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Can Empathy Be Learned? Science Offers Some Clues

Over time, mammals adapted, responding to distress not only from their offspring but also from kin, friends, or other individuals in their social groups. Stephanie Preston is now working on a brain imaging study in which subjects lie in an MRI machine as they are shown descriptions of different charities that need monetary donations. She found that people tend to donate more when the person needing help is either a child or needs immediate assistance. Just how religion plays into our biological impulse for empathy is not yet clear. One study from the University of Chicago shows that religious upbringing is associated with less altruism. Other studies have shown the contrary; a University of Warsaw study found that religious beliefs are positively associated with empathy, as empathic skills are crucial factors for religion.

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