Stress Dictates How Much We Empathize with Strangers

How you empathize with a stranger all depends on how stressed you are in that moment. A recent study shows that stress hormones have the power to "veto" our empathic abilities.

When someone else is in pain mice and humans share the ability to empathize with what their fellows are feeling. However, when under stress that feeling of empathy could become lost, according to a new study.

The BBC reported on the study, where researchers used human participants and mice to back their findings, which were publish in Current Biology.

The mice were given a stress-blocking drug, after which researchers watched how they responded to other, unfamiliar mice in pain. The mice, reacted to the stanger-mice in pain as they would to a mouse that was familiar to them. However, when put under stress the mice held less empathy toward a mouse that wasn't familiar to them.

The study showed the exact same reaction in humans who took the stress-reducing drug. In this case, student participants were asked watch an actor plunging his hand into ice-cold water for 30 seconds. Researchers monitored their reactions, noting they touched their corresponding hand, and if another recent study is any indication that hand might have even dropped in temperature. Researchers noted that those who didn't take the drug had a less dramatic reaction towards the actor plunging his hand in the icy water.

The stress center of the brain has the power to override our empathic abilities, according to Dr. Jeffrey Mogil, the study's author and Neuroscientist from McGill University in Canada. He says that whenever humans are in a room with someone they don't know, there's a stress response. But he says this stress can quickly dissipate with an ice-breaking game. The researchers used one on their participants called Rock Band.

Read more at BBC

Photo Credit: Pressmaster/Shutterstock

LinkedIn meets Tinder in this mindful networking app

Swipe right to make the connections that could change your career.

Getty Images
Swipe right. Match. Meet over coffee or set up a call.

No, we aren't talking about Tinder. Introducing Shapr, a free app that helps people with synergistic professional goals and skill sets easily meet and collaborate.

Keep reading Show less

The dos and don’ts of helping a drug-addicted person recover

How you talk to people with drug addiction might save their life.

  • Addiction is a learning disorder; it's not a sign that someone is a bad person.
  • Tough love doesn't help drug-addicted people. Research shows that the best way to get people help is through compassion, empathy and support. Approach them as an equal human being deserving of respect.
  • As a first step to recovery, Maia Szalavitz recommends the family or friends of people with addiction get them a complete psychiatric evaluation by somebody who is not affiliated with any treatment organization. Unfortunately, warns Szalavitz, some people will try to make a profit off of an addicted person without informing them of their full options.
Keep reading Show less

10 science photos that made history and changed minds

These photos of scientific heroes and accomplishments inspire awe and curiosity.

Surprising Science
  • Science has given humanity an incalculable boost over the recent centuries, changing our lives in ways both awe-inspiring and humbling.
  • Fortunately, photography, a scientific feat in and of itself, has recorded some of the most important events, people and discoveries in science, allowing us unprecedented insight and expanding our view of the world.
  • Here are some of the most important scientific photos of history:
Keep reading Show less

In a first for humankind, China successfully sprouts a seed on the Moon

China's Chang'e 4 biosphere experiment marks a first for humankind.

Image source: CNSA
Surprising Science
  • China's Chang'e 4 lunar lander touched down on the far side of the moon on January 3.
  • In addition to a lunar rover, the lander carried a biosphere experiment that contains five sets of plants and some insects.
  • The experiment is designed to test how astronauts might someday grow plants in space to sustain long-term settlements.
Keep reading Show less