What is empathic accuracy
The new science of empathic accuracy could transform society
Do you think the ability to put yourself in someone else's shoes? empathetic is more the result of intestinal intuition or systematic thinking? Contrary to popular belief, new research has found that systematic and methodical thinking, as opposed to trust - good instincts or intuition - is associated with increased accuracy in interpreting the feelings of others.
As it turns out, the latest empirical evidence suggests that in order to optimize it, you shouldn't trust your bowel response completelyempathic accuracyThis is the ability to grasp the motivations, mindsets, and emotions of others.
In the 1980s, William Ickes coined the term "empathic accuracy", which he described as "everyday mind reading" and which he discussed in detail in his seminal book.Everyday mind reading: understanding what other people think and feel. A cognitive assessment of other people's state of mind is also known as "mentalization".
In our daily life we all rely on the ability to read people's emotions and put ourselves in someone else's shoes when we control interpersonal relationships and shape social dynamics. I have written extensively on empathy and the theory of mind (ToM) Buffalo Social Service Sisters Blog posts.
Technically, mind theory is a branch of cognitive science that studies how we ascribe mental states to other people. One of the keys to the theory of mind is understanding and accepting that other people have different beliefs, desires, and intentions from your own.
Theory of mind and empathic accuracy go hand in hand. Both are essential components of compassion for others and the ability of different groups of individuals to coexist and live together in harmony. A lack of ToM and empathic accuracy drives bigotry. Racism, homophobia, and intolerance towards anyone who has beliefs or makes lifestyle choices that are different from your own.
The sweet spot between systematic thinking and gut feeling
Based on life experience, I believe there is an ideal sweet spot between simply trusting your gut intuition or strictly using brain logic in inferring someone else's shape and state of mind. Finding a healthy balance between these two extremes (one that is prone to cognitive control) is key.
As a young adult, I swore to make equanimity and emotional keel my top priority when building my foundations - emotional intelligence. Through years of practice I have learned that whenever I feel angry, frustrated or judgmental towards someone, I can consciously use irrational bowel reactions and look at the situation from a bird's eye view.
Then I try to logically deconstruct the specific elements that might motivate the words and actions of someone who rubs me wrongly before I act. Taking a few deep breaths and consciously taming all visceral and primal responses while systematically replaying the event in my mind's eye usually prevents me from becoming emotionally reactive or fleeting. I'm literally going to create a flowchart in my brain showing all of the moving parts of what makes that person tick as I play out the consequences of various reactions.
The goal of my daily personalized theory of mind is to achieve a state of empathic accuracy. For me, this is the best way to spread anger, practice emotional regulation, avoid burning bridges, and form closer social bonds. Try it. Maybe this technique works for you too?
The neuroscience of empathizing with another person's pain
Last month there were two studies that supported the importance of cognitive thinking in achieving empathic accuracy. Previous research on empathy has shown that the same regions of the brain that enable you to feel pain in your own body activate brain responses necessary to vicariously experience the pain of others. However, the latest research shows that empathizing with another person's pain is different in neural circuitry than experiencing pain yourself, which requires a cognitive leap.
A groundbreaking study was published a few weeks ago that reported that the ability to empathize with another person's pain is based on cognitive neural processes, which are different from the strictly sensory processes used to perceive and experience one's own pain be used.
The June 2016 study "Somatic and Vicar Pain Represented by Dissociable Multivariate Brain Patterns" by researchers at the University of Colorado, Boulder, was published in the journal eLife.
While conducting their research, Tor Wette and colleagues from CU-Boulder compared the patterns of brain activity in volunteers when they experienced moderate pain firsthand directly (from heat, shock, or pressure) and then pictures of hands or feet in another experiment others watched the injured session.
When the volunteers saw pictures of the pain inflicted on others, they were asked to imagine the injuries occurring on their own bodies. Interestingly, the researchers found that when the volunteers observed pain in others, the brain patterns did not overlap with the brain patterns when the volunteers were in pain themselves. Instead, while observing pain, the volunteers demonstrated brain patterns consistent with mentalization, which involves the systematic cognitive process of imagining another person's thoughts and intentions.
Empathic Accuracy: Cerebral Thinking vs. Trusting Your Gut Feeling
This week, Jennifer Lerner, Ph.D., of Harvard University, and co-author, Christine Ma-KellamsPh.D. The results of their research published by the University of La Verne, which found that although most people believe that intuition is a better guide to accurately interpreting another person's thoughts and feelings than systematic thinking, the opposite is true. These results fit perfectly with Wager's research et al.
The July 2016 article by Lerner and Ma-Kellams, "Trust your gut or think carefully? See if an intuitive or a systematic mindset produces greater accuracy," appears online in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
According to Lerner, individuals process information and make decisions in different ways. Some people choose to follow their instincts and do what feels right to them and is more intuitive. while others plan carefully and analyze the information available to them before using systematic thinking to decide what to do. In a statement, Lerner said:
"To have successful personal and professional relationships, one must be able to accurately deduce the feelings of others - that is, be empathetic. Some are better at this than others, a difference that can be partly explained by mindset however, little was known about which mindset, intuitive or systematic, provides better accuracy in perceiving another's feelings. "
"These findings are important because they show that common assumptions about what makes someone a good emotional mind reader may be wrong," Lerner said. "The many settings that extol the value of intuition - for example, a job interview - may need to be reassessed with a more nuanced perspective."
Conclusion: Improving empathic accuracy is the focus of your conscious control
We live in a growing age of xenophobia and fearful rhetoric that fuels a "us" versus "them" social dynamic. More recently, the headlines have been dominated by reports of violence and hate speech against individuals and collective members of society, exacerbated by a lack of empathic accuracy.
Often times it seems that a lack of empathic accuracy leads people from mainstream "within the group" to marginalize and defame those from "outside the group". Based on the latest empirical evidence, I am optimistic that we can reverse the tendencies of intolerance and violence against each other if each of us individually strives to practice theory of mind, regulation of emotions and empathic accuracy towards the collective in our daily life. We're all in the same boat.
I know this call to action might seem idealistic. However, the latest research confirms that empathic accuracy is at the center of our conscious control, not just listening to your gut instinct. We all have the power to make a conscious effort to use cognitive functions to seek better empathic accuracy.
The latest research into empathy reminds us that trusting your intuition can play an important role in assessing and recognizing other people's emotions and belief systems. Ultimately, empathic accuracy requires more systematic thinking and cerebral mentalization. Hopefully reading over these results will inspire any reader to become more aware of their ability to practice empathic accuracy and theory of mind.
More information on this topic can be found at my Buffalo Social Service Sisters Blog posts,
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