Stressed people show less empathy towards strangers

The study suggested that a drug that blocks stress hormones increases the ability of college students and mice to feel the pain of a stranger and that phenomenon, known as “emotional contagion of pain” is one form of empathy.

Jeffrey Mogil of McGill University in Montreal, said that they found what in some sense might be thought of as the secret to empathy, that is, what prevents it from occurring more often between strangers and the secret is quite simply stress, and in particular the social stress of being in close proximity with a stranger.