Your Brain Can Learn to Empathize with Outside Groups

A new study shows that having a few positive experiences with strangers from another group can trigger empathetic brain responses towards members of this unfamiliar outside group.

Looking back on 2015, the most disturbing trends in the news for me were: the growing divide between the “haves” and “have nots,” increasing xenophobia, and the portrayal of strangers and refugees in specific outside groups as all being potential terrorists. Instead of a sentiment of “one for all and all for one,” there is a growing feeling of every man for himself in a dog-eat-dog world of “us” against “them.”..

For this study, psychologist and neuroscientist Grit Hein(link is external) teamed up with Philippe Tobler, Jan Engelmann, and Marius Vollberg to measure brain activity in participants who had positive social experiences both with a member of their own group (ingroup member) compared with someone from a group of strangers (outgroup member).

Christopher Bergland