What Is Going on in the Brain?
What Can Cause a Decrease in Empathy?
- Anxiety: When people are not properly managing anxiety, they are more likely to display egocentric qualities, probably in an effort to reduce anxiety (Warner, 2016).
- Medications: Not only do painkillers reduce your pain, but they also reduce your ability to feel empathy towards others (Barclay, 2016).
- Cognitive Impairment: When the brain is not functioning properly or we have to make quick decisions, there is usually a decline in empathy (Avrabos et al., 2013).
Can Someone Increase Their Empathy Towards Others?
- Social psychologists Emanuele Castano, and PhD candidate David Kidd surveyed the empathetic response of individuals that read different genres. Individuals that are reading literary fiction more often show a higher ability to understand and to empathize with other people's thoughts and emotions (Chiaet, 2013).
- Studies have shown that mindfulness meditations such as a 'loving-kindness meditation' can help rewire your brain so that you are better equipped to understand empathy through the subconscious. (Bergland, 2013).
Empathy is a very important quality in the sense that it helps us connect with people. A lack of connectedness to the world is one of the biggest pre-cursors to depression, which shows just how vital empathy is to our mental well-being.
Avrabos, C., Sotnikov, S. V., Dine, J., Markt, P. O., Holsboer, F., Landgraf, R., & Eder, M. (2013). Real-Time Imaging of Amygdalar Network Dynamics In Vitro Reveals a Neurophysiological Link to Behavior in a Mouse Model of Extremes in Trait Anxiety. Journal of Neuroscience, 33(41), 16262-16267. doi:10.1523/jneurosci.2397-13.2013
Barclay, R. S. (2016, June 03). Does Taking a Painkiller Make You Less Empathic Toward Others? Retrieved February 23, 2017, from http://www.healthline.com/health-news/do-painkillers-make-you-less-empathic
Bergland, C. (2013, October 10). The Neuroscience of Empathy. Retrieved February 15, 2017, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-athletes-way/201310/the-neuroscience-empathy
Chiaet, J. (2013, October 04). Novel Finding: Reading Literary Fiction Improves Empathy. Retrieved February 20, 2017, from https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/novel-finding-reading-literary-fiction-improves-empathy/
Lifehacker. (2017, February 3). The Important of Empathy [Video File] . Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UzPMMSKfKZQ
Warner, C. (2016, August 17). 7 Weird Facts About Empathy, Because It Depends On More Than You Think. Retrieved February 15, 2017, from https://www.bustle.com/articles/179154-7-weird-facts-about-empathy-because-it-depends-on-more-than-you-think