Brain-imaging research at the University of Southern California showed that, while we react immediately to seeing someone getting phsycially hurt, our brains take 6 to 8 seconds to respond to stories about social or psychological pain. However, our response to social or psychological situations lingers for much longer than the response to physical pain.
Researchers say the slower reaction time suggests a more complex thought process, compared to the instinctive evolutionary reaction to physical pain.
Compassion for another person's social or psychological pain also activated some of the same brain areas triggered by compassion for physical pain, and particularly the region responsible for gut feelings, known as the anterior insula. "That area has been implicated before in all sorts of studies about emotion, empathy and disgust," said Mary Helen Immordino-Yang, a cognitive neuroscientist at the University of Southern California.
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