Empathy, Art & Entertainment
At his Google talk (“The Neuroscience of Empathy”), UCSF’s Dr. Thomas Lewis answers the question:
Are depictions of destruction and pain in art designed to blunt our sense of empathy?:
"If art works, it makes you feel something and often, say in a novel in which you identify with the characters, if something bad happens to them it is somewhat painful for you. So I think good art evokes [empathy]. I think entertainment blunts it. So, say if you see a mass market entertainment film…I just saw the Bruce Willis film —not to say it’s bad, which it’s not, but— Bruce Willis is tossed about like a rag doll throughout the course of the film. Nothing bad happens to him. He doesn’t break any bones. He doesn’t suffer visibly at any point. That, I think, does blunt our empathy: entertainment. But art shouldn’t do that. And actually it is one of the fundamental distinctions between art and entertainment that’s worth describing."
[image via sandandglass]