An Interesting Study of Empathy

Are you aware that your child is naturally inclined to feel empathetic for another in pain and is aware of right and wrong? Some may feel that the acts of right and wrong are learned through childhood from their own doing. However, a study done by the researchers at the University of Chicago shows that “children ages 7 to 12 appear to be naturally inclined to feel empathy for others in pain,” says Science Daily in the article Children Are Naturally Prone to Be Empathic And Moral.

The study was done by way of using a functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI). Seventeen children were shown images of people being hurt either intentionally or by accident and the results of that were shown from their neural response. This study shows that the “programming for empathy is something that is ‘hard-wired’ into the brains of normal children, and not entirely the product of parental guidance or other nurturing.” The moral and empathic growth of a child is not completely determined by what is learned from experience, however, it is more determined by what was already “programmed” into their brain. 

The results of when the children were shown the images of someone intentionally being hurt, compared to the results of the images where people are accidentally hurt, show that the regions of the brain associated with social interaction and moral reasoning were engaged. The study was not able to show the results from moral judgment, but was able to see that children were able to process perceptions of right and wrong and how they process other information.

By the end of the testing, the children were asking about the situations and what they felt. Thirteen of them said that the situations where people were being intentionally hurt were unfair. This study shows that when children bully their peers, there might be more to be seen then just one kid pushing another around. There could possibly be something more to do with the growth of the child’s brain and the activity going on there.

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