Featured, Nexus »

Sorry, Reading Jane Austen Doesn’t Make You a Better Person

By | July 20, 2017

In 2013, Science published a study with the intriguing title, “Reading Literary Fiction Improves Theory of Mind.” The authors (David Comer Kidd and Emanuele Castano) claimed to have proven that literary fiction—not “genre” fiction, not well-written nonfiction, but literary fiction—develops our “theory of mind,” which means our ability to recognize other peoples’ thoughts and feelings. This ability, in the words of the authors, “allows successful …

Headline, Nexus »

How Sears Industrialized, Suburbanized, and Fractured the American Economy

By | July 20, 2017

The lifetime of Sears has spanned, and embodied, the rise of modern American consumer culture. The 130-year-old mass merchandiser that was once the largest retailer in the United States is part of the fabric of American society.
From its start as a 19th-century mail-order firm, to its heyday on Main Street and in suburban malls, and from its late 20th-century reorientation toward credit and financial …

Featured, Nexus »

Is Our Culture of Empathy Perpetuating Inequality?

By | July 19, 2017

We desperately need more empathy. At least, that’s what we are told—in political rhetoric, in bestselling popular science books, in international development discourse, in feminist and anti-racist activism. Among current political antagonisms, especially the rise of Trumpism, many are worried about the deleterious effects of “empathy erosion.”
Empathy has been touted as a necessary quality in leadership, the solution to a wide range of social …

Featured, Nexus »

No, Empathy Isn’t a Universal Value

By | July 19, 2017

Empathy varies a lot among people, psychological research has found. But it also varies widely among countries and cultures. When my colleagues and I set out to analyze the largest study on empathy ever done—104,365 people from 63 countries—we expected to learn whether the extent to which we tune into others’ emotional cues clearly differs by culture. Instead, we were left with a number of …

Headline, Nexus »

Emmanuel Macron’s Centrist Victory May Only Add Fuel to the Populist Fire

By | July 19, 2017

Last year, the Brexit vote in the United Kingdom and the election of Donald Trump as U.S. President sparked fears of a worldwide populist revolt. But when Geert Wilders’s right-wing populist Freedom Party finished second in the Dutch general elections in March 2017, and Marine Le Pen was defeated in the run-off of the French presidential elections two months later, some political commentators were quick …

Featured, Nexus »

How Our Evolving Understanding of Individual Autonomy Led to Human Rights for All

In Inventing Human Rights: A History, UCLA historian Lynn Hunt traces the modern concept of Human Rights to a series of mid-18th century epistolary novels with a strong first person perspective, including Julie by Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Samuel Richardson’s Pamela and Clarissa. Male and female readers got passionately engrossed in the experience of being “in” the body and position of the heroines of these novels. …

Featured, Nexus »

Empathy’s Evolution in the Human Imagination

By | July 18, 2017

Empathy seems to be one of the most “natural” emotions, but before 1908, no one in the English-speaking world had heard of it.
And when it did appear, “empathy” was a translation from the German Einfühlung, literally “in-feeling,” with the surprising meaning of projecting one’s own feelings into nature and objects of art.
This meaning is strange to us now. But the feeling we call …

Headline, Nexus »

Why We Should Fear Emotionally Manipulative Robots

“Keep going straight here!”
“Err, that’s not what the app is telling me to do.”
“Yes, but it’s faster this way. The app is taking you to the beltway. Traffic is terrible there!”
“Okay. I don’t know these roads.”
So went a conversation with an Uber driver in northern Virginia recently. But imagine it was a self-driving Uber. Would you even have that conversation, or would you be doomed …

Featured, Nexus »

Seeing Art From a Local Perspective in Hyper-Global Hong Kong

The Hong Kong Museum of Art, where I work, is 55 years old this year. Though we have changed a lot over the years, we still hold to a special “hybrid” vision that fits our city and dates to the museum’s founding on the top two floors of City Hall.
Since that time our location has changed to a separate building; Hong Kong stopped being …

Headline, Nexus »

Bob Dylan’s Nobel Speech Reminds Us That Songs Are for Listening, Not Reading

By | July 14, 2017

“Sing in me, oh Muse, and through me tell the story.” Homer’s opening to the Odyssey is one of the most well-known lines of what we call literature—but the Greeks called song. This particular translation—by Robert Fitzgerald with an added “oh”—puts Homer somewhere between singing and storytelling. And now, taking his seat next to Homer, at least according to the 2016 Nobel prize committee for literature, is Bob …

BROUGHT TO YOU BY