Scientific American has an insightful and beautifully written article asking whether it is possible to make sense of empathy using brain scans.
Neuroscience studies are increasingly focusing on what science calls ‘high level’ concepts and what those outside the field might just call ‘vague’.
Empathy is probably not in the ‘vague’ category although it is true to say that there are several competing definitions and no standard way of measuring it.
It does have huge intuitive appeal, however, leading to a boom in brain scanning studies that are trying to pin down how we understand other people’s emotions.
The SciAm piece takes a trip to the Saxelab Social Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory at MIT to take a look at how at how a study is attempting to understand the neuroscience of empathy, as well as asking some searching questions about whether we are over-simplifying the problem
A short but excellent piece of writing.