Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Neuroscientists Confirm Empathy Is Hard Wired


By Sam Yang - Get similar updates here

Familiarity promotes the blurring of self and other on neural level


In a study, researchers at the University of Virginia have found that humans are hardwired to empathize with those close to them.

Our brain puts strangers in one compartment and the people we know in another compartment that overlaps our sense of self.

Researcher James Coan said, "Our self comes to include the people we feel close to. This likely is because humans need to have friends and allies who they can side with and see as being the same as themselves. And as people spend more time together, they become more similar.”

Coan and his colleagues conducted a study with 22 participants using fMRI scans of their brains, monitoring brain activity while under threat of receiving mild electrical shocks to themselves versus a shock to a friend or a stranger.

"The correlation between self and friend was remarkably similar," Coan said. "The finding shows the brain's remarkable capacity to model self to others; that people close to us become a part of ourselves, and that is not just metaphor or poetry, it's very real. Literally we are under threat when a friend is under threat. But not so when a stranger is under threat."

"It's essentially a breakdown of self and other; our self comes to include the people we become close to," Coan said. "If a friend is under threat, it becomes the same as if we ourselves are under threat. We can understand the pain or difficulty they may be going through in the same way we understand our own pain."

This likely is the source of empathy, and part of the evolutionary process.

“A threat to ourselves is a threat to our resources,” Coan said. “Threats can take things away from us. But when we develop friendships, people we can trust and rely on who in essence become we, then our resources are expanded, we gain. Your goal becomes my goal. It’s a part of our survivability.”

We may also hurt those close to us as a form of self protection, and/or we lack value in our own self, or if we no longer feel kinship.

This is a promising study to understand evolutionary psychology but also to understand and change our own behaviors and emphasize the value of social interactions.

Source: Must Triumph
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Sam Yang from an early age has been obsessed with connecting the dots between martial arts and efficiency, health, mindset, business, science, and habits to improve optimal well-being. For more info, join his newsletterYou can also connect to All Out Effort on Facebook and Twitter.

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