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The Limits of Empathy

By Adam Waytz

A few years ago, Ford Motor Company started asking its (mostly male) engineers to wear the Empathy Belly, a simulator that allows them to experience symptoms of pregnancy first-hand—the back pain, the bladder pressure, the 30 or so pounds of extra weight. They can even feel “movements” that mimic fetal kicking. The idea is to get them to understand the ergonomic challenges that pregnant women face when driving, such as limited reach, shifts in posture and center of gravity, and general bodily awkwardness.

It’s unclear whether this has improved Ford’s cars or increased customer satisfaction, but the engineers claim benefits from the experience. They’re still using the belly; they’re also simulating the foggy ...

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