Add a dash of empathy, please

by Bruce Kasanoff on November 23, 2009

The New York Times reports that: a raft of new research in humans suggests that (the peptide hormone) oxytocin underlies the twin emotional pillars of civilized life, our capacity to feel empathy and trust. Reporting this month in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers found that genetic differences in people’s responsiveness to the effects of oxytocin were linked to their ability to read faces, infer the emotions of others, feel distress at others’ hardship and even to identify with characters in a novel.

By my layman’s read, in this regard here are two ways we can be different. First, if we are genetically more or less responsive. Second, if our bodies produce more or less oxytocin. I’d guess neither has much to with whether we grew up with a privileged background, were raised with good principles, or had good teachers. Our differences start at a much deeper level.

“We’re all different, and that’s a good thing,” said an author of the study, Dr. Sarina M. Rodrigues. “If everyone were gooey and lovey-dovey, it would be an obnoxious world.”

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