Stress reduction improves the empathy

There could be a reason why strangers often have little empathy for each other: the natural stress of contact with strangers. Stress reduction leads to more empathy and not only in mice but also in humans.
This is reported by Canadian researchers in the journal "Current Biology". Mice often react heavily to pain that is added to another mouse, writes the team to Jeffrey Mogil of the McGill University in Montreal. This empathic reaction, however, applies only to acquaintances. A small dose of a stress-relieving hormone blocker, on the other hand, allowed the mice to react similarly to the pain of a strange conspecific, like that of a long-known buddy. Stress is, therefore, an obstacle to empathy.

This applies also to people, the researchers write. They asked students to dip their hand into a vessel of ice water. Watchful friends showed stronger reactions to the ice-shock subjects as strangers. If the test persons received the stress-relieving remedy, the empathy of the strangers increased significantly. This went so far that the spectators often involuntarily touched their own hand when their opponent dived his into ice water. For stress reduction, however, it does not even need a chemical help - 15 minutes of a common music video game, Mogil found.

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