Youth’s Deficit of Empathy and the Scientific Benefits Behind It

Why do youth lack a sense of empathy? Is there any benefit we can reap by using it? Is it correlated to the trend of youth exposed to violent extremism? This article will try to explain the silver lining between these questions and find what element we can use in CVE interventions.
We can trace the starting point for discussing forms of violence to a lack of empathy. Low to no level of empathy could lead youth toward violent extremism (Salam, 2013). Even though empathy is simply an ability to understand and feel the mental and emotional state of others, we still find youth today lacking empathy. The evidence can be found in a study conducted on Filipino college students who found that people 18-22 years old encounter many changes in their life, including psychological and cognitive challenges that make it difficult to empathize and be mindful of others (Centeno & Fernandes, 2020). These existing challenges also worsened when acts of discrimination against others becomes a tradition. 


However, there is a benefit youth could get from applying empathy in social interactions. First, Micro expression refers to voluntary and involuntary mechanisms of humans to respond to actions manifested in visible facial expressions (Frank & Svetieva, 2015). When one individual builds actions based on empathy, it could send a positive impulse to others. Second, hormones, a chemical messenger for humans to take steps that can fulfill their needs, would also benefit from empathy-building. Dopamine and oxytocin could send a positive message for an individual to feel good and eventually have mutual bonding and trust with different kinds of people (Shamay-Tsoory & Abu Akel, 2016).


When this happens, empathy-building can pave the way for CVE interventions. We can achieve this by listening and helping relieve youth’s concerns or challenges that may burden their life. After we help themtrust one another, they will slowly refrain from doing violent activities.


  • Salam, Aprinus. (2013). Empati Masyarakat Indonesia Sangat Kurang. Liputan/ Berita UGM
  • Frank, M. G., & Svetieva, E. (2015). Microexpressions and deception. In M. K. Mandal & A. Awasthi (Eds.) Understanding facial expressions in communication: Cross-cultural and multidisciplinary perspectives (pp. 227–242). Springer India.
  • Decety, J., & Ickes, W. (Eds.). (2009). Social Neuroscience of Empathy. MIT Press Ltd.
  • Centeno, R. P., & Fernandez, K. T. (2020). Effect of mindfulness on empathy and self-compassion: An adapted MBCT program on Filipino College Students. Behavioral Sciences, 10(3), 61. 
  • Shamay-Tsoory, S. G., & Abu-Akel, A. (2016). The social salience hypothesis of oxytocin. Biological Psychiatry, 79(3), 194–202.