Perhaps one of the most defining features of humanity is our capacity for empathy – the ability to put ourselves in others’ shoes. A new University of Virginia study strongly suggests that we are hardwired to empathize because we closely associate people who are close to us – friends, spouses, lovers – with our very selves.
“With familiarity, other people become part of ourselves,” said James Coan, a U.Va. psychology professor in the College of Arts & Sciences who used functional magnetic resonance imaging brain scans to find that people closely correlate people to whom they are attached to themselves. The study appears in the August issue of the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience.
“Our self comes to include the people we feel close to,” Coan said.
U.Va. psychologist James A. Coan conducted the study. “People close to us become a part of ourselves, and that is not just metaphor or poetry, it’s very real,”
by Fariss Samarrai