February 29, 2024

Empathy | It can be transmitted socially

Empathy is the ability to feel the emotions of another and to imagine how they feel - a quality that seems to be in short supply in much of today's world.

The good news is that we may be able to spread empathy and compassion through social interaction. That's the conclusion of a new study by an international team of researchers who conducted four separate experiments designed to measure changes in empathy based on the actions of more than 50 volunteers.

Participants' ratings showed that levels of empathy, based on both self-report and brain scans, tended to change after observing the reactions of others, suggesting that care and concern for others can spread across the community. if enough people demonstrate them. If this study is any indication, a lack of empathy can also be "contagious."

"Depending on whether empathic or non-empathic responses were observed, the empathy rating increased or decreased," says neuroscientist Grit Hein of the University of Würzburg, Germany.

Initially, the researchers measured individual levels of empathy. Users then watch a video of a demonstrator receiving painful stimulation on their arm, thus establishing a baseline. Subsequently, other individuals are shown reacting to the same videos, and the study again measures their empathy levels.

When you see others react empathetically, participants tend to increase signs of empathy. At the same time, in cases of ambivalence, they decrease. In other words, the empathy we show appears to be quite variable and can be influenced by the people around us.

One of the tests involves functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), which allows researchers to measure neural activity in a specific area of the brain. Changes were seen in an area of the anterior insula previously associated with empathy. Using some mathematical models, the team shows that changes in empathy are likely based on actual learning rather than imitating or liking people.

"The good news from our studies is that we have the means to build empathic abilities in adults through appropriate measures in both directions," Hein says.

Empathy is a complex characteristic that facilitates altruistic relationships and building social bonds, while potentially conferring some advantages over one's friends and neighbors. The ability to understand others' points of view may even be responsible for the very foundations of modern civilization, some research suggests.

This isn't the first study to show that empathy (or the lack of it) can be contagious, and the results can be useful in all kinds of situations — not least the workplace. An atmosphere that lacks empathy, for example, can make employees less considerate and less willing to think about others.

"For empathy to thrive in the long term, there needs to be an atmosphere of mutual respect," says Hein. "One can respect someone without feeling empathy for him, but it is difficult to develop empathy if the other person is not respected or if disrespect is the norm in society."

(SRC: Obekti.bg)

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