Human Brains Are Hardwired for Empathy, Friendship

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Human Brains Are Hardwired for Empathy, Friendship


 Perhaps one of the most defining features of humanity is our capacity for empathy - the ability to put ourselves in others' shoes. A new study strongly suggests that we are hardwired to empathize because we closely associate people who are close to us -friends, spouses, lovers - with our very selves.


"Experiments are the only means of knowledge at our disposal. The rest is poetry, imagination." Max Planck

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Possibly partly due to mirror neurons



Since that time, mirror neurons have been hailed as a cornerstone of human empathy, language, and other vital processes. But there has also been something of a mirror neuron backlash, with some scientists suggesting that the importance of mirror neurons has been exaggerated.

V.S. Ramachandran has been one of mirror neurons’ most ardent scientific champions. Ramachandran (known as “Rama” to friends and colleagues), a distinguished professor of neuroscience at the University of California, San Diego, conducted early research on mirror neurons; he has since called them “the basis of civilization” in a TED talk and touted their significance in his recent book The Tell Tale Brain.

“I don’t think they’re being exaggerated,” he said a few days ago at Being Human. “I think they’re being played down, actually.”

In his presentation at Being Human, Ramachandran discussed how research on mirror neurons and “phantom limbs” suggests an extraordinary human capacity for empathy. (See this post for more details.)