Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Less Empathy Toward Outsiders: Brain Differences Reinforce Preferences For Those In Same Social Group

Date:
July 1, 2009
Source:
Society for Neuroscience
Summary:
An observer feels more empathy for someone in pain when that person is in the same social group, according to new research. The study shows that perceiving others in pain activates a part of the brain associated with empathy and emotion more if the observer and the observed are the same race. The findings may show that unconscious prejudices against outside groups exist at a basic level.

New research shows that an observer feels more empathy for someone in pain when that person is in the same social group.
Credit: iStockphoto/Stefanie Timmermann

An observer feels more empathy for someone in pain when that person is in the same social group, according to new research in the July 1 issue of The Journal of Neuroscience.

The study shows that perceiving others in pain activates a part of the brain associated with empathy and emotion more if the observer and the observed are the same race. The findings may show that unconscious prejudices against outside groups exist at a basic level.

The study confirms an in-group bias in empathic feelings, something that has long been known but never before confirmed by neuroimaging technology. Researchers have explored group bias since the 1950s. In some studies, even people with similar backgrounds arbitrarily assigned to different groups preferred members of their own group to those of others. This new study shows those feelings of bias are also reflected in brain activity.

"Our findings have significant implications for understanding real-life social behaviors and social interactions," said Shihui Han, PhD, at Peking University in China, one of the study authors.

Other recent brain imaging studies show that feeling empathy for others in pain stimulates a brain area called the anterior cingulate cortex. Building on these results, the study authors tested the theory that these empathic feelings increase for members of the same social group. In this case, the researchers chose race as the social group, although the same effect may occur with other groups.

The researchers scanned brains areas in one Caucasian group and one Chinese group. The authors monitored participants as they viewed video clips that simulated either a painful needle prick or a non-painful cotton swab touch to a Caucasian or Chinese face. When painful simulations were applied to individuals of the same race as the observers, the empathic neural responses increased; however, responses increased to a lesser extent when participants viewed the faces of the other group.

Martha Farah, PhD, at the University of Pennsylvania, a cognitive neuroscientist and neuroethicist who was not affiliated with the study, says learning how empathic responses influence our behavior in many different situations is interesting both practically and theoretically. "This is a fascinating study of a phenomenon with important social implications for everything from medical care to charitable giving," she said.

But the finding raises as many questions as it answers, Farah said. "For example, is it racial identity per se that determines the brain's empathic response, or some more general measure of similarity between self and other?" she said. "What personal characteristics or life experiences influence the disparity in empathic response toward in-group and out-group members?"

The research was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Society for Neuroscience. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Society for Neuroscience. "Less Empathy Toward Outsiders: Brain Differences Reinforce Preferences For Those In Same Social Group." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 1 July 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/06/090630173815.htm>.
Society for Neuroscience. (2009, July 1). Less Empathy Toward Outsiders: Brain Differences Reinforce Preferences For Those In Same Social Group. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/06/090630173815.htm
Society for Neuroscience. "Less Empathy Toward Outsiders: Brain Differences Reinforce Preferences For Those In Same Social Group." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/06/090630173815.htm (accessed July 23, 2014).

Share This




More Science & Society News

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Courts Conflicted Over Healthcare Law

Courts Conflicted Over Healthcare Law

AP (July 22, 2014) Two federal appeals courts issued conflicting rulings Tuesday on the legality of the federally-run healthcare exchange that operates in 36 states. (July 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
What Self-Made Women Need to Know Financially Before Getting Hitched

What Self-Made Women Need to Know Financially Before Getting Hitched

TheStreet (July 21, 2014) Halle Berry was recently ordered to pay her ex-boyfriend Gabriel Aubry $16,000 a month in child support by a California judge for their daughter Nahla. As women make strides in the workforce, they are increasingly left holding the bag when relationships end regardless of marital status. 'What Monied Women Need to Know Before Getting Married or Cohabitating' discusses information such as debt incurred during the marriage is both spouse's responsibility at divorce, whether after ten years of marriage spouses are entitled to half of everything and why property acquired within the marriage is fair game without a pre-nup. Video provided by TheStreet
Powered by NewsLook.com
$23.6 Billion Awarded To Widow In Smoking Lawsuit

$23.6 Billion Awarded To Widow In Smoking Lawsuit

Newsy (July 20, 2014) Cynthia Robinson claims R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company hid the health and addiction risks of its products, leading to the death of her husband in 1996. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Clock Ticks Down on Internet Speed Debate

Clock Ticks Down on Internet Speed Debate

Reuters - US Online Video (July 18, 2014) The FCC received more than 800,000 comments on whether and how internet speeds should be regulated, even crashing its system. Lily Jamali reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins