Navigation Links
Ability to literally imagine oneself in another's shoes may be tied to empathy
Date:6/23/2009

New research from Vanderbilt University indicates the way our brain handles how we move through spaceincluding being able to imagine literally stepping into someone else's shoesmay be related to how and why we experience empathy toward others.

The research was recently published in the online scientific journal PLoS ONE. The full article is available at: http://tinyurl.com/lw6qmv.

Empathy involves, in part, the ability to simulate the internal states of others. The authors hypothesized that our ability to manipulate, rotate and simulate mental representations of the physical world, including our own bodies, would contribute significantly to our ability to empathize.

"Our language is full of spatial metaphors, particularly when we attempt to explain or understand how other people think or feel. We often talk about putting ourselves in others' shoes, seeing something from someone else's point of view, or figuratively looking over someone's shoulder," Sohee Park, report co-author and professor of psychology, said. "Although future work is needed to elucidate the nature of the relationship between empathy, spatial abilities and their potentially overlapping neural underpinnings, this work provides initial evidence that empathy might be, in part, spatially represented."

"We use spatial manipulations of mental representations all the time as we move through the physical world. As a result, we have readily available cognitive resources to deploy in our attempts to understand what we see. This may extend to our understanding of others' mental states," Katharine N. Thakkar, a psychology graduate student at Vanderbilt and the report's lead author, said. "Separate lines of neuroimaging research have noted involvement of the same brain area, the parietal cortex, during tasks involving visuo-spatial processes and empathy."

To test their hypothesis that empathy and spatial processes are linked, the researchers designed an experiment in which subjects had to imagine themselves in the position of another person and make a judgment about where this other person's arm was pointing. The task required the subject to mentally transform their body position to that of the other person.

"We expected that the efficiency with which people could imagine these transformations would be associated with empathy," Thakkar said. "Because we were interested in linking spatial ability with empathy, we also included a very simple task of spatial attention called the line bisection task. This test involves looking at a horizontal line and marking the midpoint. Although this task is very simple, it appears to be a powerful way to assess subtle biases in spatial attention."

The researchers compared performance on the test with how empathetic the subjects reported themselves to be. They found that higher self-reported empathy was associated with paying more attention to the right side of space. Previous research has found that the left side of the face is more emotionally expressive than the right side. Since the left side of the face would be on the right side of the observer, it is possible that attending more to the expressive side of people's faces would allow one to better understand and respond to their mental state. These findings could also point to a role of the left hemisphere in empathy.

The researchers also found that in the female subjects only, the more empathetic people rated themselves, the longer they took to imagine themselves in the position of the person on the screen. Previous work has shown that women generally report more empathy than men and perform worse on tests of visuo-spatial abilities.

"Although it is somewhat counterintuitive that taking more time to imagine another's physical perspective was associated with more reported empathy, people who were slower at the task might have been engaging more resources to imagine another's mental state, or may be using a slower and less automatic strategy on the task," Park said.


'/>"/>

Contact: Melanie Moran
melanie.moran@vanderbilt.edu
615-322-7970
Vanderbilt University
Source:Eurekalert  

Related biology news :

1. Common fish species has human ability to learn
2. The downside of microtubule stability
3. Temporary infidelity may contribute to the stability of ancient relationships
4. Microtest Labs Adds Dissolution Testing to its Suite of Analytical and Stability Testing Services
5. Clemson and collaborators receive $1.1 million to improve durability of concrete infrastructure
6. Physical activity may strengthen childrens ability to pay attention
7. UniPixel Announces Availability of Opcuity(TM) Finger Print Resistant Film Test Samples
8. Making a point: Picoscale stability in a room-temperature AFM
9. K-State biologist collaborating with researchers in Africa on grassland sustainability, biodiversity
10. Crickets may predict human survivability during global warming
11. Salient Stills Notches Significant Advances in Profitability, Diversity of Sales and Customers, and Video Forensics Technology in 2008
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
Related Image:
Ability to literally imagine oneself in another's shoes may be  tied to empathy
(Date:4/13/2017)... , April 13, 2017 According to a new ... Authentication, Identity Analytics, Identity Administration, and Authorization), Service, Authentication Type, Deployment Mode, ... IAM Market is expected to grow from USD 14.30 Billion in 2017 ... (CAGR) of 17.3%. ... MarketsandMarkets Logo ...
(Date:4/11/2017)... Research and Markets has announced the addition of the "Global ... ... at a CAGR of 30.37% during the period 2017-2021. ... based on an in-depth market analysis with inputs from industry experts. ... the coming years. The report also includes a discussion of the ...
(Date:4/11/2017)... 11, 2017 NXT-ID, Inc. (NASDAQ:   ... announces the appointment of independent Directors Mr. Robin D. ... Board of Directors, furthering the company,s corporate governance and expertise. ... Gino Pereira , ... forward to their guidance and benefiting from their considerable expertise ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:4/21/2017)... ... April 21, 2017 , ... The 2017 Colorado Manufacturing Awards ... 30 nominees and well as the first-year award for 2017 Manufacturing Women of ... was hosted by CompanyWeek and Manufacturers Edge, among other sponsors. , The ...
(Date:4/21/2017)... ... 21, 2017 , ... Frederick Innovative Technology Center, Inc. (FITCI), ... and technology start-ups, is hosting “Celebration Friday” (a festive gathering highlighting client success ... libations and networking at 3:30 p.m. at FITCI’s 4539 Metropolitan Court location, off ...
(Date:4/20/2017)... SANTA BARBARA, CALIFORNIA (PRWEB) , ... April 20, 2017 , ... ... process optimization firm for the life sciences and healthcare industries, is pleased to announce ... of the new established USDM subsidiary “USDM Europe GmbH” based in Germany. , ...
(Date:4/20/2017)... ... 20, 2017 , ... Parallel6™ , the leader in mClinical™ technologies for ... were named one of the 2017 Top 10 eClinical Trial Management Solution Providers ... industry. , “We take pride in honoring Parallel6 as one of the top 10 ...
Breaking Biology Technology: