Analytical thought suppresses empathy

Ever wondered how some doctors could be so lacking in empathy? New research shows that our brains cycle between different pathways and that analytical thought and empathy can’t occur simultaneously.

“When the brain fires up the network of neurons for used analytical analysis, it suppresses the network used for empathy, a pivotal study led by a Case Western Reserve University researcher shows.

How could a CEO be so blind to the public relations fiasco his cost-cutting decision has made?

When the analytic network is engaged, our ability to appreciate the human cost of our action is repressed.

At rest, our brains cycle between the social and analytical networks. But when presented with a task, healthy adults engage the appropriate neural pathway, the researchers found.

The study shows for the first time that we have a built-in neural constraint on our ability to be both empathetic and analytic at the same time.”

That’s a reason why mindfulness training is so helpful for health professionals. Yes, at times, we want our doctors to apply all their skills in critical thinking but at other times, we want them to be fully present and listening deeply. Mindfulness develops the skills to direct attention and to be aware of our current focus.

Image: “Rubik Cube” by Theilr

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