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February 17 – Carolyn Zahn-Waxler

Carolyn Zahn-Waxler
Carolyn Zahn-Waxler


Concern for others and desire to alleviate suffering are at the core of compassion. Compassion in human relations, along with justice and equity are one of the seven UU Principles. We are not alone in affirming this value; it is prominent in all major religions, albeit sometimes difficult to muster. Compassion benefits the giver and as well as the recipient. Seeds of compassion are seen in the empathy of infants and young children. Empathy may be innate, yet many conditions influence whether it thrives or withers. What can we learn from developmental science that might provide insights about how to nurture and nourish these moral instincts throughout life?

Carolyn Zahn-Waxler is a Scientist and Honorary Fellow at the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds at the Waisman Center, University of Wisconsin-Madison. Before moving to Madison she spent her professional career at the National Institute of Mental Health in Bethesda, MD. She was head of the Section on Development and Psychopathology for several years. She served as Editor of Developmental Psychology  and as President of the Developmental Division of the American Psychological Association. Throughout her career she has studied the origins and development of empathy and caring behaviors beginning in the first years of life. These longitudinal studies have focused on the role of genes, temperament, family life and socialization experiences that foster or impede empathy and compassion in children.

Music: Gerri Friedberg
Service Leeder: Toby Mason