This May Be The Secret To Empathy
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Empathy has only existed as a word in the English language for a little over a century. But its power cannot be denied.
Empathy is defined as the ability to understand and be sensitive to the “feelings, thoughts and experience of another,” but that is not the whole picture. Researchers at the University of Missouri have found that empathy has as much to do with our sense of self as it does with our sense of others.
Brick Johnstone, a neuropsychologist and professor of health psychology at the University of Missouri, and a team of researchers published the results of their empathy study on Wednesday.
In the study, researchers gave neuropsychological evaluations and self-reported questionnaires to a group of 31 individuals with traumatic brain injuries. Twenty of the participants also received MRI brain scans. Johnstone and his colleagues found that individuals who were more empathetic appeared to have greater functioning in their right parietal lobe, the area of the brain associated with self-orientation. He also found that increased functioning of the areas of the brain focused on the self went hand in hand with increased empathy.
“This is one instance when being more self-focused is related to virtuous behaviors,” he said in a release.
Johnstone said several psychological and spiritual “interventions” can help individuals develop their sense of self. Psychological counseling, for example, can focus on helping patients take the perspective of others and experience such perspectives as if they were one’s own, he told The Huffington Post.
Religious practices can benefit from stressing “that to truly care for one another we must understand their situation and incorporate it into a strong sense of the self,” Johnstone said.