Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Race and empathy matter on neural level

Date:
April 27, 2010
Source:
Northwestern University
Summary:
Race matters on a neurological level when it comes to empathy for African-Americans in distress, according to a new study. In a rare neuroscience look at racial minorities, the study shows that African-Americans showed greater empathy for African-Americans facing adversity -- in this case for victims of Hurricane Katrina -- than Caucasians demonstrated for Caucasian-Americans in pain.

Race matters on a neurological level when it comes to empathy for African-Americans in distress, according to a new Northwestern University study.

Related Articles


In a rare neuroscience look at racial minorities, the study shows that African-Americans showed greater empathy for African-Americans facing adversity -- in this case for victims of Hurricane Katrina -- than Caucasians demonstrated for Caucasian-Americans in pain.

"We found that everybody reported empathy toward the Hurricane Katrina victims," said Joan Y. Chiao, assistant professor of psychology and author of the study. "But African-Americans additionally showed greater empathic response to other African-Americans in emotional pain."

The more African-Americans identified as African-American the more likely they were to show greater empathic preference for African-Americans, the study showed.

Initially, Chiao thought that both African-Americans and Caucasian-Americans would either show no pattern of in-group bias or both show some sort of preference.

The take-home point to Chiao: our ability to identify with another person dramatically changes how much we can feel the pain of another and how much we're willing to help them.

"It's just that feeling of that person is like me, or that person is similar to me," she said. "That experience can really lead to what we're calling 'extraordinary empathy and altruistic motivation.' It's empathy and altruistic motivation above and beyond what you would do for another human."

Using functional magnetic resonance imaging, the study included an equal number of African-American and Caucasian-American study participants. They were shown pictures depicting either African-American or Caucasian-American individuals in a painful (i.e. in the midst of a natural disaster) or neutral (attending an outdoor picnic).

"We think this is really interesting because it suggests mechanisms by which we can enhance our empathy and altruistic motivation simply by finding ways in which we have commonality across individuals and across groups," Chiao said.

Chiao, who works at one of only two labs in the world dedicated to cultural and social neuroscience, is particularly interested in how social identities related to gender or race modulate the biological process underlying feeling and reason. (The Web address for the Social and Cultural Neuroscience Lab at Northwestern is http://culturalneuro.psych.northwestern.edu/Lab_Website/Welcome.html).


Story Source:

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


Journal Reference:

  1. Vani A. Mathur, Tokiko Harada, Trixie Lipke, Joan Y. Chiao. Neural basis of extraordinary empathy and altruistic motivation. NeuroImage, 2010; DOI: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2010.03.025

Cite This Page:

Northwestern University. "Race and empathy matter on neural level." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 27 April 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/04/100426182002.htm>.
Northwestern University. (2010, April 27). Race and empathy matter on neural level. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 27, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/04/100426182002.htm
Northwestern University. "Race and empathy matter on neural level." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/04/100426182002.htm (accessed March 27, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Mind & Brain News

Friday, March 27, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

AAA: Distracted Driving a Serious Teen Problem

AAA: Distracted Driving a Serious Teen Problem

AP (Mar. 25, 2015) While distracted driving is not a new problem for teens, new research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety says it&apos;s much more serious than previously thought. (March 25) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Smartphone Use Changing Our Brain and Thumb Interaction, Say Researchers

Smartphone Use Changing Our Brain and Thumb Interaction, Say Researchers

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Mar. 25, 2015) European researchers say our smartphone use offers scientists an ideal testing ground for human brain plasticity. Dr Ako Ghosh&apos;s team discovered that the brains and thumbs of smartphone users interact differently from those who use old-fashioned handsets. Jim Drury went to meet him. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Many Don't Know They Have Alzheimer's, But Their Doctors Do

Many Don't Know They Have Alzheimer's, But Their Doctors Do

Newsy (Mar. 24, 2015) According to a new study by the Alzheimer&apos;s Association, more than half of those who have the degenerative brain disease aren&apos;t told by their doctors. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
A Quick 45-Minute Nap Can Improve Your Memory

A Quick 45-Minute Nap Can Improve Your Memory

Newsy (Mar. 23, 2015) Researchers found those who napped for 45 minutes to an hour before being tested on information recalled it five times better than those who didn&apos;t. Video provided by Newsy
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:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

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