The new study, published online in the journal NeuroImage, reveals that when the brain fires up the network of neurons that allows a person to empathize, the network used for analysis is suppressed. Our ability to appreciate the human cost of our action is repressed when the analytic network is engaged.
Our brains cycle between the social and analytical networks at rest, when presented with a task, however healthy adults engage the appropriate neural pathway. We have built-in neural constraints on our ability to be both empathetic and analytic at the same time, the study shows.
The findings of this new study suggest that established theories about two competing networks within the brain need to be revised. It also provides insights into how a healthy mind works versus a mentally ill or developmentally disabled brain.
“This is the cognitive structure we’ve evolved,” said Anthony Jack, an assistant professor of cognitive science at Case Western Reserve. “Empathetic and analytic thinking are, at least to some extent, mutually exclusive in the brain.”