Scientific American: On the Value of Empathy, Not Othering

Scientific American logoIt’s important to understand the temptations that the cheaters felt — the circumstances that made their unethical behaviors seem expedient, or rational, or necessary. Casting cheaters as monsters is glossing over our own human vulnerability to these bad choices, which will surely make the temptations harder to handle when we encounter them. Moreover, understanding the cheaters as humans (just like the scientists who haven’t cheated) rather than “other” in some fundamental way lets us examine those temptations and then collectively create working environments with fewer of them. Though it’s part of a different discussion, Ashe Dryden describes the dangers of “othering” here quite well:

There is no critical discussion about what leads to these incidents — what parts of our culture allow these things to go unchecked for so long, how pervasive they are, and how so much of this is rewarded directly or indirectly. …

It’s important to notice what is happening here: by declaring that the people doing these things are others, it removes the need to examine our own actions. The logic assumed is that only bad people do these things and we aren’t bad people, so we couldn’t do something like this. Othering effectively absolves ourselves of any blame.

Read the full article on Scientific American.

Support Diversity in Tech

95% of funding for my over 1500hrs community work per year - including this and other free online resources, AlterConf, and Fund Club - comes from donations.

Donate Now