Less Empathy Toward Outsiders: Brain Differences Reinforce Preferences For Those In Same Social Group
An observer feels more empathy for someone in pain when that person is in the same social group, according to new research in the July 1 issue of The Journal of Neuroscience. The study shows that perceiving others in pain activates a part of the brain associated with empathy and emotion more if the observer and the observed are the same race. The findings may show that unconscious prejudices against outside groups exist at a basic level. The study confirms an in-group bias in empathic feelings, something that has long been known but never before confirmed by neuroimaging technology. "Our findings have significant implications for understanding real-life social behaviors and social interactions," said Shihui Han, PhD, at Peking University in China, one of the study authors. Other recent brain imaging studies show that feeling empathy for others in pain stimulates a brain area called the anterior cingulate cortex. But the finding raises as many questions as it answers, Farah said.