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Cornell University School of Continuing Education and Summer Sessions


Empathy: A History

by Susan Lanzoni,
Psychology Today, September 20, 2018

Coined by psychologists James Ward and Edward Titchener in 1908 as a translation of the German word Einfühlung (in-feeling), the term “empathy’ was used almost exclusively in aesthetic, academic and psychiatric publications for decades. By the 1950s and ‘60s, it had become ubiquitous in popular psychology, counselling, social work, in fiction, advertising, on radio and television. “How’s Your Empathy,” The National Underwriter asked, advising executives to use it to “understand, predict and control the thinking, feeling, and actions of other people.” The American Council on Education advocated instilling “cultural empathy” in all students. Social psychologist Kenneth Clark claimed that empathy – “to see in one man all men; and in all men the self” – could play a pivotal role in combatting racism.


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