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The discourse dynamics of empathy: initial findings from a focus group discussion Lynne Cameron and Robert Maslen The Open University.

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Presentation on theme: "The discourse dynamics of empathy: initial findings from a focus group discussion Lynne Cameron and Robert Maslen The Open University."— Presentation transcript:

1 The discourse dynamics of empathy: initial findings from a focus group discussion Lynne Cameron and Robert Maslen The Open University

2 Empathy Imagining what it is like to be someone other than yourself is at the core of our humanity. It is the essence of compassion, and it is the beginning of morality. Ian McEwan, The Guardian, 15 th September, 2001

3 Living with Uncertainty: Metaphor and the dynamics of empathy in discourse Funded by ESRC/AHRC Opening up possibilities for alternative responses to uncertainty Research Fellowship with linked project activities Phase 1: Perceptions of other people in times of threat: Empathy and metaphor in focus group discussions

4 Approaches to empathy Philosophy (e.g. Gadamer, 1982) Psychotherapy (Wynn and Wynn, 2006) Medicine (Halpern, 2007) Neuroscience (Gallese, 2003, 2005; Iacoboni, 2005; Xu et al, 2009) Psychology (Vorauer and Sasaki, 2009) Literature and the arts (Harrison, 2008) Conflict resolution, post-conflict reconciliation (Halpern and Weinstein, 2004)

5 Halpern and Weinstein (2004) Development of empathy has three aspects Commonality through identification with Other Curiosity “imagining and seeking to understand the perspective of another person” (p. 568)

6 Working definition Emotional empathy Perspective taking Moral/ethical positioning Opening access to empathy

7 Research Question How do focus groups use metaphor and other language strategies to construct, negotiate and resist empathy in respect of other social groups?

8 Data 12 focus groups with members of the public Total participants: 96 Socio-economic status: AB = professional, skilled jobs C1/C2 = manual, semi- or unskilled jobs AB Men AB Women C1/C2 Men C1/C2 Women Muslim Men Muslim Women Total Leeds 88888848 London 88888848

9 Metaphor Analysis Transcription of audio recording to intonation units (Chafe, 1994; du Bois et al, 1993). Identification of linguistic metaphor vehicles (Cameron, 2003).. if they were living in some sort of stability, I would say it’s a flaw in the system 12,905 linguistic metaphors. Finding systematicity: constructing groups of connected metaphors

10 Identifying systematic metaphors THE RISK OF TERRORISM IS A GAME OF CHANCE PEOPLE HAVE NO CONTROL OVER OUTCOMES we get caught up in a poker game (London AB Men) they will play the bluff (London AB Men) the odds are very high (Leeds Muslim Women) if your number’s up (London AB Men) pawns in a game (Leeds CD Men)

11 Group differences Men make more use than Women of gaming metaphors to talk about the risks of terrorism. *** Muslim Men make much less use than non- Muslim Men. *** Muslim Women make little or no use of these. **

12 Terry if they were that brave,.. surely they'd say [] xx XX Terry but they don't,.. because they hide in the woodwork. xx mm. Finnwell who's to -- who's -- who's the teams?.. who's to say, which is the -- which is on -- who's on which team? (Cameron et al, 2009)

13 Building on the metaphor analysis Adding deictic metaphors (here/there, this/that) it’s not that these groups were not there, they were there all the time, they were there here in -- in England also.

14 Building on the metaphor analysis SOCIAL LANDSCAPE metaphors Across previous vehicle groupings Landscape related Topics: social life, social groups terrorism to me it’s a sneaky way (the government is) moving away from the situation,

15 Other language strategies related to empathy across social groups Explicit expression of empathy Perspective taking Narratives Scenarios Labelling Reference shifting

16 Findings (Muslim men in London) 101 scenarios and narratives 60% included perspective taking 160 instances of perspective taking Most perspective taking in or related to scenarios and narratives Very few explicit expressions of empathy

17 Whose perspective?

18 Labels Individual people (13) Airey Neave, Bin Laden, Blair My children, my son

19 Labels Groups (99) BNP, CIA, Home Office, Heads of State French, Iraqi, Pakistani, British Muslim, Hindu British Muslim, white Muslim, non-Muslim Criminals, bullies, skinheads, racists Joe Bloggs, that guy, any other British youngster, the average bod

20 Labels ‘Social markers’ (19) Beards – clean-shaven, brown skin, cap, hijab, shalwar kameez, rucksack, veil

21 Scenario my children suddenly have realised, that,..not only they are British,..they are British Muslims... that is..what has happened. that suddenly they have realised,...until now, they were living, … (2.0) as if they were any other British youngster...but now they particularly feel it...so that,..age of innocence, has suddenly.. disappeared.

22 Coda my children suddenly have realised, that,..not only they are British,..they are British Muslims... that is..what has happened. that suddenly they have realised,...until now, they were living, … (2.0) as if they were any other British youngster...but now they particularly feel it...so that,..age of innocence, has suddenly.. disappeared.

23 Labelling my children suddenly have realised, that,..not only they are British,..they are British Muslims... that is..what has happened. that suddenly they have realised,...until now, they were living, … (2.0) as if they were any other British youngster...but now they particularly feel it...so that,..age of innocence, has suddenly.. disappeared.

24 Metaphors my children suddenly have realised, that,..not only they are British,..they are British Muslims... that is..what has happened. that suddenly they have realised,...until now, they were living, … (2.0) as if they were any other British youngster...but now they particularly feel it...so that,.. age of innocence, has suddenly.. disappeared.

25 Metaphors – social landscape my children suddenly have realised, that,..not only they are British,..they are British Muslims... that is..what has happened. s-l that suddenly they have realised,...until now, they were living, … (2.0) as if they were any other British youngster...but now they particularly feel it...so that,.. age of innocence, has suddenly.. disappeared. s-l

26 Perspective taking my children suddenly have realised, that,..not only they are British,..they are British Muslims... that is..what has happened. that suddenly they have realised,...until now, they were living, … (2.0) as if they were any other British youngster...but now they particularly feel it...so that,..age of innocence, has suddenly.. disappeared.

27 Empathy my children suddenly have realised, that,..not only they are British,..they are British Muslims... that is..what has happened. that suddenly they have realised,...until now, they were living, … (2.0) as if they were any other British youngster...but now they particularly feel it...so that,..age of innocence, has suddenly.. disappeared.

28 my children suddenly have realised, that,..not only they are British,..they are British Muslims... that is..what has happened. that suddenly they have realised,...until now, they were living, … (2.0) as if they were any other British youngster...but now they particularly feel it...so that,..age of innocence, has suddenly.. disappeared.

29 my children suddenly have realised, that,..not only they are British,..they are British Muslims... that is..what has happened. s-l that suddenly they have realised,...until now, they were living, … (2.0) as if they were any other British youngster...but now they particularly feel it...so that,.. age of innocence, has suddenly.. disappeared. s-l

30 Closing remarks Methods promising route to answering research question Further work Apply to remaining 11 groups Compare findings Connect empirical findings to theoretical model of empathy

31 Thank you Cameron, L. (2003) Metaphor in educational discourse. London: Continuum. Chafe, W. (1994) Discourse, Consciousness and Time. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Du Bois, John W., Stephan Schuetze-Coburn, Susanna Cumming, & Danae Paolino (1993). Outline of discourse transcription. In Jane A. Edwards & Martin D. Lampert, eds., Talking data: Transcription and coding in discourse research. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum. 45-89. Gadamer, H. (1982) Truth and Method. New York: Crossroad. Gallese V. (2003) The roots of empathy: The shared manifold hypothesis and the neural basis of intersubjectivity. Psychopatology, Vol. 36, No. 4, 171-180, 2003. Gallese V. (2005) Embodied simulation: from neurons to phenomenal experience. Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences, 4:23–48. Halpern, J. (2007) Empathy and patient physician conflicts. Journal of General Internal Medicine, 22/5, 696-700. Halpern, J. and Weinstein, H. (2004) Rehumanising the other: empathy and reconciliation. Human Rights Quarterly, 26, 561-583. Harrison, M. (2008). The paradox of fiction and the ethics of empathy: Reconceiving dickens's realism. Narrative 16(3), 256-278. Iacoboni, M. (2005) Neural mechanisms of imitation, Current Opinion in Neurobiology, 15:632-637 (2005). Vorauer, J. D., & Sasaki, S. J. (2009). Helpful only in the abstract? Ironic effects of empathy in intergroup interaction. Psychological Science, 20, 191-197. Wynn, R. and Wynn, M. (2006) Empathy as an interactionally achieved phenomenon in psychotherapy: Characteristics of some conversational resources. Journal of Pragmatics, 38, 1385- 1397.


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