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Are Empathy and Violence Related?

A Spanish researcher has concluded the manner in which brain functions overlap may provide a new approach to reduce violence.

“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, said.

The 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 the cingulate cortex) 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 behavior and psychological processes such as empathy.

Source: FECYT – Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology

Are Empathy and Violence Related?

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2016). Are Empathy and Violence Related?. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 25, 2018, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2010/04/12/are-empathy-and-violence-related/12751.html

 

Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 5 Jul 2016
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 5 Jul 2016
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