Tag Archives | Empathy

Emotional Empathy and Rational Empathy

The Shopping Sherpa (CC BY-ND 2.0)

The Shopping Sherpa (CC BY-ND 2.0)

There are two types of empathy: emotional and rational. Emotional empathy means one can actually feel another’s emotions. Rational empathy is when one tries to understand another’s emotions intellectually.

via Psyblog:

The brains of people who respond rationally to emotions are different from those who respond emotionally, the study found.

The study examined whether people with more brain cells in certain areas respond in different ways to emotional stimuli.

Researchers found that people with higher gray matter density in the insula — an area important for the emotions — displayed more emotional empathy.

Those showing more rational empathy had higher gray matter density in the midcingulate cortex.

Mr Eres said:

“Every day people use empathy with, and without, their knowledge to navigate the social world.

We use it for communication, to build relationships, and consolidate our understanding of others.

In the future we want to investigate causation by testing whether training people on empathy related tasks can lead to changes in these brain structures and investigate if damage to these brain structures, as a result of a stroke for example, can lead to empathy impairments.”

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Self-centeredness, Anti-intellectualism — What is Killing America?

Source: Pixabay

Source: Pixabay

In response to David Niose’s article “Anti-intellectualism Is Killing America,” Ravi Chandra argues that it is actually self-centeredness which is killing America.

Here’s some of Niose’s argument:

Social dysfunction can be traced to the abandonment of reason.

Decrying racism and gun violence is fine, but for too long America’s social dysfunction has continued to intensify as the nation has ignored a key underlying pathology: anti-intellectualism.

America is killing itself through its embrace and exaltation of ignorance, and the evidence is all around us. Dylann Roof, the Charleston shooter who used race as a basis for hate and mass murder, is just the latest horrific example. Many will correctly blame Roof’s actions on America’s culture of racism and gun violence, but it’s time to realize that such phenomena are directly tied to the nation’s culture of ignorance.

In a country where a sitting congressman told a crowd that evolution and the Big Bang are“lies straight from the pit of hell,”(link is external) where the chairman of a Senate environmental panel brought a snowball(link is external) into the chamber as evidence that climate change is a hoax, where almost one in three citizens can’t name the vice president(link is external), it is beyond dispute that critical thinking has been abandoned as a cultural value.

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How to Teach Doctors Empathy

Eva Blue (CC BY 2.0)

Eva Blue (CC BY 2.0)

Sandra G. Boodman writes at The Atlantic:

The patient was dying and she knew it. In her mid-50s, she had been battling breast cancer for years, but it had spread to her bones, causing unrelenting pain that required hospitalization. Jeremy Force, a first-year oncology fellow at Duke University Medical Center who had never met the woman, was assigned to stop by her room last November to discuss her decision to enter hospice.

Employing the skills he had just learned in a day-long course, Force sat at the end of her bed and listened intently. The woman wept, telling him she was exhausted and worried about the impact her death would have on her two daughters.

“I acknowledged how hard what she was going through was,” Force said of their 15-minute conversation, “and told her I had two children, too,” and that hospice was designed to provide her additional support.

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This Video Will Blow Your Mind, Change the World, and Cure Cancer


Can we learn to stretch our perceptions of the possible? Can we create understanding with people who believe things different from us? Can we subvert our tribalistic tendencies and empathize with each other?

Is the information age fundamentally different than previous eras because of our unprecedented access to ideology?

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The Weird Reason It’s Hard to Empathise And Be Logical At The Same Time

Sean MacEntee (CC BY 2.0)

Sean MacEntee (CC BY 2.0)

via PsyBlog:

When the brain activates the network of neurons involved in empathising, it suppresses the network used for cold, hard analysis.

The reverse is also true: activating the brain’s analytical networks reduces the ability to empathise.

These conclusions come from a study published in the journal Neuroimage, which is the first to find that we are constrained in our ability to be analytical and empathetic at the same time (Jack et al., 2012).

Dr. Anthony Jack, the study’s first author, said:

 “What we see in this study is […] neural inhibition between the entire brain network we use to socially, emotionally and morally engage with others, and the entire network we use for scientific, mathematical and logical reasoning.

“This shows scientific accounts really do leave something out — the human touch.

A major challenge for the science of the mind is how we can better translate between the cold and distant mechanical descriptions that neuroscience produces, and the emotionally engaged intuitive understanding which allows us to relate to one another as people.”

In the study, 45 college students were given a series of problems to think about which either involved physics or considering the feelings of others.

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Can Love Make us Mean?

Sean MacEntee (CC BY 2.0)

Sean MacEntee (CC BY 2.0)

via University at Buffalo:

BUFFALO, N.Y. – Empathy is among humanity’s defining characteristics. Understanding another person’s plight can inspire gentle emotions and encourage nurturing behaviors.

Yet under certain circumstances, feelings of warmth, tenderness and sympathy can in fact predict aggressive behaviors, according to a recent study by two University at Buffalo researchers.

But why?

That an expression of kindness might be manifest as a punch in the nose can leave observers scratching their heads.

Read More: http://www.buffalo.edu/news/releases/2014/11/002.html

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Chelsea Manning and the Power of Empathy

Chelsea Manning when she was known as Bradley Manning.

Chelsea Manning when she was known as Bradley Manning.

Can there be righteousness without compassion?

Nozomi Hayase writes at Common Dreams:

It is 3 am. Something in me is unsettled and I cannot sleep. Earlier today, the Israeli military intensified its assault on Gaza Strip as a kind of collective punishment of the Palestinians; those vulnerable and marginalized who have been locked up and denied their humanity. After more than 440 air strikes since the beginning of the week, I saw photos of injured and dead men, women and children by the dozens.

I hear a man walking on the street outside my window shouting loudly; “you are a liar, a liar”. In this explosion of anger, I feel his pain. Life does not have to be this way. We can live with dignity and treat each other with respect and kindness. We can do much better.

When we see suffering of others, it upsets and saddens and keeps many of us awake at night.

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Trigger Warning: Are You Empathetically Correct?

Pic: 'Trigger' Warning (JLLM06 - CC)

Pic: ‘Trigger’ Warning (JLLM06 – CC)

A former English professor tackles the ongoing debate regarding “trigger warnings” and their place in academia:

…it seems political correctness is being replaced by a new trend—one that might be called “empathetic correctness.”

While political correctness seeks to cultivate sensitivity outwardly on behalf of those historically marginalized and oppressed groups, empathetic correctness focuses inwardly toward the protection of individual sensitivities. Now, instead of challenging the status quo by demanding texts that question the comfort of the Western canon, students are demanding the status quo by refusing to read texts that challenge their own personal comfort.

In the foreword to Amusing Ourselves to Death, his iconoclastic jeremiad on entertainment culture, Neil Postman invokes George Orwell’s 1984 and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. In noting the contrast between their two dystopian visions of the future, Postman notes,

Orwell warns that we will be overcome by an externally imposed oppression.

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Brain Surgery Gives Woman “Hyper Empathy”

mindShould this procedure be made mandatory? Via the Huffington Post:

A woman developed “hyper empathy” after having a part of her brain called the amygdala removed in an effort to treat her severe epilepsy, according to a report of her case.

Doctors removed parts of her temporal lobe, including the amygdala. The surgery is a common treatment for people with severe forms of temporal lobe epilepsy.

After the surgery, the woman reported a “new, spectacular emotional arousal,” that has persisted for 13 years to this date. Her empathy seemed to transcend her body — the woman reported feeling physical effects along with her emotions, such as a “spin at the heart” when experiencing empathic sadness or anger. She reported these feelings when seeing people on TV, meeting people in person, or reading about characters in novels.

She also described an increased ability to decode others’ mental states, including their emotions.

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Empathic Civilization in an Age of Trauma

Pic: Trilobite2 (CC)

Pic: Trilobite2 (CC)

Robert D. Stolorow writing in Psychology Today:

In my work over the last two decades attempting to grasp the nature of emotional trauma (http://www.psychoanalysisarena.com/trauma-and-human-existence-9780881634679, http://www.routledgementalhealth.com/world-affectivity-trauma-9780415893442), I have shown that its essence lies in the shattering of what I call the absolutisms of everyday life—the system of illusory beliefs that allow us to function in the world, experienced as stable, predictable, and safe. Such shattering is a massive loss of innocence exposing the inescapable contingency of our existence on a universe that is unstable and unpredictable and in which no safety or continuity of being can be assured. Emotional trauma brings us face to face with our existential vulnerability and with death and loss as possibilities that define our existence and that loom as constant threats.

I describe our era as an Age of Trauma because the tranquilizing illusions of our everyday world seem in our time to be severely threatened from all sides—by global diminution of natural resources, by global warming, by global nuclear proliferation, by global terrorism, and by global economic collapse.

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