60-Second Mind

Laughing in the Face of Adversity

A poster presented at the Society of Neuroscience meeting reveals that empathy isn't always about matching anothers' emotion. Researchers found that sometimes instead of feeling anothers' pain, we might feel more...amused.
Is it still called empathy when we laugh in the face of another’s pain? I’m not referring to Schadenfreude, but rather an awkward giggle when someone is hurt. Research currently underway at Haverford College has stumbled upon some very interesting results in their study of empathy. Seems that sometimes, the pained face of our spouse sorta makes us laugh.
Past studies have shown that when we see a lover in pain, we tend to feel it. We even show the same brain activity as if we’d experienced the pain ourselves.
So the Haverford team wanted to find out if an observer, who watches another in pain, becomes more sensitive to their own pain.
Eight pairs of subjects watched a video of their darling touching something hot, hot enough to hurt. Fifty percent of the group supported the hypothesis - they reported that the same heat hurt more, after watching the video.
But other 50 percent felt no higher sensitivity to pain. In fact when this group watched their broken angel, they were, amused.
Keep in mind, the results are still to be reviewed. Maybe it’s just that certain dramatic grimacing is comedic – maybe it’s that fine line we call, hysteria?
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