NYTimes: fMRI Empathy Research

This Is Your Brain on Schadenfreude in the New York Times describes empathy research at University College London using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) techniques to provide real-time capture of the mental states of the research subjects. The subjects were shown videos of individuals playing a game fairly or unfairly, and then saw those individuals subjected to a negative or positive stimulus. The results were interesting:

The empathy circuits lighted up in both men and women when bad things happened to good people. When bad things happened to bad people, the women in the study were still empathic. But not the men. Not only did they show less empathy toward bad people, but the reward center in the left nucleus accumbens lighted up. All that translates as “Serves him right!”

Although perhaps common sense and experience tend to suggest that women are more sympathetic than men, it’s interesting that the gender differences emerged so clearly in the tests. The article notes that these same centers might light up for totally different reasons, like the subject being given a piece of candy.


This post was written by:

— who has written 984 posts on Neuromarketing.

Roger Dooley writes and speaks about marketing, and in particular the use of neuroscience and behavioral research to make advertising, marketing, and products better. He is the primary author at Neuromarketing, and founder of Dooley Direct LLC, a marketing consultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

Contact the author

Brainfluence: 100 Ways to Persuade and Convince Consumers with Neuromarketing Get 100 amazing brain-based marketing strategies! Brainfluence is recommended for any size business, even startups and nonprofits!
Guy KawasakiRead this book to learn even more ways to change people's hearts, minds, and actions.   — Guy Kawasaki, author of Enchantment and former chief evangelist of Apple
Brainfluence Info

Leave a Reply