13 Jan Why are some people empathic and others aren’t?
All of us are born with the capacity for empathy because it is wired into our brain. However, some people have limited capacity for empathy, such as people with autism, Aspergers and psychopathy. Borderline Personality Disorder, schizophrenia and conduct disorders also affect the capacity for empathy. (Read Mental Health Disorders to learn more about this.)
So researchers decided to study people who meet the criteria for psychopathy (aka psychopaths) because one of the traits of a psychopath is a lack of empathy. Researchers wanted to look inside the brains of psychopaths and find out what was going on—how are they different and why? Sure enough, they found a difference in their brains when it comes to empathy.
When shown pictures of other people in pain, the psychopaths’ brains did not light up in the regions associated with empathy. In fact, for extremely psychopathic individuals, the brains lit up in areas associated with pleasure (!). However, when they imagined the pain happening to themselves, the regions associated with empathy did light up. This shows that the brain areas responsible for empathy are working, but just not in relation to other people as they should be.
So what happened? Why does this 1% of the population diagnosed as psychopathic not show empathy the way others do? Well, apparently it’s in their genes. No, not the fashionable ones you wear all the time, the ones floating around throughout our bodies. Some of us are more prone to it than others, but no worries, our capacity for empathy can always be increased! Read on….
Do you know people who are really not empathic? How do they make you feel when you are with them?