D. Trout's proposal for increased reliance on hard social science data when creating policy is the most logical political idea I have read in a long time.
I was hoping to listen to a discussion and concepts on how to be more 'empathetic' to those less fortunate in my thoughts and actions. Instead I heard what can only be described as exceedingly liberal concepts blaming the government, big business and other institutions for all the problems of the needy. In fact, early on, it states it will essentially ignore the issue of personal responsibility of those in need. If you believe that the problems of the needy are caused by government yet government programs are also the means to solve these issues, and if you believe that the needy are all victims and require someone to simply give them benefits, then this is your book. It is a recipe for a well fare state built on the income of those who do work - income redistribution in disguise. This book is propoganda - make no mistake about it.
4 of 8 people found this review helpful