Researchers quantify feelings of empathy

Julia St. Amand, Staff Writer

Empathy is something that some people think to be out of their realm of possibilities, or something that doesn’t actually exist.

However, UCLA researchers have recently conducted new studies that show it is possible to measure a person’s ability to experience empathic feelings towards someone else.

The goal was to measure a person’s abilities of feeling empathy while people were resting or sleeping, as opposed to during the times in which they were performing various tasks.

It is generally quite difficult to properly and adequately assess someone’s ability to express empathy towards others. Doing so requires psychological testing and questionnaires.

However, these types of testing are less affective for persons with mental illness and autism.

According to ScienceDaily, Dr. Marco Iacoboni mentions that assessing and observing empathy is the most difficult task in the areas of society that need it the most.

He refers to empathy as a vital piece of interaction skills that people build in order to uphold healthy relationships and emotional maturity and overall well-being.

Functional magnetic resonance imaging, or fMRI’s, were used to help calculate the brain waves associated with feelings of empathy in a group of 58 men and women aged 18 to 35.

With this noninvasive technique for monitoring small changes in blood flow, scientists are able to map and measure the brain activity that gives rise to someone showing signs of empathy or empathic related emotions.

Conversely, they are able to see which individuals’ brains do not light up in given situations.

News-Medical confirms that fMRI scans show that the resting state is best to assess a person’s ability to feel empathy.

A person needs to be willing to put themselves in the position of someone else mentally and emotionally in order to understand their feelings and to truly express signs of empathic connection.

Someone who does not experience empathy, or shows a lack of empathic or emotional intelligence, would potentially act careless or unlawful in life, as their actions have no moral standing weight in their own minds.