Posts tagged empathy

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Are you made of stone

A couple of British researchers just possibly enhanced (complicated) my empathy research jam. Good news: circuitry clarification. Meh news: more scales please! CheersThanksaLot.

Most empathy research in the forensic context has assumed that empathy has two components. In this two-component model, the cognitive component involves perspective taking, and the affective component involves experiencing appropriate emotion. (…) this assumption has both dominated and limited empathy research with offenders, nearly all of which has been conducted with sexual offenders. We propose instead that five components are involved in the experience of empathy: perspective taking, the ability to experience emotion, a belief that others are worthy of compassion and respect, situational factors, and an ability to manage personal distress. We suggest that the non-situational factors that blocked empathy for the victim at the time of a sexual offense are probably other dispositions known to be related to sexual offending, such as sexual preoccupation, generalized hostility to others, implicit theories about children and sex, and/or poor coping with negative emotions.  [via. IMG]

Not so secretly fascinated by robots these days, I found this golden nugget that was presented this week at the AISB/IACAP World Congress 2012 in Birmingham, UK, about robots, theory of mind and empathy.
MORAL COGNITION & THEORY OF MIND

The dangers inherent in autonomous systems initiating kill orders are a central concern for critics of military robots. They commonly point out the fact that present day robots lack situational awareness and are unable to distinguish combatants from non-combatants.  Nor will robots be likely to have the necessary capabilities to perform these tasks in the near future. Distinguishing friend from foe, for example, is also a difficult challenge for humans, but we bring cognitive resources to bear on the problem that are unavailable to robots. [via]

img of Nico who exhibits “primitive self awareness” as he is able to recognize himself in a mirror -from MIT’s Kevin Gold, collaborator with Yale’s Brian Scassellati.

Not so secretly fascinated by robots these days, I found this golden nugget that was presented this week at the AISB/IACAP World Congress 2012 in Birmingham, UK, about robots, theory of mind and empathy.

MORAL COGNITION & THEORY OF MIND

The dangers inherent in autonomous systems initiating kill orders are a central concern for critics of military robots. They commonly point out the fact that present day robots lack situational awareness and are unable to distinguish combatants from non-combatants.  Nor will robots be likely to have the necessary capabilities to perform these tasks in the near future. Distinguishing friend from foe, for example, is also a difficult challenge for humans, but we bring cognitive resources to bear on the problem that are unavailable to robots. [via]

img of Nico who exhibits “primitive self awareness” as he is able to recognize himself in a mirror -from MIT’s Kevin Gold, collaborator with Yale’s Brian Scassellati.

“Psychopaths’ Brains Deviate—And That’s Good”

The headline for me would be that we should be more hopeful about the treatability of [nonpsychopaths] than perhaps we are,” he says. “Lumping them all together with the psychopathic group and being therapeutically pessimistic about them isn’t justified. 

I like that Dr. Nigel Blackwood is giving his own headline since, you know, journalists. This study looked at the anterior rostral prefrontal cortex and the temporal poles which are highly interconnected with the amygdala, and found reduced grey matter (translating to less neural structure) that plays a role in “empathy, moral reasoning, and feelings of guilt”.  Still missing is the hope center. K, I’ll let that go now. 
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Psychopaths’ Brains Deviate—And That’s Good

The headline for me would be that we should be more hopeful about the treatability of [nonpsychopaths] than perhaps we are,” he says. “Lumping them all together with the psychopathic group and being therapeutically pessimistic about them isn’t justified. 

I like that Dr. Nigel Blackwood is giving his own headline since, you know, journalists. This study looked at the anterior rostral prefrontal cortex and the temporal poles which are highly interconnected with the amygdala, and found reduced grey matter (translating to less neural structure) that plays a role in “empathy, moral reasoning, and feelings of guilt”.  Still missing is the hope center. K, I’ll let that go now. 

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"Emotion and Morality in Psychopathy and Paraphilias"

Many sex offenders suffer from a paraphilia. Paraphilias are disorders characterized by recurrent and intrusive deviant sexual impulses. One paraphilia that shares some characteristics with psychopathy is sexual sadism.

Sadism, like psychopathy, is characterized by callousness, anger, and low empathy. Sadists derive sexual gratification from inflicting physical or emotional pain and suffering on others, and may thus represent the extreme end of the moral sensitivity spectrum” ranging from compassion to callousness. They show increased arousal (measured by penile plethsymograph responses) when perceiving people in pain, in sexual or nonsexual situations.

While this clearly represents profound moral insensitivity, the capacity for “normal” moral judgment has not been directly investigated in this disorder. Sadists may be less likely than other sex offenders to show cognitive distortions that justify moral transgressions, since an understanding of the immorality of their actions (causing harm) is precisely what facilitates sexual gratification. Thus, like psychopaths they appear to understand the wrongness of their actions. [via]

Unlike psychopaths who know right from wrong but just don’t care, I suggest that sadists, who also enjoy inflicting pain/suffering, would show increased activation in the domain specific frontoinsular (FI) cortex, hinting at a higher sense of a certain type of empathy (comparatively) and regulation of moral judgement, depending on amount of emotional processing exercised. Pleasure and reward centers should show similair activation. wah-psh.

ResearchBlogging.org

Harenski, C., & Kiehl, K. (2011). Emotion and Morality in Psychopathy and Paraphilias Emotion Review, 3 (3), 299-301 DOI: 10.1177/1754073911402378

Greene JD, Sommerville RB, Nystrom LE, Darley JM, & Cohen JD (2001). An fMRI investigation of emotional engagement in moral judgment. Science (New York, N.Y.), 293 (5537), 2105-8 PMID: 11557895

Is Neuroscience Incompatible with the Idea of Evil?

Most evil acts are not committed by the serial killers, the deranged, the lone demon. (…) Hitler may have been innately evil, but many of the Nazis who did the most gruesome acts were no more evil than your or I. Sad to say, but the subjects in Zimbardo’s infamous prison experiment were just regular college students. There was nothing in their brain structure that would predict their cruelty. Most of it came from the situation. Even if we understood 100% of the human brain, there is every likelihood that we would still just barely begin to understand why people can be so cruel, until we understand the environent itself.

I feel like Psychology Today is where people write opinions that attempt to please with an uplifting spin on semi current issues or cliche, kicked-to-death topics. The Glamour magazine of psychology sites. This happens to be one piece close to a actual critique, even though I still take issue with most of it.

Physician's Empathy Directly Associated With Positive Clinical Outcomes

It has been thought that the quality of the physician-patient relationship is integral to positive outcomes but until now, data to confirm such beliefs has been hard to find. Through a landmark study, a research team from Jefferson Medical College (JMC) of Thomas Jefferson University has been able to quantify a relationship between physicians’ empathy and their patients’ positive clinical outcomes, suggesting that a physician’s empathy is an important factor associated with clinical competence.

I’ve always appreciated a straight shooter, the focus is where it should be.