Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Twittering away our common humanity?

A new study suggests that our increasing reliance on 'e-communication' is eroding our ability to empathize. Amanda Gardner's April 14 article for HealthDay reports on a study done at the University of Southern California in which "13 volunteers [were asked] to listen to 50 'real-person,' 'real-life' narratives, each 60 to 90 seconds long and including a verbal component as well as pieces from television, the Internet, documentary film and radio."

Some of these narratives were designed to elicit admiration "for virtue or skill" while others were designed to evoke compassion "for social/psychological pain and physical hurt." The volunteers -- who were not apprised of the intended responses -- were asked to describe how they felt after viewing each piece. The volunteers' brains were also subjected to functional magnetic resonance imaging.

The researchers found that "stories of virtue or social pain" provoked responses "in as little as six to eight seconds, but responses to stories of physical pain took less than a second to kick in." On the other hand, "the responses to virtue and social pain last longer." What does that mean?

According to the USC study, it may mean that people are becoming hardened "to the images of pain and suffering that litter modern-day media." This is a de-humanizing... and disturbing trend. How do we get past this? The study suggests "teaching and cultural forms, not to mention adequate pause for reflection, could help counteract this trend and lead people back toward a fuller relationship with their fellow men and women."

In other words, look at people occasionally... not just at their pictures.


Empress Bee (of the high sea) said...

okay curmy, i will try...

smiles, bee

Barb said...

I think people ARE becoming jaded for the very reasons you mention.

sari said...

People rely on the internet for their communication, and hide behind it so they can be mean because it's not like they "know" the people they're ripping to shreds...but they can and do anyway. Anyone can and does write whatever they want about anyone else, regardless of whether they know anything at all about what or who they're talking about.

Jean-Luc Picard said...

People still communicate more because of the internet, and keep in touch with friends they may not otherwise.

landgirl said...

Or how about the other thread from this how about the media stop "littering" with scenes of abuse and pain and all things awful.
just a thought.