Empathy breeds altruism, unless a person feels they have low status.
作者: bps / 6570次阅读 时间: 2011年8月22日
标签: empathy Empathy
www.psychspace.com心理学空间网Empathy breeds altruism, unless a person feels they have low status. A  brain-scan study with a lesson for riot-hit England
1v&]7Ei7F(__4Px+@'p0In a defining image of the recent English riots, a man helped an  injured youngster to his feet while an accomplice stole from the  same victim's bag. This sheer lack of empathy on the part of the  perpetrators has shaken observers to their core. How could humans  display such a lack of altruism toward their fellow man?心理学空间9v@k8Ik0G z oq

d TF'xH;B0A possible clue comes from a new brain imaging study that has  examined links between the neural correlates of empathy, an act of  altruism, and participants' subjective sense of their social status.  Among people who feel they have low status, the study finds,  increased neural markers of empathy are actually related to reduced  altruism. The researchers surmised this is because any feelings of  empathy are quashed by a grudging sense of low status. This could be  a kind of defence mechanism whereby self-interest dominates over  empathy for others. A possible lesson is that by reversing people's  feelings of low status, through educational opportunities and other  interventions, we all gain, by reinstating the usual link between  empathy and altruism.心理学空间 k O }8OJ\ZLo3z}k

c _9r!_ ?4G,U-u0Yina Ma and her team at Peking  University scanned  the brains of 33 student participants while they watched numerous  video clips of people being pricked painfully in the face or hand by  a needle, or touched on those same parts by a cotton bud (referred  to as a Q-tip in the US). Extra activity in the brain, in response  to the needle clips versus cotton bud clips, was taken to be a  neural marker for empathy (seeing someone else in pain is known to  trigger activity in the pain matrix of one's own brain).
IB;]!eE:W^p0The participants also rated their own empathy levels and their  subjective sense of their socio-economic status. They were shown a  ladder with ten rungs, with the top rung representing people with  the best jobs and education and most money; participants then  indicated which rung they saw themselves as occupying. Although the  participants were students at the same university they varied in  their subjective sense of status. Finally, the participants were  left alone in a room with an anonymous donation box, labelled as  raising money to help impoverished patients with cataracts.心理学空间,u0\0QF4oejt4Z

6c wu lgz(EV6`([0Among patients who considered themselves privileged in terms of  socio-economic status, there was a positive relationship between  empathy and altruism. The more neural signs of empathy they  displayed in the scanner (based on extra activity in the left  somatosensory cortex when viewing needle clips), the more empathy  they said they had, and the more money they chose to donate to  charity. By contrast, among participants who considered themselves  lower in socio-economic status, the opposite pattern was observed.  The greater their empathy-related brain activity in the scanner  (based on extra right somatosensory cortex and inferior frontal  cortex activity in response to needle clips), the less empathy they  said they had, and the less money they chose to donate to charity.  The researchers said the empathy-related inferior frontal cortex  activity observed in these participants could be a sign of  inhibitory processes quashing the emotional impact of seeing another  person in pain.
Note, there was no absolute difference in the amount of money  donated by participants who self-identified as low or high  socio-economic status. The finding is more subtle and suggests  empathy has a differential effect on our altruistic behaviour  depending on how we see our standing in the world.
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"Our findings have significant implications to the social domain,"  the researchers said, "in that, besides improving objective  socio-economic status, raising subjective socio-economic status via  education may possibly manifold altruistic behaviours in human  society."
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v(QP:cE$R E$~0The findings add to a complex literature that suggests lower  socio-economic status is sometimes associated with more  empathy and altruism, but sometimes associated with reduced empathy.心理学空间${E5r] S&i;k
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Ma,  Y., Wang, C., and Han, S. (2011). Neural responses to perceived pain  in others predict real-life monetary donations in different  socioeconomic contexts. NeuroImage,  57 (3), 1273-1280  DOI:10.1016/j.neuroimage.2011.05.003www.psychspace.com心理学空间网
TAG: empathy Empathy
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