Cameron, Lynne and Seu, Irene Bruna
Landscapes of empathy: Sspatial scenarios, metaphors and metonymies in responses to distant suffering.
Text & Talk, 32(3) pp. 281–305.
This study re-analyzes focus group data on responses to human rights abuses, to investigate how participants' experiences in their local social and physical worlds influence empathy with distant suffering others.
Metaphors, metonymies, narratives, and typifying scenarios were identified in the discourse dynamics. Scenarios, metaphors, and metonymies of space and place emerge as particularly significant in the dialogic co-construction of moral reasoning. Embodied experiences, specifically encounters with people begging in the street, become emblematic of perceived threats to personal space that should feel private and secure. Systematic spatial metaphors construct a landscape of empathic understanding with an optimal distance for empathy, neither too close nor too far. Faced with distant suffering others in prompt materials, participants respond with parallel reasoning on the symbolic landscape. Implications for increasing empathic understanding of distant others are discussed.
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