Identifying with Racial Group Ups Empathy

EVANSTON, Ill., April 28 (UPI) — African-Americans show greater empathy for other African-Americans facing adversity compared to whites showing empathy to whites, U.S. researchers said.

“We found that everybody reported empathy toward the Hurricane Katrina victims,” study author Joan Y. Chiao of Northwestern University said in a statement. “But African-Americans additionally showed greater empathic response to other African-Americans in emotional pain.”

The researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging on African-Americans and white Americans as they were shown pictures of either African-American or Caucasian-American people in a painful or neutral setting.

The more African-Americans identified as African-American the more likely they were to show greater empathy for the African-Americans, the study found. The ability to identify with another person dramatically changes how much a person can feel the pain of another, Chiao said.

“It’s just that feeling of that person is like me, or that person is similar to me,” Chiao said. “That experience can really lead to what we’re calling ‘extraordinary empathy and altruistic motivation.’ It’s empathy and altruistic motivation above and beyond what you would do for another human.”

The finding was published in the journal NeuroImage and online at

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

Categorized | Other
Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.