empathy

Researching the Money-Empathy Gap

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Otrazhenie

“It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

Bible, Mark 10:25

CamelFrom Class Warfare?

New research suggests that more money makes people act less human. Or at least less humane.

Psychologists at the University of California at Berkeley have found that “upper-class individuals behave more unethically than lower-class individuals.” They also discovered that “Putting someone in a role where they’re more privileged and have more power in a game makes them behave like people who actually do have more power, more money, and more status”.

Check out their experiments on the Money-Empathy Gap in the video below:

These experiments also demonstrated that while a poor man playing in a ‘rich world’ becomes more self-centred, a rich man playing in a ‘poor’ world becomes more compassionate to others. That can potentially help people understand…

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Empathetic Introverts make the best Carers

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female_nurse_1600_wht_9033According to the MacIntyre charity, cited by Camilla Cavendish, the Times journalist who has just published a review of healthcare support workers.

The charity, which provides services for 1,000 adults and children, has created detailed psychological profiles of care workers.

The best ones, the “naturals”, are:

  • empathetic introverts,
  • good listeners,
  • reflective, and
  • wanting to work within clear rules
  • in structured environments.

Click here for more information and a quiz for you to check out if that kind of work is right for you.

Recruiting people with emotional intelligence and the right values would be a good start. Companies like Nokia have been recruiting for values and attitudes for decades taking the view that they can train people in the technical stuff quite easily.

6c-logoThe Chief Nursing Officer’s vision Compassion in Practice (the 6 Cs) highlights the importance of care and compassion.

One of the 6 Cs is courage and it’s interesting that McIntyre found that the best carers, being introverts, were not very gregarious but would stand up for the people they cared for.

There is also some good research which shows that people with introvert preferences can be more effective leaders than extraverted types.

And you may have heard of Susan Cain, best-selling author of “Quiet: the power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking” (2012).

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Smile! 

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Trying to influence or establish contact with people by smiling only works with sociable people, according to research at Stanford University (2002).

Their brains respond and react with positive emotions but smiling has no impact on negative people, introverts, or those more neurotic.

The more extraverted you are, the more you allow yourself to be infected by the other person’s smile.

People make judgements based on your appearance in 1/10 of a second or less, to know whether or not they like you or think you are trustworthy. But after a couple of seconds they are distracted by what you say or do anyway.

Research by UK psychologists for Comic Relief in 2003 found big variations in the way people responded to smiles. In Edinburgh only 4% responded but in Bristol 70% smiled back (Birmingham was 31%). NB Smiling responses probably depend on the setting and the context.

Women smile more than men but it is discounted more as it is expected. 30 years ago researchers thought it was because of status differences between men and women but it may be more about relieving anxiety. Generally men only smile to be sociable.

Smiling is good for you as it lowers your heart rate and improves you immune system eg happier people resist catching colds better than unhappy people.

Cultural differences need to be taken into account too eg in former Soviet Union countries the older generation tend not to smile at strangers, even in shops and customer service settings (Russia, Ukraine, Czech Republic, Lithuania).

There is also a cost to smiling when you are required to do it for your job. Emotional Labour, the so-called “have a nice day syndrome”, is the cost of appearing happy and reasonable no matter how you really feel. Having to fake it for your job eg in medical settings, teaching and call centres, can make you feel exhausted, detached from other people and your own feelings, and can eventually lead to job dissatisfaction. If you want to see how good you are at detecting fake smiles go to: http://www.bbc.co.uk/science/humanbody/mind/surveys/smiles/index.shtml

Regulating empathy in this way is taking management control a step further than requiring staff to behave in certain ways. “You can’t force people to smile, they have to be satisfied with their lives, their jobs and their performance” said the HR Manager at IKEA, Russia.

There are things organisations could do:

  • Recruit extroverts who are generally more optimistic and positive
  • Give people who aren’t, role models to emulate (introverts can learn how to behave in extrovert ways)
  • Help people to get into positive moods through visualisation or by remembering positive events
  • Give people satisfying jobs to do!

If you need an incentive to smile it also looks like people who smile may live longer. http://bps-research-digest.blogspot.com/2010/06/say-cheese-big-smilers-in-photos-are.html

It seems dimples are in fashion (influenced by Cheryl Cole) and a “dimpleplasty” operation – cutting a hole in your cheek and stitching it to your muscles – is now all the rage. The problem is that, unlike real dimples which disappear when you stop smiling, your grin is permanent and as Carol Midgley in the Times magazine says, it might be awkward having a permanent grin when your neighbour tells you the dog has just died.

First posted 2010

Charisma pays off

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Not least for charisma coach Olivier Fox Cabane who charges $150k per client, according to a recent interview with her in the Times, and whose book The Charisma Myth is selling very well.

And that’s not bad for someone who has business and law degrees but is a self-taught psychologist.

She is described as an extreme leadership guru who uses neuroshaping or “playing chemist with your own brain” to help people become more charismatic and persuasive.

Like other top end coaches she offers shadowing and video analysis and concedes that the charisma label is just a hook she uses to attract clients.

Starting off by offering free charisma courses to students at MIT she soon developed programmes for Harvard, Yale and the UN. She says she still does pro bono work for charities and refuses to work with politicians.

She is adamant that charisma is not just a genetic gift bestowed on people like Bill Clinton but is mostly learnt. Cabane also says that there are different kinds of charisma e.g. a warm likeable charisma (think Tony Blair at his peak and Bill Clinton) or a colder uncompromising style such as personified by Steve Jobs.

Mmm .. I’ve used a model borrowed from actors which suggests that charisma is a combination of warmth and status. Think of Gordon Brown as high status but hardly warm and cuddly. And that model ties in with US research on charismatic Fire Chiefs who score high on the Big 5 factor of Agreeableness.

Despite the reference to “neuroshaping” (which hints at he current interest in neuroscience) it seems much of what she teaches clients is about assertiveness and the use of NVC (she mentions the MIT research I’ve posted about previously). She also uses visualisation and anchoring techniques used by sports psychologists and NLP practitioners.

Here are the 5 steps outlined in the Times article

Stand like a big gorilla and take up as much space as possible. This is a technique well known to actors and is an example of demonstrating high status

Don’t wave your head about or nod as it indicates low status and confidence. Especially important for women who tend to move their heads to the side when theys peak. This is more a courtship/flirting signal

Make good eye contact but with warmth. Again a sign of confidence.

Lean back rather than froward when closing a deal as this suggests high confidence. In the past people were trained to lean forward and invade personal space to intimidate people.

Be aware of how you are feeling. Be in the moment. Mindfulness is very popular now and anything like it will help you relax and concentrate.

Good emotional intelligence and empathy will also be invaluable.

Can you recognise emotions?

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Charles Darwin’s early experiments on recognising what he called the Cardinal Emotions ie universally recognised expressions of emotions, have been recreated using the original 11 photographs.

Darwin’s original research was to prove that humans shared expressions with animals thus supporting his theory of evolution.

The results were published in his 1872 book “The Expression of Emotion in Human and Animals”.

Now you can go on-line to make your own judgments about which emotion is being expressed.

Paul Ekman, the expert in body language and micro-expressions on whom the TV series “Lie to Me” was based, followed up Darwin’s work in the 1960s travelling round pre-industrial cultures to see if there really were universal emotional expressions. His findings broadly supported Darwin’s hypothesis.

His company currently trains people to recognise emotional expressions and is also believed to be involved in training Homeland Security and security experts in the UK to develop face-reading skills.

Cambridge University has updated the experiment using video and you can contribute to their research by assessing online video clips.

Recognising emotional expressions is important in variety of research areas such as autism, where sufferers find it difficult to recognise emotional expressions.

Botox users also find it difficult to express emotions through facial expressions, thus making it more difficult for others to read them, and it has been suggested that it actually reduces their level of empathy.

Empathy is one of the cornerstones of emotional intelligence. Being able to recognise other people’s emotional state through non-verbal signs is an important element of EI.

Read the full BBC news story 

Botox reduces empathy

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Over a year ago I posted “Body language and the B problem” and about some research by psychologists at Wisconsin-Madison University on the effect of Botox on interpersonal relationships.

This suggested that if you had a Botox treatment your inability to show appropriate emotions, especially sadness or empathy, would be interpreted as a lack of sympathy or interest. More interestingly it said it might actually slow down your own empathetic response.

Now Research at Duke University Fuqua School of Business in North Carolina has confirmed that as well as reducing frown lines Botox reduces a person’s ability to empathise with others. This is important for everyday interactions, particularly at work where we spend most of our time.

Empathy is a key component of emotional intelligence as is managing your emotions but it seems Botox would make you appear to be over-controlling your emotions or that you are lacking in empathy. Already researchers are saying that Generation Me students are 40% less empathetic than they were 20 to 30 years ago.

The Duke University researchers talk about embedded cognition, which is the idea that our bodies reflect the way we think and feel. For example if you see someone in pain you wince and that sends a message to your brain about the pain. (This sounds a bit like the idea of mirror neurons). NB I suspect that this wouldn’t work if you were a psychopath.

The researchers were initially interested in the effect of Botox on romantic relationships and the effect on that when one person has been treated with Botox and becomes less empathetic.

Also the idea that long-married couples start to look alike because they have been copying each other’s facial expressions for so long. (Could the same apply to people who start looking like their pets?)

btw if you are interested in having Botox the trend now is to have preventative Botox before you actually develop any frown lines!

What sex is your brain?

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Ever wondered what sex your brain is? Try these  6 short tests and get a report comparing you to others. The tests include a test of empathy ie assessing NVC through facial expressions. http://www.bbc.co.uk/science/humanbody/sex/add_user.shtml

If you are wondering what might influence your brain sex watch these linked YouTube videos on the influence of testosterone on your developing brain and the effect it can have on your work performance.

And if you want to complete an on-line test to see how empathising or systematising your brain is try it at: http://www.eqsq.com

It’s too simplistic to think all women are more empathising than men whilst men are more logical and less feeling – although there is some truth in it. When it comes to making strategic decisions recent research shows that people who are better at it use both the logical and emotional parts of their brains.

Empathy helped humanity rise to the top

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It may not be about selfish genes and economic man after all. According to primatology professor Frans de Waal, the success of Homo sapiens is due primarily to our capacity for empathy and our urge to understand and appreciate others.

Robin McKie interviewed him in The Observer about his book; “The Age of Empathy: Nature’s Lessons for a Kinder Society“. De Waal says that, like most mammals but particularly primates, we possess an innate sensitivity to the emotional status of other members of our species. He believes that empathy developed with the evolution of the maternal instinct as mothers need to understand when their offspring are in danger.

That might also explain why women seem to be more empathetic than men and the hormone oxytocin, which increases bonding between people, may also be a key component. The ability to understand another’s emotions and share them – what he calls emotional contagion (and which may be due to possession of so-called mirror neurones) – is common in all higher mammals. (See “Emotional Intelligence and Empathy”).

He thinks this emotional perspective appears at the age of two and correlates to the development of self-awareness. The more self-aware the animal the more empathetic it appears to be.

And it is this ability to be empathetic that enables us to care for the sick and elderly and survive in overcrowded cities (compared for example to rats which in experiments on  overcrowding attacked each other).

Robin McKie interviewed him in The Observer about his book; “The Age of Empathy: Nature’s Lessons for a Kinder Society“.

Ever wondered how much empathy you have? Psychological tests developed by Professor Simon Baron-Cohen, Sally Wheelwright, and their team at the University of Cambridge, England, can give you insight into the way your brain functions. Specifically, you can discover if you are more prone to empathize or systemize. Click empathy v systemising and instant feedback.

So many “friends” yet still lonely?

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So many “friends” yet still lonely?Many people are re-examining their relationship with the social networking site Facebook – the site that keeps on sharing. Or over-sharing according to Time Magazine this month (“Facebook – friends without borders”). Some time this month Facebook will officially log its 500 millionth active citizen – a bigger population than the USA. Not bad for an idea, dreamt up just over 6 years ago by Harvard unde … Read More

via Mike the Psych’s Blog with permission

What doesn’t kill you, makes you?

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Could a little adversity help you to become better adjusted as an adult?

Studies at the University of California have shown that when children respond to hostility or bullying, whether face-to-face or on-line, in kind they are liked more and earn more respect from their classmates and teachers according to a report in The Times.

Whilst not pleasant experiences the children remembered them more vividly than friendly events. Trying to placate your enemy doesn’t seem to pay whereas giving as good as you got earned higher ratings for maturity and social competence.

No-one is saying it is a good thing to have a lot of people hostile to you, and children no-one disliked were the best adjusted, but the research suggests that rather than ignoring bullies or people who dislike you, or trying to placate them, or even being completely unaware of them, it is better to confront them.

Similar results have been found by researchers at Strathclyde University. Children who are good at standing up to bullies, whether for themselves or others, are better at resolving problems without conflict, are more emotionally literate, and better at taking other people’s perspective. In other words they display the emotional intelligence skills of self-awareness, self-control, empathy, and managing relationships.