When Dr. Perry and I set out to write about empathy, we knew it was a hot topic in neuroscience and we knew it had wide-ranging implications. But I had no idea just how big a task we'd set for ourselves. Every day, new studies and new stories about empathetic or extremely un-empathetic behavior appear. There are new books and intriguing results in economics, psychology, history, psychiatry and education-and many others. It's almost impossible to keep up.

In this blog, we want to highlight some of the data and ideas we couldn't include in our book, Born for Love: Why Empathy is Essential-and Endangered, which comes out in April. We want to point out important new research and connect it to our ideas about why empathy is so important to everything from child development to economic growth. We'd also love to hear from others interested in this topic-and start a discussion about the aspects of empathy that matter most.

In Born for Love, we present the argument that empathy is a natural human quality like language-one that relies on specific early experiences to develop properly. We argue that when these experiences of nurture and human contact are present for children, families, cultures and economies tend to flourish. When these early experiences are absent, however-and this is increasingly the case in the environments inhabited by today's children-creative thought, progress and economic growth are threatened.

By showing how the brain depends on social connection to cope with stress-and how this requires empathy-- we make connections that we believe must be understood to provide healthy educational, legal and social structures for children and families.

We hope you'll join us in our journey to explore these ideas-we want to engage and explore empathy in the brain, in our culture and in the world.

My next post will be more specifically related to news, in this instance, the situation in Haiti and the question of orphanages and what this has to do with empathy. If it's not up tomorrow, it will be here on Friday!

About the Authors

Bruce D. Perry MD, PhD

Bruce D. Perry, MD, Ph.D. is a child psychiatrist and neuroscientist. He is the Senior Fellow of The Child Trauma Academy and co-author of Born for Love: Why Empathy is Essential—And Endangered.

Maia Szalavitz
Maia Szalavitz has published five books and written for The New York Times, Time magazine online, New Scientist, Psychology Today, and other major publications.

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Born for Love

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We learn to handle stress from our parents during infancy.

The Internet's Long Memory and Empathy

Online, we need to learn new forms of empathy.

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If people don't even care about seeming uncaring, something's wrong.