Want to know if you have an empathy deficit? Try this experiment. Without looking into a mirror, draw the letter E on your forehead.
If you print the letter as it might appear on the back of your eyelids, rather than the way someone else might read it, you may want to consider an article published in 2017 about the importance of “mirroring” as a cornerstone of empathy.
Neuroscientist Sukhvinder Obhi of McMaster University in Ontario, Canada drew his conclusion about mirroring and empathy after using a transcranial-magnetic-stimulation machine to examine the brains of rich and powerful people. He calls what he discovered a power paradox. “Once we have power, we lose the capacity we needed to gain it in the first place.” Simply put, powerful people stop seeing the world as other might and focus on their own perspectives. These are the people who print E as it appears on the back of their eyelids.
Why does having power affect a person’s outlook on life? The answer seems to be that privileged individuals stop putting themselves in the shoes of others. When that happens, those around them respond with less honesty. Lacking honest feedback, folks at the top tend to reinforce their personal visions, a state of mind which leads to thinking in simple terms. Likewise, they reduce people to stereotypes. Eventually, starved of information, the empathy portion of their brains shrink. Donald Trump exemplifies an individual with this affliction.
Thanks to Obhi’s experiment, we can set aside righteous arguments about money and society. Instead, he gives us a scientific reason to redistribute wealth. When we allow the privileged to crown themselves, they lose touch with reality and strip their brains of empathy. That’s a tragedy for them but a greater one for democracy and its basic tenet: all men are created equal.