Navigation Links
Human brains are hardwired for empathy, friendship, study shows
Date:8/22/2013

Perhaps one of the most defining features of humanity is our capacity for empathy the ability to put ourselves in others' shoes. A new University of Virginia study strongly suggests that we are hardwired to empathize because we closely associate people who are close to us friends, spouses, lovers with our very selves.

"With familiarity, other people become part of ourselves," said James Coan, a psychology professor in U.Va.'s College of Arts & Sciences who used functional magnetic resonance imaging brain scans to find that people closely correlate people to whom they are attached to themselves. The study appears in the August issue of the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience.

"Our self comes to include the people we feel close to," Coan said. In other words, our self-identity is largely based on whom we know and empathize with. Coan and his U.Va. colleagues conducted the study with 22 young adult participants who underwent fMRI scans of their brains during experiments to monitor brain activity while under threat of receiving mild electrical shocks to themselves or to a friend or stranger.

The researchers found, as they expected, that regions of the brain responsible for threat response the anterior insula, putamen and supramarginal gyrus became active under threat of shock to the self. In the case of threat of shock to a stranger, the brain in those regions displayed little activity. However when the threat of shock was to a friend, the brain activity of the participant became essentially identical to the activity displayed under threat to the self.

"The correlation between self and friend was remarkably similar," Coan said. "The finding shows the brain's remarkable capacity to model self to others; that people close to us become a part of ourselves, and that is not just metaphor or poetry, it's very real. Literally we are under threat when a friend is under threat. But not so when a stranger is under threat."

Coan said this likely is because humans need to have friends and allies who they can side with and see as being the same as themselves. And as people spend more time together, they become more similar.

"It's essentially a breakdown of self and other; our self comes to include the people we become close to," Coan said. "If a friend is under threat, it becomes the same as if we ourselves are under threat. We can understand the pain or difficulty they may be going through in the same way we understand our own pain."

This likely is the source of empathy, and part of the evolutionary process, Coan reasons.

"A threat to ourselves is a threat to our resources," he said. "Threats can take things away from us. But when we develop friendships, people we can trust and rely on who in essence become we, then our resources are expanded, we gain. Your goal becomes my goal. It's a part of our survivability." People need friends, Coan added, like "one hand needs another to clap."


'/>"/>

Contact: Fariss Samarrai
fls4f@virginia.edu
434-924-3778
University of Virginia
Source:Eurekalert

Related biology news :

1. Nearby chimpanzee populations show much greater genetic diversity than distant human populations
2. UC Santa Barbara researchers discover genetic link between visual pathways of hydras and humans
3. Research on flavanols and procyanidins provides new insights into how these phytonutrients may positively impact human health
4. A birds song may teach us about human speech disorders
5. Scientists produce eye structures from human blood-derived stem cells
6. Human noise has ripple effects on plants
7. Did climate change shape human evolution?
8. Harmless human virus may be able to boost the effects of chemotherapy
9. Study resolves debate on human cell shut-down process
10. Fine-scale analysis of the human brain yields insight into its distinctive composition
11. Bartonella infection associated with rheumatoid illnesses in humans
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:5/3/2016)...  Neurotechnology, a provider of high-precision biometric identification ... Identification System (ABIS) , a complete system for ... can process multiple complex biometric transactions with high ... face or iris biometrics. It leverages the core ... MegaMatcher Accelerator , which have been used in ...
(Date:4/26/2016)... , April 27, 2016 ... the  "Global Multi-modal Biometrics Market 2016-2020"  report to ... ) , The analysts forecast the ... CAGR of 15.49% during the period 2016-2020.  ... number of sectors such as the healthcare, BFSI, ...
(Date:4/14/2016)... 2016 BioCatch ™, the ... announced the appointment of Eyal Goldwerger as ... Goldwerger,s leadership appointment comes at a time of ... deployment of its platform at several of the world,s ... discerns unique cognitive and physiological factors, is a winner ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:6/27/2016)... Ginkgo Bioworks , a leading organism design company ... as one of the World Economic Forum,s Technology ... companies. Ginkgo Bioworks is engineering biology to manufacture ... the nutrition, health and consumer goods sectors. The ... Fortune 500 companies to design microbes for their ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... ... June 23, 2016 , ... ... of its second eBook, “Clinical Trials Patient Recruitment and Retention Tips.” Partnering with ... in this eBook by providing practical tips, tools, and strategies for clinical researchers. ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... Houston Methodist Willowbrook Hospital has signed ... to serve as their official health care provider. ... will provide sponsorship support, athletic training services, and ... volunteers, athletes and families. "We are ... and to bring Houston Methodist quality services and ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... ... June 23, 2016 , ... Supplyframe, the ... the Supplyframe Design Lab . Located in Pasadena, Calif., the Design Lab’s ... how hardware projects are designed, built and brought to market. , The Design ...
Breaking Biology Technology: