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Intergroup Relationship and Empathy for Others’ Pain: A Social Neuroscience Approach

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Part of the International and Cultural Psychology book series (ICUP)

Abstract

Han reviews the neuroimaging evidence for the brain regions involved in empathy for pain. The implicated regions, the anterior cingulate and anterior insula, overlap with those involved in firsthand pain experiences. However, several factors, including sociocultural variables, can influence empathy toward others’ pain states.

Han discusses the evidence of racial bias in feelings of empathy for pain states. Han shows that racial bias in empathy of pain can potentially produce real-world effects like differences in medical treatment between racial groups. Several brain regions are implicated including the anterior cingulate, the supplementary motor cortex, the anterior insula, and the medial prefrontal cortex.

Han concludes by discussing evidence that intercultural experiences can decrease racial bias of empathy of pain. Living in a country with an other-race majority can decrease the racial bias shown for empathy of pain and alter the neural responses to seeing pictures of pain expressions. Han suggests that future research should investigate how educational opportunities can be offered to eliminate racial bias in empathy toward others in pain.

Keywords

  • Empathy
  • Anterior cingulate cortex
  • fMRI
  • Race
  • ERP

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Acknowledgments

This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Project 30910103901, 91024032, 81161120539) and the National Basic Research Program of China (973 Program 2010CB833903).

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Correspondence to Shihui Han .

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Han, S. (2015). Intergroup Relationship and Empathy for Others’ Pain: A Social Neuroscience Approach. In: Warnick, J., Landis, D. (eds) Neuroscience in Intercultural Contexts. International and Cultural Psychology. Springer, New York, NY. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4939-2260-4_2

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