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As humans we are a highly social species: in order to coordinate our joint actions and assure successful communication, we use language skills to explicitly convey information to each other, and social abilities such as empathy or perspective taking to infer another person’s emotions and mental state. The human cognitive capacity to draw inferences about other peoples’ beliefs, intentions and thoughts has been termed mentalizing, theory of mind or cognitive perspective taking. This capacity makes it possible, for instance, to understand that people may have views that differ from our own. Conversely, the capacity to share the feelings of others is called empathy. Empathy makes it possible to resonate with others’ positive and negative feelings alike — we can thus feel happy when we vicariously share the joy of others and we can share the experience of suffering when we empathize with someone in pain. Importantly, in empathy one feels with someone, but one does not confuse oneself with the other; that is, one still knows that the emotion one resonates with is the emotion of another. If this self–other distinction is not present, we speak of emotion contagion, a precursor of empathy that is already present in babies.
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Special Issue
the potentially very different outcomes
that empathic or compassionate
responses to others’ distress may
have, it is of great importance to
understand which factors determine
the emergence of these different
social emotions and to know more
about whether and how such
emotional responses can be trained
and changed.
Psychological perspective
Although the concepts of empathy
and compassion have existed for
many centuries, their scientific
study is relatively young. The term
empathy has its origins in the Greek
word ‘empatheia’ (passion), which is
composed of ‘en’ (in) and ‘pathos’
(feeling). The term empathy was
introduced into the English language
following the German notion of
‘Einfühlung’ (feeling into), which
originally described resonance with
works of art and only later was used
to describe the resonance between
human beings. The term compassion
is derived from the Latin origins
‘com’ (with/together) and ‘pati’ (to
suffer); it was introduced into the
English language through the French
word compassion. In spite of the
philosophical interest for empathy and
the fundamental role that compassion
plays in most religions and secular
ethics, it was not until the late 20th
century that researchers from social
and developmental psychology
started to study these phenomena
According to this line of
psychological research, an empathic
response to suffering can result in
two kinds of reactions: empathic
Empathy and
Tania Singer1,*
and Olga M. Klimecki2,3,4
As humans we are a highly social
species: in order to coordinate our
joint actions and assure successful
communication, we use language
skills to explicitly convey information
to each other, and social abilities
such as empathy or perspective
taking to infer another person’s
emotions and mental state. The
human cognitive capacity to draw
inferences about other peoples’
beliefs, intentions and thoughts has
been termed mentalizing, theory of
mind or cognitive perspective taking.
This capacity makes it possible, for
instance, to understand that people
may have views that differ from our
own. Conversely, the capacity to
share the feelings of others is called
empathy. Empathy makes it possible
to resonate with others’ positive and
negative feelings alike — we can thus
feel happy when we vicariously share
the joy of others and we can share
the experience of suffering when we
empathize with someone in pain.
Importantly, in empathy one feels with
someone, but one does not confuse
oneself with the other; that is, one still
knows that the emotion one resonates
with is the emotion of another. If this
self–other distinction is not present,
we speak of emotion contagion, a
precursor of empathy that is already
present in babies.
While shared happiness certainly
is a very pleasant state, the sharing
of suffering can at times be difficult,
especially when the self–other
distinction becomes blurred. Such
a form of shared distress can be
especially challenging for persons
working in helping professions, such
as doctors, therapists, and nurses.
In order to prevent an excessive
sharing of suffering that may turn
into distress, one may respond to the
suffering of others with compassion.
In contrast to empathy, compassion
does not mean sharing the suffering
of the other: rather, it is characterized
by feelings of warmth, concern and
care for the other, as well as a strong
motivation to improve the other’s
wellbeing. Compassion is feeling for
and not feeling with the other. Given
distress, which is also referred to as
personal distress; and compassion,
which is also referred to as empathic
concern or sympathy (Figure 1). For
simplicity, we will refer to empathic
distress and compassion when
speaking about these two different
families of emotions. While empathy
refers to our general capacity to
resonate with others’ emotional
states irrespective of their valence
positive or negative — empathic
distress refers to a strong aversive
and self-oriented response to the
suffering of others, accompanied
by the desire to withdraw from a
situation in order to protect oneself
from excessive negative feelings.
Compassion, on the other hand, is
conceived as a feeling of concern
for another person’s suffering
which is accompanied by the
motivation to help. By consequence,
it is associated with approach and
prosocial motivation.
Research by Daniel Batson and
Nancy Eisenberg in the fields of
social and developmental psychology
confirmed that people who feel
compassion in a given situation help
more often than people who suffer
from empathic distress. Furthermore,
Daniel Batsons’ work showed that
the extent to which people feel
compassion can, for instance, be
increased by explicitly instructing
participants to feel with the target
person. Interestingly, the capacity to
feel for another person is not only a
property of a person or a situation,
but can also be influenced by
In order to train social emotions like
compassion, recent psychological
Compassion Empathic distress
Other-related emotion
Positive feelings: e.g., love
Good health
Approach & prosocial motivation
Self-related emotion
Negative feelings: e.g., stress
Poor health, burnout
Withdrawal & non-social behavior
Current Biology
Figure 1. Compassion and empathic distress.
Schematic model that differentiates between two empathic reactions to the suffering of others.
Current Biology Vol 24 No 18
research has increasingly made use
of meditation-related techniques
that foster feelings of benevolence
and kindness. The most widely used
technique is called ‘loving kindness
training’. This form of mental practice
is carried out in silence and relies on
the cultivation of friendliness towards
a series of imagined persons. One
would usually start the practice by
visualizing a person one feels very
close to and then gradually extend
the feeling of kindness towards
others, including strangers and, at
a later stage, also people one has
difficulties with. Ultimately, this
practice aims at cultivating feelings
of benevolence towards all human
Using this kind of training,
researchers around Barbara
Fredrickson have shown that several
weeks of regular compassion training
can have a beneficial impact on self-
reported feelings of positive affect,
personal resources, and well-being
during everyday life. Interestingly,
the beneficial effects of compassion
training are not limited to the person
who is training, but can also benefit
others. More recent research in our
lab has shown that participants
who undergo loving kindness and
compassion training increased their
helping rates towards strangers in
a computer game when compared
to an active memory control group.
Interestingly, the amount of time
participants practiced compassion
predicted how much a certain type of
helping behavior increased, namely
pure altruistic helping as opposed
to reciprocity-based helping. This
indicates that compassion training
especially increases prosocial
motivation rather than just norm-
A neuroscientific perspective on
This purely behavioral psychological
research is more and more supported
and extended by recent findings from
social neuroscience. Some years
ago, this relatively new discipline
embarked on the investigation of
social emotions such as empathy
and compassion and their plasticity.
A multitude of neuroimaging
studies using functional magnetic
resonance imaging (fMRI) has, for
example, shown that empathizing
with another person’s feelings relies
on the activation of neural networks
that also support the first-person
experience of these feelings.
A very prominent way to study
such ‘shared neuronal networks’
underlying empathic experiences
is the domain of pain. In such
‘empathy for pain paradigms’,
scanned participants typically either
receive painful stimulation to body
parts themselves or are presented
with pictures or cues that indicate
that another person is currently
experiencing pain. By then comparing
the brain activations that are elicited
by the first-hand experience of pain
with those purely elicited by the
vicarious observation of another
person in pain, researchers have
repeatedly found evidence for the
existence of such shared neuronal
networks (Figure 2). For example,
meta-analyses on empathy for pain
studies have revealed that a portion
of the anterior insula and a specific
part of the anterior cingulate cortex
were consistently activated, both
during the experience of pain as well
as when vicariously feeling with the
suffering of others.
Importantly, the magnitude of these
empathy-related activations was
modulated by individual differences
in the degree to which participants
reported having experienced negative
feelings while empathizing with the
other. Although empathy has been
studied most extensively in the
domain of pain, similar paradigms
have also been used for the study
of touch, disgust, taste or social
rewards. Depending on the emotion in
question, such shared networks were
observed in somatosensory cortex
for vicarious neutral touch, medial
orbitofrontal cortex for vicarious
pleasant touch, ventral striatum for
shared social rewards and parts of the
anterior insula when empathizing with
taste and disgust.
After having established this basic
neural mechanism underlying our
ability to share feelings with others,
a second generation of empathy
studies — again mostly focusing on
vicarious pain — has investigated the
modulation of such empathic brain
responses by various factors. Indeed,
the results reveal that empathic brain
responses are modulated by factors
that range from person-specific
characteristics, such as gender,
to context-specific factors. For
example, in several fMRI studies in
our lab we could show that perceived
group membership or fairness of
another person matters for how much
empathy one will actually experience
for the other. Thus, witnessing the
suffering of a perceived in-group
member (same football team) or
of someone who played fairly in
economic games beforehand evoked
more pronounced empathy-related
anterior insula activations than when
witnessing an unfair person or an
out-group member (rival football
team) suffering pain. Importantly, the
magnitude of the empathy-related
signal in the anterior insula predicted
the extent to which participants
later engaged in altruistic helping
Figure 2. Neural network underlying empathy for pain.
Depicted functional neural activations on the right are the result of a meta-analysis based on
nine fMRI studies investigating empathy for pain. AI, anterior insula; aMCC, anterior middle
cingulate cortex; IFG, inferior frontal cortex. Right side of figure reproduced with permission
from Lamm et al. (2011).
Special Issue
Plasticity of the socio-emotional
Despite existing psychological
findings suggesting the possibility of
transforming social emotions through
training, it was only very recently that
neuroscience began to investigate
the neural plasticity underlying our
capacity for empathy and compassion
(Figure 3A). As usual in plasticity
research, one begins with cross-
sectional studies which compare
experts in a given field to novices. In
the case of studying the malleability
of the compassionate brain, the
experts were long-term meditators
that had trained compassion over
many years. The results of a study
conducted by Antoine Lutz and
Richard Davidson revealed that
when exposed to distressing sounds,
expert meditators reveal increased
activations in middle insula as
compared to novice meditators.
These studies were then followed
by longitudinal designs in which
meditation-naïve subjects underwent
short-term training of affective
In a series of studies performed
in our lab, for example, the brains
of meditation-naïve participants
were scanned before and after
they underwent either empathy or
compassion training. During the
scanning, participants were watching
short film excerpts depicting others’
suffering. Throughout the experiment,
participants provided self-reports
on their feelings in response to each
of these film clips. These studies
revealed that, in comparison to a
memory control group, short-term
compassion training of several days
was able to increase positive affect
and activations in a neural network
usually related to positive emotions
(spanning medial orbitofrontal cortex
and striatum; Figure 3B). This finding
underlines the malleability of social
emotions as it shows that a short-
term compassion training of several
days can foster positive feelings and
related brain activations, even when
persons are exposed to the distress
of others.
Interestingly, this compassion-
related brain network differed from
the above-mentioned networks
implicated in empathy for pain
(encompassing anterior insula and
anterior middle cingulate cortex). In
order to formally compare whether
plasticity involved in empathy training
differs from plasticity involved in
compassion training, we conducted
another longitudinal study in which
participants first engaged in empathy
training before receiving compassion
training in a second step (Figure 3C).
This study revealed that several
days of empathy training led to an
activation increase in insula and
anterior middle cingulate cortex,
as well as to an increase in self-
reported negative affect. In contrast,
subsequent compassion training in
the same participants could reverse
this effect by decreasing negative
affect and increasing positive
affect. In line with previous results,
compassion training again led to
an increase in a non-overlapping
brain network, including medial
orbitofrontal cortex and ventral
striatum (Figure 3C). The comparison
of the effects of both training regimes
on observed functional brain plasticity
thus indicates that empathy and
compassion training indeed elicited
changes in differential brain networks
associated with opposed patterns in
experienced affect.
Taken together, these results
underline the important distinction
between empathy and compassion,
Empathy for pain network
Compassion network
NAcc sgACC
Post 1
Post 2
Training 1Training 2
Current Biology
Post 1
Training 1
Empathy Compassion Overlaps with empathy meta-analysis
-43 -32 -10 8 12 32 44 52 18
x = 2x = 2
x = 8
GP, Put
x = 10
Figure 3. Differential neural networks for empathy and compassion.
(A) Training compassion or empathy leads to differential plasticity in neural networks. (B) Com-
passion training compared to memory training augments activations in ventral tegmental area/
substantia nigra (VTA/SN), medial orbitofrontal cortex (mOFC), and striatum, the latter span-
ning globus pallidus (GP) and putamen (Put). (C) Empathy training (in blue) leads to increased
activations in anterior insula (AI) and anterior middle cingulate cortex (aMCC), while subse-
quent compassion training (in red) augments activations in medial orbitofrontal cortex (mOFC),
subgenual anterior cingulate cortex (sgACC) and the ventral striatum/nucleus accumbens (VS,
NAcc). Original brain data in (B) and (C) adapted with permission from Klimecki et al. (2013).
Current Biology Vol 24 No 18
both on a psychological and
neurological level. Accordingly,
exposure to the distress and suffering
of others can lead to two different
emotional reactions. Empathic
distress, on the one hand, results in
negative feelings and is associated
with withdrawal. When experienced
chronically, empathic distress most
likely gives rise to negative health
outcomes. On the other hand,
compassionate responses are based
on positive, other-oriented feelings
and the activation of prosocial
motivation and behavior. Given the
potentially detrimental effects of
empathic distress, the finding of
existing plasticity of adaptive social
emotions is encouraging, especially
as compassion training not only
promotes prosocial behavior, but
also augments positive affect and
resilience, which in turn fosters better
coping with stressful situations.
This opens up many opportunities
for the targeted development of
adaptive social emotions and
motivation, which can be particularly
beneficial for persons working in
helping professions or in stressful
environments in general.
Future outlook
Despite these recent advances in
the neuroscientific study of social
phenomena such as empathy and
compassion and their plasticity,
many questions remain to be
answered. Currently, researchers are
investigating the longer-term effects
of different types of such socio-
affective training techniques, focusing
not only on their effect on functional
brain plasticity but also on changes
in brain structure, health-related
variables (stress hormones, immune
parameters, neurogenetic markers)
as well as ecologically valid everyday
behavior and cognition (thoughts,
prosocial actions, relationships to
Longitudinal follow-up studies will
also have to determine how long
such beneficial changes can be
maintained and how these changes
can be sustained. In addition, future
research is needed to delineate
in more detail the neurobiological
mechanisms underlying the
differential changes observed after
empathy and compassion training.
One such question relates to the
neurotransmitters that are involved.
And finally, future developmental
neuroscience research may be able to
determine critical periods throughout
ontogeny which indicate when it is
best to teach these socially relevant
skills during development. Such
knowledge could help to assure
an effective education fostering
subjective wellbeing, adaptive
emotion-regulation, meaningful
relationships and human prosociality.
Further reading
Batson, C.D. (2009). These things called empathy:
eight related but distinct phenomena. In The
Social Neuroscience of Empathy, J. Decety
and W. Ickes, eds. (Cambridge: MIT Press),
pp. 3–15.
de Vignemont, F., and Singer, T. (2006). The
empathic brain: how, when and why? Trends
Cogn. Sci. 10, 435–441.
Eisenberg, N. (2000). Emotion, regulation, and
moral development. Annu. Rev. Psychol. 51,
Fredrickson, B.L., Cohn, M.A., Coffey, K.A., Pek, J.,
and Finkel, S.M. (2008). Open hearts build lives:
positive emotions, induced through loving-
kindness meditation, build consequential
personal resources. J. Pers. Soc. Psychol. 95,
Frith, C.D., and Frith, U. (2006). The neural basis of
mentalizing. Neuron 50, 531–534.
Hein, G., Silani, G., Preuschoff, K., Batson, C.D.,
and Singer, T. (2010). Neural responses to
ingroup and outgroup members’ suffering
predict individual differences in costly helping.
Neuron 68, 149–160.
Klimecki, O.M., Leiberg, S., Lamm, C., and
Singer, T. (2013). Functional neural plasticity
and associated changes in positive affect
after compassion training. Cereb. Cortex 23,
Klimecki, O.M., Leiberg, S., Ricard, M., and
Singer, T. (2014). Differential pattern of
functional brain plasticity after compassion and
empathy training. Soc. Cogn. Affect. Neurosci.
9, 873–879.
Lamm, C., Decety, J., and Singer, T. (2011). Meta-
analytic evidence for common and distinct
neural networks associated with directly
experienced pain and empathy for pain.
Neuroimage 54, 2492–2502.
Leiberg, S., Klimecki, O., and Singer, T. (2011).
Short-term compassion training increases
prosocial behavior in a newly developed
prosocial game. PLoS One 6, e17798.
Lutz, A., Brefczynski-Lewis, J., Johnstone, T., and
Davidson, R.J. (2008). Regulation of the neural
circuitry of emotion by compassion meditation:
Effects of meditative expertise. PLoS One 3,
Singer, T. (2012). The past, present and future of
social neuroscience: a European perspective.
Neuroimage 61, 437–449.
Singer, T., Seymour, B., O’Doherty, J., Kaube, H.,
Dolan, R.J., and Frith, C.D. (2004). Empathy
for pain involves the affective but not sensory
components of pain. Science 303, 1157–1162.
¹Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive
and Brain Sciences, Department of Social
Neuroscience, Leipzig, Germany. ²Swiss
Center for Affective Sciences, University of
Geneva, Switzerland. ³Laboratory for the
Study of Emotion Elicitation and Expression,
Department of Psychology, University
of Geneva, Switzerland. 4Laboratory for
Behavioral Neurology and Imaging of
Cognition, Department of Neuroscience,
Medical School, University of Geneva,
Cochlear implants
Olivier Macherey1,*
and Robert P. Carlyon2
Cochlear implants are the first
example of a neural prosthesis that
can substitute a sensory organ: they
bypass the malfunctioning auditory
periphery of profoundly-deaf people
to electrically stimulate their auditory
nerve. The history of cochlear
implants dates back to 1957, when
Djourno and Eyriès managed, for the
first time, to elicit sound sensations
in a deaf listener using an electrode
implanted in his inner ear. Since
then, considerable technological
and scientific advances have been
made. Worldwide, more than 300,000
deaf people have been fitted with a
cochlear implant; it has become a
standard clinical procedure for born-
deaf children and its success has
led over the years to relaxed patient
selection criteria; for example, it is
now not uncommon to see people
with significant residual hearing
undergoing implantation. Although
the ability to make sense of sounds
varies widely among the implanted
population, many cochlear implant
listeners can use the telephone and
follow auditory-only conversations in
quiet environments.
The core functions of a cochlear
implant are to convert the input
sounds into meaningful electrical
stimulation patterns, and then to
deliver these patterns to the auditory
nerve fibers. In this primer, we shall
describe how these two steps are
performed, show how the original
information present in the sounds is
degraded as a result of both device
and sensory limitations, and discuss
current research trends aiming
to improve speech perception,
particularly in challenging listening
Normal and impaired hearing
In normal hearing, sound pressure
waves travel down the ear canal and
cause the eardrum to vibrate. These
vibrations are directly transmitted
to the entrance of the cochlea by
the small bones of the middle ear
(Figure 1). The cochlea is responsible
for transducing these mechanical
vibrations into action potentials that
will further propagate towards the
brain and eventually elicit a sound
... In other words, the mechanisms underlying our ability to understand and interact with our social environment shape the very information upon which a given psychosocial stress response is based [5]. We therefore hypothesize that our abilities to share the emotions of others (empathy; [6]), to generate positive feelings of concern and prosocial motivation towards others (compassion; [7]), and to understand their thoughts and believes (Theory of Mind; [17]) affect the way in which we react to psychosocial stress. Previous work on the topic has mostly focused on the causal effect of how psychosocial stress influences subsequent social processes [8][9][10]. ...
... While empathy is broadly understood as feeling with somebody else [6], compassion is about feeling for another person. More precisely, compassion is characterized by feelings of warmth and concern, as well as the motivation to help the other [7]. While empathic distress is a self-related negative state, often resulting in withdrawal to avoid negative affect, compassion is other-related, positive, linked to rewardand affiliation-related brain activity, and acts as a drive to care for the welfare of others [7]. ...
... More precisely, compassion is characterized by feelings of warmth and concern, as well as the motivation to help the other [7]. While empathic distress is a self-related negative state, often resulting in withdrawal to avoid negative affect, compassion is other-related, positive, linked to rewardand affiliation-related brain activity, and acts as a drive to care for the welfare of others [7]. ...
Full-text available
Through the long-term activation of sympathetic nervous system and hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, chronic psychosocial stress can compromise mental and bodily health. Psychosocial stress is determined by the perception of social interactions as ego-threatening, and thus strongly influenced by individual social processing capacities. In the current study, we investigated whether three key components of social processing are linked to how individuals respond to the experience of acute psychosocial stress exposure. Empathy, compassion, and Theory of Mind (ToM) were assessed using a state-of-the-art paradigm, the EmpaToM. Participants (N = 118) also underwent the Trier Social Stress Test (TSST), a standardized psychosocial laboratory stress test. Stress responses were measured in terms of salivary cortisol and alpha-amylase, heart-rate, high-frequency heart-rate variability (HF-HRV), and subjective stress experience. ToM performance correlated with different aspects of the acute psychosocial stress response. More specifically, higher levels of ToM were linked to increased alpha-amylase and reduced HF-HRV sensitivity to stress. Empathy and compassion levels had no influence on stress sensitivity. We conclude that ToM performance has a stable albeit contradictory association with acute psychosocial stress, while empathy and compassion tendencies appear to be largely unrelated. Overall, the relationship between EmpaToM-derived empathy, compassion, and ToM characteristics with stress sensitivity in the TSST is relatively weak.
... When the relevant literature is examined, it is observed that very different views have been expressed on showing compassion, fear of showing compassion, and fear of receiving compassion. Singer and Klimecki (2014) state that the possibility of harming the interests of the person or the group to which one is affiliated may prevent the individual from showing compassion to others or frighten him or her. A study by Neff and Pommier (2013) reports that the higher level of self-compassion an individual has, the higher this individual will empathize with others and be willing to help another person in case of need. ...
Full-text available
The main purpose of this research is to examine whether adults' trait anxiety, state anxiety, and gender together predict the fears of compassion (fear of compassion for others, fear of compassion from others, and fear of self-compassion). Besides, in this study, it was aimed to examine whether fears of compassion differ significantly according to trait anxiety levels (low, medium and high). The study group consisted of 437 (241 female and 196 male) adults. Data were collected using the State-Trait Anxiety Scale, the Fears of Compassion Scale, and the Personal Information Form. Data were analyzed using Multiple Linear Regression Analysis and One-way analysis of variance (ANOVA). Research findings of this study shows that adults' trait anxiety, state anxiety, and gender together predicts the 18% of the total variance in fear of compassion to others, 15% of total variance in fear of compassion from others, and 16% of total variance in fear of self-compassion. In addition, this study shows that while adults' anxiety levels (high, medium, and low) decrease, their fears of compassion decreases. The findings are discussed based on the relevant literature. The limitations of the research and suggestions for future theoretical and practical research are presented. Article Information
... Compassion consists of two components which are affective and motivational aspects. In the affective aspect, it involves emotional contagion that induces empathy such as empathic distress and compassion (Singer and Klimecki, 2014;Dahl et al., 2016). ...
... Compassion consists of two components which are affective and motivational aspects. In the affective aspect, it involves emotional contagion that induces empathy such as empathic distress and compassion (Singer and Klimecki, 2014;Dahl et al., 2016). ...
Full-text available
Loving-Kindness Meditation (LKM) is an efficient mental practice with long history that has recently attracted interest in the neuroscience, medical and education fields. However, the neural characters and underlying mechanism have not been fully illustrated, which hinders its practical usefulness. This study aimed to investigate LKM from aspects of interactions brain, heart and psychological measurements. A Buddhist monk practitioner was recruited to complete one 10-minute LKM and two 10-minute resting tasks (pre- and post-resting). Two sets of single-channel wearable EEG devices were used to collect EEG (placed at Fz and Pz) and heart rate simultaneously. A comprehensive performance evaluation was conducted in each session by filling a self-designed report. Spectrum analysis showed a significant increase of theta power (Fz: t = -3.356; p = 0.002; Pz: t = -5.199; p < 0.001) and decrease of heart rate between pre- and post-resting tasks (t = 4.092, p < 0.001). The analysis showed a negative correlation between theta power and heart rate (Fz: r = -0.681, p < 0.001; Pz: r = -0.384, p = 0.008), and positive correlation between theta power and the self-designed report score (Fz: r= 0.601, p < 0.001). These findings suggest that LKM is accompanied by significant neurophysiological changes, mainly increasing the slow-wave such as theta wave and decreasing heart rate. The heart-brain connection increases after LKM meditation. More importantly, subjective psychological assessment is correlated with objective neurophysiological measurement in a long-term meditator. The use of the wearable device for LKM implicates its potential in real-life.
... On the other hand, several types of research (Diazgranados, Selman andDionne, 2016, Singer andKlimecki, 2014) show that the ability to establish healthy and constructive interpersonal relationships is correlated with the development of mental and affective skills and dispositions, that can serve as the foundations for collaboration and ethical and civic behavior (García-Cabrero & Alba, 2008). ...
Background: Veterinarians report high levels of psychological distress and self-criticism. However, there is minimal research investigating psychological interventions for veterinarians. Evidence suggests that compassion-focused therapy is effective at reducing distress in those with high self-criticism. This study aimed to investigate the feasibility and preliminary effectiveness of a 2-week online compassionate imagery intervention for veterinarians. Methods: A one-group repeated measures design was used with 128 veterinarians. Participants completed measures of perfectionism, self-criticism, self-reassurance and fears of compassion four times, at 2-week intervals (at baseline, pre-intervention, post-intervention and 2-week follow-up). Participants answered written questions about their intervention experience post-intervention. Results: Content analysis of the qualitative data found the intervention to be acceptable and beneficial to participants. Overall, study attrition was 50.8%, which is reasonable for a low-cost intervention. Minimal differences were found between participants who dropped out compared to those who completed the intervention. Perfectionism, work-related rumination and self-criticism were significantly reduced post-intervention, and these effects were maintained at follow-up. Resilience and self-reassurance remained unchanged. Fears of compassion reduced over the baseline period and pre-post intervention, questioning the validity of the measure. Conclusion: Overall, in the context COVID-19, the intervention showed impressive feasibility and preliminary effectiveness. Randomised control trials are recommended as the next step for research to establish the intervention's effectiveness.
Developing a sustainable world requires more than a team of sustainable development experts. It involves the work of students, teachers, material designers, and policymakers, whose efforts contribute to a more sustainable world. Hence, the focus of the present study was to examine the impact of a sustainable education on the reading comprehension and empathy of English language learners. English is considered a foreign but promising language in Iran. So, the program was performed in an English reading comprehension course and the participants were 10-year-old children (N = 48). The current study was conducted at a private primary school in Kerman city, the center of Kerman province, Iran. Quantitative data were collected and presented using pre-and post-reading tests to track the potential changes in students’ reading comprehension. Self-reported questionnaires were also used to examine participants’ empathy at the beginning and end of the project. The results revealed that the sustainable education group outperformed the control group in the post-reading tests. It is also reported that learners’ levels of empathy increased after implementing sustainability-based instruction. In brief, integrating sustainable education strategies into English language reading instruction is beneficial to children’s personal and academic achievements.
Individuals demonstrate a wide range of responses when they encounter individuals or groups that appear in some way to be different from who they are. Chapter 1 focused on how and why individuals categorize themselves and others; this chapter focuses on how individuals respond as individuals to others who they perceive to be different.KeywordsAltruismBiasCompassionDiscriminationEmpathyMicroaggressionsRacism
Negative emotions play a dominant role in daily human life, and mentalizing and empathy are also basic sociability in social life. However, little is known regards the neurophysiological pattern of negative experiences in immersive environments and how people with different sociabilities respond to the negative emotional stimuli at behavioral and neural levels. The present study investigated the neurophysiological representation of negative affective experiences and whether such variations are associated with one's sociability. To address this question, we examined four types of negative emotions that frequently occurred in real life: angry, anxious, fearful, and helpless. We combined naturalistic neuroimaging under virtual reality, multimodal neurophysiological recording, and behavioral measures. Inter-subject representational similarity analysis was conducted to capture the individual differences in the neurophysiological representations of negative emotional experiences. The behavioral and neurophysiological indices revealed that although the emotion ratings were uniquely different, a similar electroencephalography response pattern across these negative emotions was found over the parieto-occipital electrodes. Furthermore, the neurophysiological representations indeed reflected interpersonal variations regarding mentalizing and empathic abilities. Our findings yielded a common pattern of neurophysiological responses toward different negative affective experiences in VR. Moreover, the current results indicate the potential of taking a sociability perspective for understanding the interpersonal variations in the neurophysiological representation of emotion.
Objectives: Compassion-focused therapy (CFT) is shown to be an effective psychological intervention; however, patients can experience resistance to CFT due to preconceptions regarding the term 'compassion'. This study aims to obtain guidance from therapists in how to overcome these resistances DESIGN: This is the first study using the Delphi methodology to ask CFT therapists about how their patients understanding of the term compassion might act as a barrier to engaging with an otherwise beneficial therapy. Methods: Two rounds of interview questions were posed to 15 expert CFT therapists. Results: The results provide verification that there is resistance to CFT due to preconceptions around 'compassion', specifically its association with 'pity', 'weakness' and low-rank social positions. Further, this appears to be pronounced in patients who value competitiveness. Conclusions: The results have practical implications such as the need for therapists to acknowledge the potential for resistance and the need for experiential strategies and illustrative examples of compassion to facilitate successful engagement with CFT.
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Although empathy is crucial for successful social interactions, excessive sharing of others’ negative emotions may be maladaptive and constitute a source of burnout. To investigate functional neural plasticity underlying the augmentation of empathy and to test the counteracting potential of compassion, one group of participants was first trained in empathic resonance and subsequently in compassion. In response to videos depicting human suffering, empathy training, but not memory training (control group), increased negative affect and brain activations in anterior insula and anterior midcingulate cortex—brain regions previously associated with empathy for pain. In contrast, subsequent compassion training could reverse the increase in negative effect and, in contrast, augment self-reports of positive affect. In addition, compassion training increased activations in a non-overlapping brain network spanning ventral striatum, pregenual anterior cingulate cortex and medial orbitofrontal cortex. We conclude that training compassion may reflect a new coping strategy to overcome empathic distress and strengthen resilience.
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The development of social emotions such as compassion is crucial for successful social interactions as well as for the maintenance of mental and physical health, especially when confronted with distressing life events. Yet, the neural mechanisms supporting the training of these emotions are poorly understood. To study affective plasticity in healthy adults, we measured functional neural and subjective responses to witnessing the distress of others in a newly developed task (Socio-affective Video Task). Participants' initial empathic responses to the task were accompanied by negative affect and activations in the anterior insula and anterior medial cingulate cortex-a core neural network underlying empathy for pain. Whereas participants reacted with negative affect before training, compassion training increased positive affective experiences, even in response to witnessing others in distress. On the neural level, we observed that, compared with a memory control group, compassion training elicited activity in a neural network including the medial orbitofrontal cortex, putamen, pallidum, and ventral tegmental area-brain regions previously associated with positive affect and affiliation. Taken together, these findings suggest that the deliberate cultivation of compassion offers a new coping strategy that fosters positive affect even when confronted with the distress of others.
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Compassion has been suggested to be a strong motivator for prosocial behavior. While research has demonstrated that compassion training has positive effects on mood and health, we do not know whether it also leads to increases in prosocial behavior. We addressed this question in two experiments. In Experiment 1, we introduce a new prosocial game, the Zurich Prosocial Game (ZPG), which allows for repeated, ecologically valid assessment of prosocial behavior and is sensitive to the influence of reciprocity, helping cost, and distress cues on helping behavior. Experiment 2 shows that helping behavior in the ZPG increased in participants who had received short-term compassion training, but not in participants who had received short-term memory training. Interindividual differences in practice duration were specifically related to changes in the amount of helping under no-reciprocity conditions. Our results provide first evidence for the positive impact of short-term compassion training on prosocial behavior towards strangers in a training-unrelated task.
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A growing body of evidence suggests that empathy for pain is underpinned by neural structures that are also involved in the direct experience of pain. In order to assess the consistency of this finding, an image-based meta-analysis of nine independent functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) investigations and a coordinate-based meta-analysis of 32 studies that had investigated empathy for pain using fMRI were conducted. The results indicate that a core network consisting of bilateral anterior insular cortex and medial/anterior cingulate cortex is associated with empathy for pain. Activation in these areas overlaps with activation during directly experienced pain, and we link their involvement to representing global feeling states and the guidance of adaptive behavior for both self- and other-related experiences. Moreover, the image-based analysis demonstrates that depending on the type of experimental paradigm this core network was co-activated with distinct brain regions: While viewing pictures of body parts in painful situations recruited areas underpinning action understanding (inferior parietal/ventral premotor cortices) to a stronger extent, eliciting empathy by means of abstract visual information about the other's affective state more strongly engaged areas associated with inferring and representing mental states of self and other (precuneus, ventral medial prefrontal cortex, superior temporal cortex, and temporo-parietal junction). In addition, only the picture-based paradigms activated somatosensory areas, indicating that previous discrepancies concerning somatosensory activity during empathy for pain might have resulted from differences in experimental paradigms. We conclude that social neuroscience paradigms provide reliable and accurate insights into complex social phenomena such as empathy and that meta-analyses of previous studies are a valuable tool in this endeavor.
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B. L. Fredrickson's (1998, 2001) broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions asserts that people's daily experiences of positive emotions compound over time to build a variety of consequential personal resources. The authors tested this build hypothesis in a field experiment with working adults (n = 139), half of whom were randomly-assigned to begin a practice of loving-kindness meditation. Results showed that this meditation practice produced increases over time in daily experiences of positive emotions, which, in turn, produced increases in a wide range of personal resources (e.g., increased mindfulness, purpose in life, social support, decreased illness symptoms). In turn, these increments in personal resources predicted increased life satisfaction and reduced depressive symptoms. Discussion centers on how positive emotions are the mechanism of change for the type of mind-training practice studied here and how loving-kindness meditation is an intervention strategy that produces positive emotions in a way that outpaces the hedonic treadmill effect.
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Research and theory on the role of emotion and regulation in morality have received considerable attention in the last decade. Much relevant work has concerned the role of moral emotions in moral behavior. Research on differences between embarrassment, guilt, and shame and their relations to moral behavior is reviewed, as is research on the association of these emotions with negative emotionality and regulation. Recent issues concerning the role of such empathy-related responses as sympathy and personal distress to prosocial and antisocial behavior are discussed, as is the relation of empathy-related responding to situational and dispositional emotionality and regulation. The development and socialization of guilt, shame, and empathy also are discussed briefly. In addition, the role of nonmoral emotions (e.g. anger and sadness), including moods and dispositional differences in negative emotionality and its regulation, in morally relevant behavior, is reviewed.
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Our ability to have an experience of another's pain is characteristic of empathy. Using functional imaging, we assessed brain activity while volunteers experienced a painful stimulus and compared it to that elicited when they observed a signal indicating that their loved one—present in the same room—was receiving a similar pain stimulus. Bilateral anterior insula (AI), rostral anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), brainstem, and cerebellum were activated when subjects received pain and also by a signal that a loved one experienced pain. AIand ACC activation correlated with individual empathy scores. Activity in the posterior insula/secondary somatosensory cortex, the sensorimotor cortex (SI/MI), and the caudal ACC was specific to receiving pain. Thus, a neural response in AIand rostral ACC, activated in common for “self” and “other” conditions, suggests that the neural substrate for empathic experience does not involve the entire “pain matrix.” We conclude that only that part of the pain network associated with its affective qualities, but not its sensory qualities, mediates empathy.
Students of empathy can seem a cantankerous lot. Although they typically agree that empathy is important, they often disagree about why it is important, about what effects it has, about where it comes from, and even about what it is. The term empathy is currently applied to more than a half-dozen phenomena. These phenomena are related to one another, but they are not elements, aspects, facets, or components of a single thing that is empathy, as one might say that an attitude has cognitive, affective, and behavioral components. Rather, each is a conceptually distinct, stand-alone psychological state. Further, each of these states has been called by names other than empathy. Opportunities for disagreement abound. In an attempt to sort out this disagreement, I wish first to identify two distinct questions that empathy is thought to answer. Then I wish to identify eight distinct phenomena that have been called empathy. Finally, I wish to relate these eight phenomena to the two questions. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
This review provides an overview of the field of social neuroscience from a European perspective and focuses mainly on outlining research topics which originated in European laboratories. After a brief historical synopsis of the emergence of this young field, the most relevant findings related to the investigation of the neural networks underlying our capacity to understand the minds of others are summarized. More specifically, three routes of social cognition are distinguished: (1) our capacity to mentalize, or to infer intentions and beliefs of others, (2) our capacity to mimic and understand other's motor actions, and (3) our capacity to empathize, or to share and understand the feelings of others. More recent studies focusing on social emotions such as love, compassion, revenge or our sense of fairness will be discussed linking the field of social neuroscience to the even younger field of neuroeconomics, with the focus on the study of human social interactions using game theoretical paradigms. Finally, the use of a multi-method and multi-disciplinary research approach combining genetic, pharmacological, computational and developmental aspects is advocated and future directions for the study of interactive minds are discussed.
Little is known about the neurobiological mechanisms underlying prosocial decisions and how they are modulated by social factors such as perceived group membership. The present study investigates the neural processes preceding the willingness to engage in costly helping toward ingroup and outgroup members. Soccer fans witnessed a fan of their favorite team (ingroup member) or of a rival team (outgroup member) experience pain. They were subsequently able to choose to help the other by enduring physical pain themselves to reduce the other's pain. Helping the ingroup member was best predicted by anterior insula activation when seeing him suffer and by associated self-reports of empathic concern. In contrast, not helping the outgroup member was best predicted by nucleus accumbens activation and the degree of negative evaluation of the other. We conclude that empathy-related insula activation can motivate costly helping, whereas an antagonistic signal in nucleus accumbens reduces the propensity to help.