Living with Uncertainty

Metaphor and the Dynamics of Empathy in Discourse

Living with Uncertainty is a research fellowship project funded by the ESRC and AHRC as part of the wider RCUK Global Uncertainties Programme.

Rationale for the project

Increasingly mobile and transient societies present increasing needs for people to understand others who they may find, not only very different from themselves, but also holding attitudes and beliefs which may be difficult to accept. This kind of understanding across difference and emotional ambivalence is 'empathy'. Positive empathy opens up possibilities for alternative responses to uncertainty than apathy, hardening of attitudes or violence. Empathy is constructed, negotiated and resisted through discourse, including the everyday language of social interaction, the rhetoric of politicians, and the language of fiction, song, and news media. The programme of research into the dynamics of empathy will investigate the role of language, and in particular metaphor, in the construction and shifting of people's attitudes to others.

The research has implications for how official communication, media discourse and fiction contribute to fostering empathy and building positive relations between social groups in times of uncertainty.

Living with Uncertainty goes to Kenya

In March 2012, Lynne Cameron visited Maralal in northern Kenya with Simon Weatherbed of Responding to Conflict to visit conflict transformation activities. You can read a report of their visit here, and see paintings inspired by the landscapes and people.
(See further details on this website)

The model of empathy dynamics

Click here for an explanation of the multi-level dynamic model of empathy developed by the Living with Uncertainty project.

Interview with Lynne Cameron

The sound file can be located by navigating via the link below and following these pages: 'Current Activities'
'Audio presenations'.


For further information please contact:

Principal Investigator:
Professor Lynne Cameron
The Open University

Global Uncertainties Logo