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Empathy is contagious

Byeditor

Apr 3, 2024

The reactions of others can influence how we respond to someone else’s pain. While empathy is often believed to be a innate trait influenced by heredity, it can also be influenced by the behavior of those around us. A study published in the Pnas science journal found that empathy can increase or decrease based on how we perceive other people’s reactions.

Professor Grit Hein and his colleagues conducted four experiments involving more than 50 women to investigate the social contagion of compassion. Participants watched videos of hands experiencing pain, rated their sensations, observed other people’s reactions to the videos, and then evaluated the sensations of a new person’s pain. The study found that participants became more or less empathetic based on how others had reacted to the pain videos.

Brain imaging conducted during the experiments showed that empathy was specifically learned from others, rather than simply imitated. This learning from others was responsible for the increase or decrease in compassion observed in the participants. Professor Hein suggests that these findings can be applied to organizational settings, emphasizing the importance of creating an environment that promotes empathy in the workplace.

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By editor

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