Homogeneous neighborhoods undercut empathy

  • Homogeneous neighborhoods undercut empathy

November 7, 2017

There's not just an income or wealth gap between rich and poor; more and more, they're living in separated, homogeneous neighborhoods.

"If you had $10 million, the first thing people think is you’d be able to do the things important to you,” Paul Piff, assistant professor of psychology and social behavior, told The New York Times. "You get yourself more space. You choose to live in a neighborhood with other like-minded people. You can curate your life in so many different ways that make it more comfortable."

But that leads to a diminished sense of empathy. Those distances create both physical and psychological barriers to truly understanding other people. To take down those barriers, Piff says it helps to befriend even just one person in a different social group.

"Writing checks and volunteering reinforces the gap between you and someone who is receiving your care," he said. "There are benefits to making just one good friend who is different than you, one friend who gets you to see yourself in their eyes, to humanize their experience. You extrapolate from your friend to the broader world around you."

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