How Diversity Makes Us More Empathetic

New research suggests that increased contact with people from different races can increase our empathy towards others.

The study, conducted by psychology scholar Yuan Cao of the University of Queensland and colleagues, was published in the September 2015 issue of the journal Cortex. It included 23 recent Chinese immigrants to Australia and explored the topic of “neural empathy,” or the way our brain reacts when we see others in pain.

The strength of this reaction is thought to be related to the relationship between ourselves and the person in pain. That is, our brain reacts more strongly when people in our “in-group” are in pain than when people in an “out-group” are in pain…

Although the sample size was small, the study suggests that being exposed to people who are racially different from us can actually change how our brain reacts to them empathetically. “Overall,” they report, “our study shows that racial bias in neural empathy changes rapidly with experience in new immigrants.”

By Lauren Griffin