Your brain might be hard-wired for altruism:  studies suggest potential avenues for increasing empathy

It’s an age-old quandary: Are we born “noble savages” whose best intentions are corrupted by civilization, as the 18th century Swiss philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau contended? Or are we fundamentally selfish brutes who need civilization to rein in our base impulses, as the 17th century English philosopher Thomas Hobbes argued?

 

After exploring the areas of the brain that fuel our empathetic impulses — and temporarily disabling other regions that oppose those impulses — two UCLA neuroscientists are coming down on the optimistic side of human nature….

 

 

The findings of both studies suggest potential avenues for increasing empathy, which is especially critical in treating people who have experienced desensitizing situations like prison or war.

“The study is important proof of principle that with a noninvasive procedure you can make people behave in a more prosocial way,” Iacoboni said.

 

 Meg Sullivan