The Neuro-Situation of Violence and Empathy
Posted by The Situationist Staff on April 11, 2010
“Just as our species could be considered the most violent, since we are capable of serial killings, genocide and other atrocities, we are also the most empathetic species, which would seem to be the other side of the coin”, Luis Moya Albiol, lead author of the study and a researcher at the UV, tells SINC.
This study, published in the most recent issue of the Revista de Neurología, concludes that the prefrontal and temporal cortex, the amygdala and other features of the limbic system (such as insular and cingular cortexcortex) play “a fundamental role in all situations in which empathy appears”.
Moya Albiol says these parts of the brain overlap “in a surprising way” with those that regulate aggression and violence. As a result, the scientific team argues that the cerebral circuits – for both empathy and violence – could be “partially similar”.
“We all know that encouraging empathy has an inhibiting effect on violence, but this may not only be a social question but also a biological one – stimulation of these neuronal circuits in one direction reduces their activity in the other”, the researcher adds.
This means it is difficult for a “more empathetic” brain to behave in a violent way, at least on a regular basis. “Educating people to be empathetic could be an education for peace, bringing about a reduction in conflict and belligerent acts”, the researcher concludes.
Techniques for measuring the human brain “in vivo”, such as functional magnetic resonance imaging, are making it possible to find out more about the structures of the brain that regulate behaviour and psychological processes such as empathy.
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These findings were published in the latest issue of Revista de Neurología.
For a sample of related Situationist posts, see “The Situation of Morality and Empathy,” “The Situation of Kindness,” “The Situation of Caring,” “New Study Looks at the Roots of Empathy,” “The Situational Effect of Groups,” “The Situational Benefits of Outsiders,” “Racism Meets Groupism and Teamism,” “‘Us’ and ‘Them,’” “Team-Interested Decision Making,” “Some (Interior) Situational Sources War – Part I,” “The Case for Obedience,” and “March Madness.”