共情的局限性 神经科学与道德
作者: Diana Kwon / 2855次阅读 时间: 2017年5月09日
来源: 陈明 译 标签: 共情

The limits of empathy共情的局限性
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Snapshots of the horrifying aftermath of terrorist attacks, refugees fleeing their war-torn homes, and families mourning a victim of police brutality can be gut-wrenching. Many people consider this ability to understand and feel what others are feeling, or empathy, as a primary source of morality and the glue that holds societies together. President Barack Obama has described empathy as the ‘heart of my moral code’ and has suggested that an empathy deficit is at the heart of many of our society’s problems.心理学空间 \U,v S*P2y



P,`P5`E9a4|.V!a0Empathy is a key component in our relationships, and in many situations, it does motivate people to help others in need. However, this is not always the case. Recent psychological studies suggest that empathy is not quite the societal cure-all we often believe it to be. While it can help promote cooperation and motivate prosocial behavior, in some cases, empathy can actually deepen divisions been groups and inspire aggression against others.心理学空间Zb xtFBl

YCS&q)~\ d0共情是人际关系中至关重要的组成部分。在许多情况下,它确实能够激励人们帮助那些需要帮助的人。然而,并非总是如此。最近的心理学研究表明,共情并不如我们相信的那样——是治疗社会的良方。尽管它有助于促进合作,并激发亲社会行为。但在某些情况下,共情可能会加深分歧,激发对其他团体的侵略。  心理学空间k%{Tq{$\#I h}

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A force for good? 共情是一种好的力量么?心理学空间"_5r)jG(uo!n1I


Most people see empathy as a good thing. Thinking about the absence of empathy conjures up an image of a cold-blooded killer or ruthless con-artist with no regard for other’s emotions or well-being. And indeed, a long line of studies has shown that empathy can evoke prosocial behavior. Some of the earliest experiments were conducted in the 90s by the social psychologist C. Daniel Batson, one of the leaders of empathy research, and his colleagues. In one study, they asked participants to imagine how a person from a stigmatised group – such as a person with AIDS, a homeless man, and even a convicted murderer – was feeling, finding that this experimental manipulation could improve attitudes towards such individuals. Other groups have also shown that feeling empathy can help reduce the will to harm others and improve intergroup relations.


zg8v)w\Q4WD,^1Q0大多数人认为共情是一件好事。一想到缺乏共情心,就可能想到一个不关心别人情感幸福的冷血杀手或无情骗子的形象。事实上,一系列的研究表明,共情可以唤起亲社会行为。最早的一批实验是社会心理学家C. Daniel Batson(一位共情研究的领导者)和他的同事们在90年代进行。在其中的一项研究中,他们要求参与者想象一个被污名化群体(比如艾滋病患者、无家可归的人,甚至是一个被定罪的凶手)的情绪感受,研究发现,这种实验操作可以改善对这些人的态度。其他小组的研究也表明,共情有助于降低伤害他人的意愿,有助于改善群体间的关系

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‘Considerable evidence supports the idea that empathic concern motivates helping directed toward reducing the empathy-inducing need,’ says Batson. In fact, he points out, many novels were written with the goal of inducing concern for outgroup members by putting the reader in their shoes. ‘Often what [the writers] are trying to do is create this caring for, this valuing of the other’s welfare to induce concern,’ says Batson. ‘The reader knows this is a fictitious character, but those feelings can then generalise [to others].’




8yn0d"[*ml0One notable example he points to is Uncle Tom’s Cabin, a widely-read abolitionist novel by Harriet Beecher Stowe published in 1852. ‘[This book] is probably considered to be the work of fiction written in English that has had more impact in changing public policy than any other,’ Batson told me. Stowe’s highly influential book helped raise awareness about the harms of slavery, and some historians have even argued that it acted as a catalyst for the Civil War that came less than a decade later.心理学空间 Fu3a%A5U#FtA/@



 In the same way, contemporary artists use various forms of media to cultivate awareness and concern for mistreated groups of people. For example, the popular television show Orange is the New Black allows viewers to delve deeply into the lives of trans, homosexual and minority inmates while shedding light on the real issues facing these groups in the American criminal justice system.

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9[NUf4S0mY1s8RZT0同样,当代艺术家使用各种形式的媒体来培养对被虐待群体的觉知和关注。例如,广受欢迎的电视节目《女子监狱》(Orange is the New Black)允许观众深入了解变性人、同性恋者和少数民族囚犯的生活,同时也揭示了这些群体在美国刑事司法系统中所面临的现实问题。心理学空间1m \| z-T3P]wG

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While empathy can be a strong motivator for morally good or altruistic behaviour, its influence can also go in the opposite direction. The notion that empathy is not always a force for good was recently popularised by psychologist Paul Bloom at Yale University, with widely discussed pieces in popular media outlets like the New Yorker and the Boston Review as well as a recent book, Against Empathy. Bloom’s central argument is that empathy, which he defines as ‘feeling what other people feel’, is not the best guide for making moral decisions.心理学空间1{%}IMjTH

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虽然共情可能是道德之善,或利他行为的有力推动因素,但是,其的影响也会朝相反的方向发展。最近,耶鲁大学心理学家Paul Bloom关于“共情并不总是一种好的力量”的概念广受欢迎,在大众媒体,如《纽约人》和《波士顿评论》以及最近的一本书中广泛讨论了他的新书《反共情》。Bloom的核心论点是,共情(他的定义是“感受别人的感受”)并非是做出道德决定的最佳指南。心理学空间:e Kr$A]+]!ya


Bloom is not the first to take this stance on empathy. The philosopher Jesse Prinz made a similar argument in a 2011 essay, where he contends that empathy is not necessary for moral judgements. Even before them, famous thinkers like Immanuel Kant argued more generally that when it comes to making moral decisions, rational considerations trump emotional reactions.心理学空间K"T E(^ LI

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Bloom不是第一个对共情采取如此立场的人。哲学家Jesse Prinz在2011的文章中提出了类似的论点,他主张共情并不是道德判断所必需的。甚至在他们之前,著名的思想家Immanuel Kant认为,一般而言,当涉及到道德决策时,理性考虑胜过情感反应。心理学空间&w'J|&DPIM]A

|[(u ]*I7j!T0Recent evidence supports this notion. In certain conditions, rather than motivating prosocial behaviour, empathy fosters hostility and aggression. In one 2014 study, psychologists at the University of Buffalo led by Anneke Buffone found that when participants felt o inflict pain on that person’s competitor in a math test – a relatively non-threatening environment – even when the competitor posed no direct threat. ‘People are punishing emotionally rather than to restore the victim,’ Mina Cikara, a psychologist investigating intergroup neuroscience at Harvard University, told me.

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-zRx7`} c0最近的证据也支持以下的观点。在某些情况下,共情不会激发亲社会行为,反而会促进敌对和攻击。在2014年一项项研究中,由Anneke Buffone领导的布法罗大学的心理学家发现,在(一个相对无威胁环境中进行的)数学测试中,即使被试没有对竞争对手构成直接的威胁,被试仍然感受到了自己对竞争对手造成了痛苦。哈佛大学调查社会团体关系的神经科学和心理学家Mina Cikara告诉我,“与其说人们是让受害者得到恢复,还不如说是在情感上惩罚他们。”

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9~*mc:o7B U @N0So does empathy make us do good or bad? Some studies suggest neither. One meta-analysis of empathy and aggression studies, led by psychologist David Vachon at the University of Minnesota, revealed that there is virtually no relationship between having low empathy and being malicious across various types of aggression, including verbal, physical and sexual attacks. ‘It turns out that if I want to know how likely you are to help people or give to charity or be a good person, knowing how empathic you are will tell me very little,’ says Bloom.

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那么,共情会让我们做好事还是坏事呢?有些研究表明:两者都不存在。明尼苏达大学心理学家David Vachon领导的一项关于共情和攻击性研究的元分析显示,在各种攻击行为中,低共情和蓄意的言语攻击、身体攻击和性攻击之间几乎没有关系。Bloom说,事实证明,如果我想知道你帮助别人的可能性,或者捐助慈善事业,或者做一个好人有多大,那么,你就会知道,你想要说的共情有多少。心理学空间 d!X7K:x.b0g3z(zC

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Even stories, which are powerful methods to induce empathy for oppressed or mistreated groups, are not always used for good. This is evident in political rhetoric, where politicians like Donald Trump use empathy to manipulate. Trump harnesses the strong emotional responses evoked by drawing attention to victims of terrorist attacks in Western countries to encourage people to support anti-immigration policies and turn away refugees. ‘Donald Trump talks a lot about people who are assaulted by illegal immigrants, raped or murdered,’ Bloom says. ‘I wish to some extent that the population could become more immunised against that sort of emotional appeal.’心理学空间FBbj7LO


用故事来诱导受压迫者、或者被虐待群体的共情,即使是这种强大方法也并非总是奏效。这在政治言论中是显而易见的,就像唐纳德·特朗普这样的政治人物使用共情来操纵(民众)。特朗普利用强烈的情绪反应,引起西方国家对恐怖袭击受害者的注意,鼓励人们支持反移民政策并驱逐难民。“唐纳德特朗普讲述了很多被非法移民强奸或谋杀的人,”Bloom说,“我希望,在某种程度上,人们可以免受这种情绪上的影响。” 心理学空间R"I3TU vd

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Empathy’s limitations become most apparent in the context of conflict and competition. Empathy is biased – we are more likely to empathise with those who are from similar social, racial and political circles. Engendering a strong empathic response for atrocities towards in-groups is a potent tool to mobilise people to a cause. ‘Empathy has been historically used as a major tool to spur people to war,’ says Bloom.

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9gsj/S&dC C(bg0共情的局限性在冲突和竞争的背景下最为明显。共情是有偏见的——我们更可能共情那些来自类似的社会、种族和政治圈子的人。对那些针对内群体的暴行营造出一种强烈的共情反应,是动员人们投身其中的一个有力工具。Bloom说:“在历史上,共情已经成为煽动人民参与战争的主要工具。”


In competitive situations, rather than feeling sadness or distress at the sight of a suffering out-group member, people tend to feel pleasure at another’s pain, or schadenfreude, and will not feel motivated to aid them. There are even separate neural circuits that determine how we react to another group’s suffering. One 2010 study led by psychologist Grit Hein, who was then at the University of Zurich, found that distinct neural responses in brain areas associated with empathy predicted whether football fans were willing to endure pain to help supporters of the same team or fans of a rival team.心理学空间`1UEBmc!V;y


在竞争激烈的情况下,人们在看到群体外成员遭受痛苦的时候,往往会对他人的痛苦感到高兴,或者幸灾乐祸,而不会体会到帮助他们的动机。甚至在神经系统中,有决定我们如何应对另一个群体痛苦的独立神经回路。,苏黎世大学的心理学家Grit Hein2010年领导的一项研究发现,与共情有关的大脑区域的不同神经反应,预测了足球球迷是否愿意忍受疼痛来帮助同一支球队的支持者或竞争对手的球迷。心理学空间K%Pl#XO0M"L[,e(rr

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According to Cikara, it is not simply the dangers of low empathy towards outgroups, but the risk of extreme empathy for in-groups that can lead people to take extreme measures, such as sacrificing themselves and hurting others in the process. ‘This is interesting because it suggests something counterintuitive, which is that […] maybe one way of attenuating bias between groups is actually to get people to be a little bit less responsive to in-group suffering,’ Cikara told me.

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x'_l6Y!rL{],[4E,g0Recent investigations by Cikara and her colleagues support the notion that intergroup conflicts could be mitigated by reducing the gap between empathy felt for one’s own group and those they are in conflict with. For example, they found that shifting people’s focus away from their group membership using short descriptions of the individuals in both groups successfully reduced this bias. 

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;xA3Ao(f0Cikara和她的同事们近期的研究支持了以下的观念,即,缩小自己群体的和其他人所在的群体之间的共情差距,可以缓解群体间的冲突。例如,他们发现,通过简短描述两组人员的情况,让人们的注意力从小组成员移开,就可以成功减少这种偏见。心理学空间1SJg,~ t%I a+Kr


Regulating empathy, cultivating compassion  调节共情,培养慈悲心心理学空间X-pC)^:eQj"F

A2{-z*Di,jG#X0Empathy is a powerful tool, so how can we harness its power for good? Most of us think of empathy as an automatic, uncontrollable response to the pain and distress of those around us. Experimental evidence from infant and animal studies suggest that empathy is innate: babies will cry when they hear another baby crying and rats will help free a fellow rat trapped in a cage without training or the promise of a reward.心理学空间+jE }4N6D G%Ws E



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Recent evidence, however, suggests that we can regulate how much empathy we feel. Jamil Zaki, a social psychologist at Stanford University, and his colleagues have found that when people believe empathy is under their control, they are more likely to empathise even in difficult situations, such as responding to someone with opposing sociological views or listening to emotional stories by someone from a racial outgroup. ‘It turns out that simply believing that empathy is something that you can change seems to get people to put more effort into empathising, especially in cases […] when empathy might not naturally help people do the right thing,’ Zaki told me.

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H!A]X6v vY0然而,最近的证据表明,我们可以调节我们所感受到的共情程度。斯坦福大学的社会心理学家Jamil Zaki和他的同事们发现,当人们相信,共情处在他们的控制之下时,即便在困难的情况下,他们也更倾向于共情他人。例如,回应具有相反社会观点的人,或听取来自群体成员的情感故事。Zaki告诉我,“事实上,仅仅相信共情是一种你可以改变的东西,似乎就让人们更加注意共情心,尤其是在以下的情况下……当共情可能并非顺理成章地帮助人们做正确事情的时候。”


n|s.lK NR0According to Zaki, people already regulate empathy all the time. Doctors, he says, may tune down their empathy to avoid burning out from feeling too much of their patients’ pain. Like other emotions, being able to tune our empathic responses in certain situations might help harness its potential benefits. Regulating emotions can help improve political attitudes in conflicts – one group of psychologists found that training Israelis in emotion regulation made them more likely to support conciliatory rather than aggressive strategies in Israeli-Palestinian policies.

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In a similar way, learning to control our empathic reactions may help improve intergroup relations. If you recognise a politician using emotionally manipulative stories, you might want to turn your empathy down. On the other hand, you would want to vamp it up in situations where you are faced with people from different groups or backgrounds.  心理学空间0D%ci s/b3aZ


同样,学习控制我们的共情反应可能有助于改善团体之间的关系。如果你认识到政客利用情绪进行操纵的情况,你可能就会降低你的共情心。另一方面,在面对不同群体或背景的人的情况下,你会想编造共情。心理学空间 c az!~6yD4{

r+NEr@n+o0Alternatively, psychologists like Bloom and Tania Singer, a neuroscientist at the Max Plank Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Germany, believe in a different strategy altogether. Rather than working with empathy, they believe that cultivating compassion – a more distanced form of care and concern for others’ well-being – is a more effective solution.心理学空间9@J/K{*v~&O Zi

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另外,像Ploom这样的心理学家和德国Max Primk人类认知和脑科学研究所的神经科学家Tania Grand,同样完全相信一种不同的策略。他们认为,培养慈悲心(更远距离地关心和关怀他人的幸福)而非共情心,是一种更有效的解决方案。

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Singer and her colleagues have been working on compassion training techniques by drawing on the Buddhist practice of loving-kindness mediation, which involves quietly concentrating on extending caring feelings from loved ones to strangers and eventually to all living beings. Studies reveal that compassion, unlike empathy, does not suffer from the same type of limitations. It also activates a completely different network of brains areas and increases prosocial behavior while improving emotional well-being.心理学空间i9c8h"Od

!P?:Xc"h;_0Singer和她的同事们一直在研究慈悲训练技巧,他们借鉴了佛教慈爱调解的实践,包括平静地将关爱的情绪感受从亲人延伸到陌生人,并最终传播给所有生物。研究表明,与共情不同,悲悯不会受到相同类型的限制的影响。它还激活了一个完全不同的大脑区域网络增加亲社会行为,同时改善情绪福祉心理学空间_ Vc8i/s%JQ

\$ic#N;sV(baQs0Finding empathy in the brain 在大脑中寻找共情心理学空间O U3R2dAx

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Psychologists define empathy in myriad ways, and some see compassion as a component of empathy rather than separate from it. ‘You can find almost as many definitions of empathy as you can find people writing about empathy,’ says Cikara.心理学空间 X0GSov/z;Ho

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Empathy is often described as a combination of three factors: cognitive empathy (thinking about another’s emotions), emotional empathy (sharing another’s emotions), and motivational empathy (caring about another’s emotions – or compassion). ‘Empathy is not just one thing, but rather it’s an umbrella term that describes the different ways that people respond to each other’s emotions,’ Zaki explains.

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Each of these, though closely connected, are actually independent psychological and neurological processes. In recent years, as researchers have started to probe the brain to better understand how empathy works at the neural level, studies are beginning to show how these three components can be teased apart in the brain.

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2C/tK#R/nB2K8vf$R-O7~0虽然以上三种共情紧密相连,但实际上,他们是独立的心理和神经过程。近年来,研究人员为了更好地理解共情如何在神经层面起作用,开始了对大脑的探索,许多研究结果开始梳理出大脑中的这三种共情成分是如何在大脑中分开的。心理学空间ds2\OEbn4p g

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At the very basic level, neuroscientists have found that empathy stimulates shared representations in the brain – participants activate the same neural areas in response to feeling pain and observing others in pain. Social neuroscientists like Claus Lamm at the University of Vienna have been using a variety of neuroimaging techniques such as functional MRI to study the underlying brain mechanisms of empathy. The classical approach for studying this, according to Lamm, is the pain paradigm, where researchers place participants in an MRI scanner and record their neural activity as they receive painful shocks or observe others getting a painful shock.

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{Sey#]0神经科学家已经发现,共情可以在非常基本的层面上刺激大脑中的共同表征——在对痛苦感觉做出回应以及观察他人痛苦之时,不同的参与者都激活了相同的神经区域。维也纳大学的社会科学家Claus Lamm一直在使用多种影像学技术,如功能磁共振成像来研究共情在大脑中的基本机制。根据Lamm的说法,该研究的经典方法是疼痛范式。研究人员让参与者躺在MRI扫描仪中,以记录他们在遭受到痛苦冲击时或观察他人受到痛苦冲击时的神经活动。 


qtkThz&nl0In recent studies, Lamm and his colleagues have discovered that these activations can be artificially manipulated. One functional MRI study revealed that giving participants placebo painkillers decreased activation in brain areas associated with pain and empathy for pain. Further, they found that opioid-blockers could block the placebo’s reduction for both one’s own pain responses as well as the empathic response for another’s suffering.心理学空间4F }^'v H(K,P^

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在最近的研究中,Lamm和他的同事们发现,可以人为地操纵这些激活(activations)。一项功能磁共振成像研究显示,给予参与者服用止痛安慰剂能减少与疼痛和共情相关脑区域的激活。此外,他们发现阿片阻滞剂可以阻断安慰剂的减少,既减轻了自身的疼痛反应,同时又减轻了对他人痛苦的共情反应。心理学空间;Q$r7V ch3`


Studies have also shown that cognitive empathy, emotional empathy and compassion all activate unique networks in the brain, and that this activation predicts different behavioral outcomes. ‘What the neuroscientific investigation do is that they basically confirm what the social psychologists have suggested for quite some time already,’ Lamm told me.




A force for good and evil 善与恶的力量心理学空间b/f qb,~#R'e


Perhaps the best way to think about empathy is as an entity separate from morality. Batson himself suggested this in a 2009 article where he wrote: ‘Empathy-induced altruism is, we suggest, best thought of as neither moral nor immoral, but amoral.’心理学空间w6sZ]0w v




/@)}+~h Q e0Empathy is a powerful force, capable of doing good and harm. Some psychologists believe that humanity would best thrive if we avoided it all together and relied instead on rational, reasoned thought. Other see a more delicate balance – that both are necessary to make the world a better place. ‘What Paul’s saying is that if you’re going to get fairness or justice in the society, empathy-induced altruism is not necessarily the best way,’ says Batson. ‘My own bias is that reasoned moral thought alone isn’t the best way either. The kind of change Paul’s talking about takes the two working together.’

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b YC*X{ C-dR%O0Overall, it is important to know when to empathise and to assess the motives of people who try to stir our emotions with a critical light. Learning to numb our reactions to stories some politicians tell may ultimately help make our world a better place.


"q M0U0w%Q8N x0总的来说,重要的是要知道什么时候用批判性的鉴别之光去理解和评价那些试图激发我们的情绪与动机。学习无动于衷于政治家向我们讲述的故事,可能有助于我们的世界变得更美好。心理学空间}S*z z0^y"L2l{

r'V.WE wv xBE}0Rethinking disorders of empathy 心理学空间0o[5GsS

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m4_nR ^#[y;c0Society often stereotypes people with autism and Asperger’s syndrome as antisocial, unemotional and lacking in empathy. The scientific evidence, however, reveals that while people with autism may have difficulties with cognitive empathy (understanding what another person is feeling), their emotional empathy (the ability to feel what another feels) is intact. 



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6mX$P S9\(_/VWA5oO0A growing body of research suggests that the reduced ability to empathise in some individuals with autism is actually due to alexithymia, a separate condition that impairs emotional processing. Alexithymia is present in around 10 per cent of the general population and approximately half the people with autism. 


1^M/Xn"D ~ t0越来越多的研究表明,一些孤独症患者共情能力的降低实际上源于述情障碍,这是一种妨碍情绪加工的独立的状况。一般人群中大约有10%的人存在述情障碍,大约其中一半人患有自闭症。

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One 2011 study, for example, led by psychologist Geoffrey Bird at King’s College London, revealed that gaze avoidance – the tendency to spend less time scanning parts of the face that display emotion, such as the mouth and eyes – was a feature of alexithymia rather than autism. 


例如,2011年,伦敦大学国王学院的心理学家Geoffrey Bird领导的一项研究揭示了目光回避——例如,不太花时间扫描诸如嘴巴和眼睛这些面部特征所呈现表情的倾向——是述情障碍的特征,而不是孤独症。心理学空间0t)zFL*og

y&NA7d0ar Yk4v}X0In another recent study a group of neuroscientists in Italy and Austria found that participants with autism displayed similar empathic responses to moral dilemmas as those without the condition. In fact, those with autism displayed stronger emotional distress when faced with a utilitarian dilemma (sacrificing one to save many) and were less likely to endorse options that that caused direct harm to another person. 心理学空间,n1z4N Z3{_

@zJ+rEGj$_0在最近发表的另一项研究中,意大利和奥地利的一组神经科学家发现,患有孤独症的参与者表现出与道德困境相似的共情反应。事实上,那些患有自闭症的人在面对功利主义困境时(牺牲一人来拯救更多人)会表现出更强烈的情绪困扰,并且不太可能赞同导致直接伤害另一个人的选择。心理学空间bli q/}o@f

-a,^tc(tHd0People with psychopathy are also often defined as being callous and without empathy. Popular depictions of psychopaths include serial killers like Ted Bundy or the fictional Hannibal Lector。


#EAb UvKP#Nr3a0精神病患者通常被定义为冷酷无情,没有同情心的人。流行文化也讲精神变态者描述成像Ted Bundy这样的连环杀手,以及虚构的汉尼拔·莱克特(Hannibal Lector)。

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In recent years psychologists have started investigating the question of whether individuals with psychopathy lack the ability to understand and feel what others are feeling completely or are just less likely to do so in certain situations. Evidence suggests the latter – recent neuroimaging studies show that while individuals with higher levels of psychopathy are less perturbed by emotional stimuli, when primed to attend to emotional cues, the differences between psychopaths and non-psychopaths largely disappear.心理学空间d@,p wp+a4K a^`


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.EhQj$H d r0In one 2013 Brain study, for example, Christian Keyser’s group at the Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience found significantly less neural activity in participants with psychopathy who passively viewed videos of emotional hand interactions compared to non-psychopathic subjects. However, when the experimenters asked them empathise with the actors in the clips, these differences are significantly reduced. 心理学空间6yv r Vq|z[

H?h9fC eIh0例如,在一项2013年的大脑研究中,荷兰神经科学研究所Christian Keyser带领的小组发现,与非精神病患者相比,那些被动地观看了有情绪感染力的双手互动视频的精神病患者,他们的神经活动明显减少了。然而,当实验者要求他们共情剪辑片中的演员时,这些差异明显减少。心理学空间z1H2m;x!u


Psychopaths make up a disproportionate amount of the incarcerated population. Understanding the neurobiological origins of psychopaths may help rehabilitate offenders and create early prevention systems. If psychopathy is the result of the reduced propensity rather than the lack of ability to empathise, training these individuals to attend to emotional stimuli may prevent antisocial behaviour later in life.心理学空间8~a|e4q0o



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作者Diana Kwon 全部资源或APP版本,请访问www.dianakwon.com心理学空间!Z'd3i,H T#L|[

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