Last night my mum phoned to say that Traffic Cops was from Cardiff. Creepers break into houses and steal the keys of cars before stealing the cars. A car was found having rolled over on a road near where I used to work. The driver died. He couldn't be identified as his facial injuries were so severe, and a passenger abandined the car. A liaison office was called to break the news of the drivers death to the family. He called at the house of the owner of the car, to find that the house had been burgled and that the owner was alive and well.
I thought how awful it must be to find out that someone has died in your car, even if it not in any way your fault.
Next we were shown the owner of the car at the police station where he had gone with his father in the middle of the night to make a statement. He said that when he first heard that his car had been stolen and the driver had died in an accident he felt no sympathy. He thought to himself that it was what he deserved, after all he could have came up the stairs and clubbed him to death as these things happen.
I said out loud to my brother who was visiting that his response seemed to be the opposite of mine. My brother said 'maybe you empathise too much'.
So can we empathise too much? What does this mean? And in this case why were my feelings so different to the person who the event had actually happened to?
To read: Empathy Gaps in Emotional Perspective Taking