->''You know what makes people different from animals? We're the only species on Earth that observes [[DiscoveryChannel Shark Week]]. ''Sharks'' don't even observe Shark Week; but we do. For the same reason, I can pick up this pencil, [[NominalImportance tell you its name is Steve]], and then go like this; ''[snaps it in half; gasps of horror]'' and part of you ''dies'', just a little bit on the inside. Because people can connect with ''anything''. We can sympathise with a pencil, we can forgive a shark, and [[TakeThat we can give Ben Affleck an Academy Award for Screenwriting]]. People can find the good in just about anything except themselves.''
-->-- '''Jeff Winger''', ''Series/{{Community}}''.

[[HumansAreBastards Believe it or not]], humans have an amazing ability to empathize with other humans and [[UncannyValley reasonably humanoid equivalents]], even fictional ones! A lot of it has to do with [[CastCalculus the kind of focus]] a character receives, be it a SympatheticPOV, with PetTheDog moments, or any of the dozens of CharacterizationTropes.

This in turn extends a kind of PopularityPower onto the protagonist/focused on character, giving them a better chance of success in their endeavors than would otherwise be expected. So, one ninja [[ConservationOfNinjutsu can beat 10,000 ninjas]] because we've been following the one ninja the whole show; and we know [[FacelessMooks nothing]] about [[AMillionIsAStatistic any of the 10,000]]. On the other hand, when the villain comes, he's gonna put up an actual fight, because we know who he is, what he wants, and may even have developed sympathies for him as well.

The Rule Of Empathy works hand in hand with PlotArmor; while The Rule Of Empathy gives a greater chance of success PlotArmor makes surviving long enough to reach that goal easier. Interestingly, it is by no means linked to intelligence. A [[TheMcCoy compassionate]] [[IdiotBall fool]] is [[SortingAlgorithmOfMortality likelier to survive]] than a [[DeathByPragmatism pragmatic]] JerkAss. This is also why the LittlestCancerPatient cannot die of [[DeathByNewberyMedal anything but their illness,]] we're simply too attached to them.

Relatedly, it should be noted that the Rule Of Empathy is not an all-powerful charm that grants success and survival to sympathetic characters. It may well be used ''against'' the characters/audience with the likes of a MauveShirt being KilledOffForReal, or to hook us into rooting for the BoringFailureHero. As noted earlier, making a villain sympathetic is a sure way of making the audience deeply invested in a story. Sure, they're bad, but they're not ''[[AntiVillain all]]'' bad.

The Rule Of Empathy also informs viewers and characters ([[AuthorOnBoard and at times authors]]) just how good or bad an action is within the context of the story. When a villain destroys a whole ThrowawayCountry, we don't care because [[AMillionIsAStatistic we never saw those characters.]] But when they kill ''one'' character the audience or [[ProtagonistCenteredMorality hero empathizes with]], then they've crossed the MoralEventHorizon.

The rule of empathy also has a dark side. There is a fate worse than being a "neutral" InnocentBystander with no real attachment to the audience; characters who are notably '''un'''sympathetic will (with few [[KarmaHoudini exceptions]]) be [[AssholeVictim in for a world of hurt]]. Whether it's because they KickTheDog or do other heinous deeds that alienate them from ([[DracoInLeatherPants most]]) viewer's sympathies, these characters will have a comeuppance at the hands of [[LaserGuidedKarma something]] [[CallItKarma similar to karma]], ranging from the HumiliationConga, being HoistByHisOwnPetard, suffering a DeathByIrony, or falling to a FateWorseThanDeath.
Related to {{Woobie}} and all variations thereof.

Supertrope behind ConservationOfNinjutsu, {{Mook}}, RedShirt.
Contrast with LackOfEmpathy & NoSympathy.
See also: RuleOfCool, RuleOfFunny, RuleOfDrama.

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!!Examples:
[[foldercontrol]]

[[folder:Advertising]]
* An IKEA advertising campaign {{lampshade}}d this. One example showed a desk lamp be replaced and left out in the rain on the curbside. Cue sad music. The ad then proceeded to tell viewers they were crazy for having feelings for a lamp.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Anime & Manga]]
* ''Anime/YuGiOh'' (a series which, to most fans, thrives on NarmCharm) tends to get this a lot.
** We're given some particularly good reasons to empathise with Maximillion Crawford/Pegasus, who lost the woman he loved and has been trying to get her back ever since. Other villians such as Malik/Marik, who was forced into a role he didn't want to play his whole childhood and developed a huge bitterness towards the Pharaoh, Amelda/Alister, whose home country was destroyed by a war fought with weapons supplied by Kaiba Corp - you know, before Kaiba corp did games - and Bakura, whose [[spoiler: entire village was slaughtered to create the Millennium items]], also engender a lot of empathy.
** Then there's Yugi who is just... he's like the poster child for Woobification. If you watch the unknown first season in particular, or read the manga, then you see that he starts out as nothing more than a [[TheWoobie punchbag for every bully in Domino High]]. Including bullies whom he ''stands up for'' and who later end up being his best friends.
** Not to forget that the duels often try to make the viewer feel sympathy for the ''cards''.
* In ''Manga/FullmetalAlchemist'', the BigBad [[spoiler:turns an entire ThrowawayCountry into Philosopher's Stones]]. This is upgraded from a terrifying display of power to an [[MoralEventHorizon unforgivably evil act]] when [[spoiler:we hear the voices of the souls of some of those people inside Hohenheim, and learn that they retained their consciousness and personalities even after being made into Philosopher's Stones. Their comments, especially their enthusiasm in using ''their souls'' to fuel Hohenheim's alchemy so he can defeat the BigBad, make them sympathetic to the audience.]]
[[/folder]]

[[folder:ComicBooks]]
* This is one of the many, many tropes subverted by the beginning of NeilGaiman's ''Comicbook/BlackOrchid'' miniseries: a mook captures the title character, shoots her in the head, and sets her on fire to be sure she's dead.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Literature]]
* In ''Literature/TheHungerGames,'' this is present as a part of the universe. When Haymitch is trying to mentor Katniss, he tries very hard to make her ''likable,'' to make her someone the audience will sympathize with. Sympathy will equal sponsors and money for necessities in the arena, and could therefore make the difference in the Games. Peeta, it turns out, is a natural at invoking the RuleOfEmpathy at the drop of a hat. Katniss is not.
** [[{{GuileHero}} Peeta's so good at it he can garner empathy for just about anyone.]]
* Literature/SisterhoodSeries by Creator/FernMichaels: The author proves to have difficulty using this trope. The Vigilantes are a group of women who should have your sympathy, with their {{Dark And Troubled Past}}s. Unfortunately, they prove to be politically incorrect, abusive to victims, sexist, acting more like militant feminists than anything good, dishing out a FateWorseThanDeath than a CoolAndUnusualPunishment, and acting more like spoiled little girls who have never really grown up. They basically get away with all of this because the author wants them to! It's no wonder other characters, including some of the villains, prove to be way more likable in comparison!
* In any given Literature/HonorHarrington book, the good people, even if on the wrong side, are generally the ones who like or at least respect Honor personally. For example, the first book ends with [[spoiler:Honor about to chew Sonja Hemphill out]]. Three books later, the latter woman is still perfectly willing to [[spoiler:drum Pavel Young out of the service for cowardice]]. Several books later, the two are apparently on conversational terms, and Honor has admitted the other woman was essentially right in her viewpoint.
** Also goes for some of Manticore's Havenite opponents. Anyone on the Havenite side who respects the Manticorans, or who the Manticorans respect in turn, is, generally speaking, a fundamentally decent person who merely [[MyCountryRightOrWrong happens to be on the opposing side]]. See, for instance, Thomas Theisman, Lester Tourville, Shannon Foraker, Javier Giscard, and Eloise Pritchart. This makes [[spoiler:the two star nations joining up in a military alliance against the Solarian League ''much'' easier, as everybody already thoroughly respects the people they're now working beside]]. Unsurprisingly, a few BirdsOfAFeather friendships start to form, most notably between [[spoiler:Queen Elizabeth and President Pritchart]] and [[spoiler:Sonja Hemphill and Shannon Foraker]].
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Film]]
* In ''Film/WhoFramedRogerRabbit'', Judge Doom [[NightmareFuel memorably]] vaults over the MoralEventHorizon by painfully [[KickTheDog murdering an innocent]] just to prove he can. Who is this innocent? A cartoon shoe. Take an ordinary shoe, draw a face on it, have it make cute squeaking noises and nuzzle up against people's legs just like a friendly cat, and the audience will be horrified when it's killed in cold blood.
* Creator/{{Pixar}} uses this trope a lot. Over the years, they've made us empathize with [[WesternAnimation/PixarShorts desk lamps]], [[WesternAnimation/ToyStory plastic toys]], [[WesternAnimation/ABugsLife ants]], [[WesternAnimation/MonstersInc the monsters that live in your closet]], [[WesternAnimation/FindingNemo fish]], WesternAnimation/{{cars}}, [[WesternAnimation/{{Ratatouille}} rats]], and [[WesternAnimation/WallE robots]].
[[/folder]]

[[folder:LiveActionTV]]
* ''{{Firefly}}'': Don't hurt River or Kaylee. EVERYONE watching is their PapaWolf or MamaBear.
** Similarly, although the Buffy/Angel series wasn't afraid to kill off sympathetic characters, if Willow had died the fans would have burned the studio down. Fred is a borderline case because the actor continued as Illyria.
** It's notable that JossWhedon is well aware of this, having commented that if he wanted the ''Firefly'' audience to hate a character, he just had to show them being mean to Kaylee. If he wanted to the ''Buffy'' [[TearJerker audience to cry]], he just had to show them Willow crying.
* Common in CrimeAndPunishmentSeries. If she is pretty she didn't do it. This evidence is reinforced if she is slight of build and especially if they have a winning personality. She can never have done it.
** [[LampshadeHanging Brought up]] in an episode of ''Series/LawAndOrder'' when a young, white, female on death row suddenly becomes a devout Christian. Abbie snarks that if they were talking about executing a tattooed thug no one would care, but this defendant makes the public feel like they're "clubbing a baby seal".
* ''TheSarahConnorChronicles'': Cameron is a cold, emotionless, and [[RobotGirl literal killing machine]] who at one point leaves a man and his sister who helped her to die because they don't matter to her anymore. That doesn't change the fact that she is a ''deeply'' sympathetic character who rapidly obtained EnsembleDarkhorse [[TheWoobie Woobie]] status because of both how interesting she was and all the crap she puts up with [[IronWoobie without complaint]] for the Connors.
* ''Series/DoctorWho'' pulls this ''all the freaking time'', by introducing us to so many good natured, likable, honest folks, and then killing them in cold blood. Such as poor Mo in the episode ''Hungry Earth'', who we first meet while trying to help his dyslexic son to read a book ("who loves you more than me?"). He survives, but he ''does'' end up being kidnapped and vivisected.[[note]]They do put him back together without killing him, but [[NightmareFuel that's horrifying in an entirely different way.]][[/note]]
* Please direct your attention to the KnightRider episode (original series) ''Junkyard Dog'' which sees KITT dumped in an acid pit and literally gutted alive (it's the only time we ever see the nigh-indestructible Knight Industries Two Thousand calling for ''help''). The reactions of the team when he's hauled out, and KITT's resulting PTSD, are heartbreaking for fans; especially the reaction of Michael, who spends hours sitting around outside of the lab, like a nervous family member outside of an operating theatre, while the team is trying to repair him. And if the episode itself gets to you then for the love of god, ''don't read the script''.
** KITT tends to do this to people a lot. And given that KITT is essentially a ''sentient car'' that's saying something. All we have to get attached to is his personality.
* AmoralAttorney Jeff Winger [[DiscussedTrope delivers a lecture]] on this in the Pilot of Series/{{Community}}. Ironically, it's a subversion of PetTheDog - he's trying to stop a fight he started, and only because he thinks it'll get him into Britta's pants.
* In ''Series/StarTrekTheNextGeneration'', most of Data's interactions with his crew mates can be attributed to this. He's reasonably convincing as a sentient being and is probably one of the most sympathetic characters in the entire franchise, but he lacks emotions and empathic awareness and several characters have argued that he is effectively a highly complex walking computer which may or may not have a soul. Yet the crew encourages him to create and socialize, many consider him a friend, and treat him as if he were fully capable of feeling. They even encouraged him to form a romantic relationship even though this, technically, should be impossible. Actors from the show have stated that half Data's appeal comes from the empathy we feel towards him: we feel what Data cannot feel, and feel sorry because he can't.
-->'''Riker''': For an android with no feeling he sure managed to evoke them in others.
** This is exactly what makes the episode with his daughter, Lal, such a {{tear jerker}} (double the empathy objects). He expresses regret (such as he is capable of feeling) that he cannot share in her feelings of love and she responds that she will try to feel it enough for both of them.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:VideoGames]]
* In [[TheSims3 The Sims 3]], If a Sim with the Unlucky or Loser trait dies of anything but old age, the [[DontFearTheReaper Grim Reaper]] will revive them on the grounds that he "feels sorry" for them, and [[RuleOfFunny that they provide too much amusement to be killed off]].
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Webcomics]]
* Pretty much the whole point of ''Webcomic/WarbotInAccounting'' is to make the audience feel pity for another literal killing machine. Unlike [[TheSarahConnorChronicles Cameron]], however, this machine has no face, voice, appendages, ability to emote, and is basically a box with a giant camera lens coming out of the center. It works. [[TearJerker Painfully well]].
* Discussed in ''{{Sinfest}}'', where [[http://www.sinfest.net/archive_page.php?comicID=3552 Baby Blue objects to a story with a sympathetic protagonist]]; she gives Fuschia a physics textbook to read to the damned instead.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:WesternAnimation]]
* One of the shorts of ''WesternAnimation/AeonFlux'' viciously subverts this, showing a series of characters, each given screen time alone and characterization to make the audience connect with them, and each of whom becomes the subsequent {{Mook}} to be slaughtered by another character that the audience is being told to empathize with.
* ''WesternAnimation/GoofTroop''. How can you make the audience consistently laugh at TheChewToy without [[DesignatedMonkey starting to feel sympathy]] ''for him''? Especially if his main {{foil}} is a complete idiot who causes a lot of problems? Easy: engineer the perfect {{Woobie}} (sweet, subjugated, sensitive, and harmless), make TheChewToy treat him like crap, and show as many of his reactions as possible--both to immediate actions and the treatment as a whole--playing them completely straight in stark contrast to the rest of the show's comedic nature. Usually what Pete goes through can be justified by PJ episodes, and to a lesser extent Max episodes (which tend to feature PJ in major roles), but "Bringin' on the Rain" was a Pete episode that used this a lot.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:WebOriginal]]
* Discussed in [[http://www.cracked.com/article_14990_what-monkeysphere.html this]] ''Website/{{Cracked}}'' article. Although how [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monkeysphere valid]] it is, I've no idea.
** It is basically true. The numbers have a small error-margin to account for certain personal differences, but otherwise the article is essentially accurate. AND to add insult to injury, fictional characters can count too. So if you spend your time reading a lot of books (or media of choice) and really getting to know the characters, you're cutting back the number of real people you can meaningfully get to know.
*** It should be noted, though, that the composition of the "sphere" is not concrete and unchanging; people can leave and enter it over time, as you become more distant from some people (e.g. if they move away or die) and closer to others. The "Monkeysphere" should be taken less as an authoritative list of every person you will ever know than as a rough estimate of the number of social relationships you can juggle at any given time.
** However, the article misrepresents the nature of the theory: Dunbar's number (the actual scientific name for the concept, which according to TheOtherWiki varies in estimation between 100 and 230, rather than the concrete 150 given by Wong) refers to the number of people with whom one can maintain ''meaningful social relationships'' (i.e. know ''personally'') at any given time; Wong's article seems to imply that it describes the number of people for whom one can feel ''any empathy at all''. One can easily extend basic empathy to strangers without knowing them intimately.
** Another interesting thing to note about Dunbar's Number is that maintenance of personal relationships takes time; he noted in his original paper that maintaining ties to 150 people via "social grooming" would take nearly half of your time, and believed that language arose as a "cheap" substitution for social grooming, relative to the amount of time which needed to be spent on it. In other words, many people are unlikely to even approach their limit because of time constraints - they're likely to spend their time doing other things.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:RealLife]]
* A really grotesque version is many ideological movements. A large part of the reason the Nazis got away with so much is that they were able to [[ManipulativeBastard manipulate]] the world's otherwise laudable sympathy for the country that lost the last war.
* On a LighterAndSofter note (sort of) one Amish woman got a beer bottle thrown in her face by a passing driver. She was right away given plastic surgery from private contributions from people who did not know her.
[[/folder]]
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