Center for Building a Culture of Empathy

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Culture of Empathy Builder:  Anthony I. Jack

 Anthony Jack and Edwin Rutsch: Dialogs on How to Build a Culture of Empathy

Anthony Jack, PhD (Tony) is Assistant Professor of Cognitive Science, Philosophy, and Psychology in the Brain, Mind and Consciousness laboratory in the Department of Cognitive Science at Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio.

He says, "I have a PhD in Experimental Psychology and extensive training in Philosophy and Neuroscience. I started out doing largely theoretical work on consciousness, but then got interested by the emerging field of brain imaging. I use fMRI to study attention, consciousness and social processing in the brain." 

Tony has been studying empathy and was involved in a study that looks at the analytic and empathic neural networks and how they relate to each other.  This article 'Empathy represses analytic thought, and vice versa' on Science Blog says,  "When the brain fires up the network of neurons that allows us to empathize, it suppresses the network used for analysis, a pivotal study led by a Case Western Reserve University researcher shows... At rest, our brains cycle between the social and analytical networks. But when presented with a task, healthy adults engage the appropriate neural pathway, the researchers found. The study shows for the first time that we have a built-in neural constraint on our ability to be both empathetic and analytic at the same time."
Sub Conference: Science: Neuroscience




 Anthony Jack and Edwin Rutsch: Dialogs on How to Build a Culture of Empathy




 Panel 19: The Challenge of Balancing Analysis and Empathy


Anthony Jack
Helen Riess
Richard Boyatzis
Edwin Rutsch

Recent evidence shows that adopting an analytic frame of mind suppresses brain areas involved in empathy, and emotionally engaging with others suppresses brain areas involved in analytic thought. This presents a challenge for contexts that require both forms of thought.

Managers, teachers and doctors all have professional roles in which optimal performance depends both on a capacity for clear analytic thought, and on their ability to emotionally resonate with others. This panel brings together three experts in the neuroscience of empathy and how to train it. They discuss the challenges involved in fostering a balance between empathy and analysis in professional life, and suggest solutions.
Sub Conference: Science



July 31, 2013 - Why it's so difficult for physicians to be empathetic and analytic at the same time

For years, physicians have been urged to show more empathy during patient encounters, but most doctors would tell you it isn't quite that simple. For physicians who struggle to balance empathy with analytic thinking during patient visits, neuroscience researcher and brain-imaging expert Anthony Jack, PhD,has a somewhat comforting explanation: It's not your fault, it's your brain's.


April 2013 - Big Ideas: Mind Matters
"Case Western Reserve University’s Anthony Jack works at the intersection of psychology and philosophy. By studying the inner workings of the brain with MRI scans, he hopes to bridge the gulf that separates analytical thinking and empathetic behavior. "



STUDY:  27 Oct. 2012 - NeuroImage Journal - fMRI reveals reciprocal inhibition between social and physical cognitive domains
"Two lines of evidence indicate that there exists a reciprocal inhibitory relationship between opposed brain networks.

First, most attention-demanding cognitive tasks activate a stereotypical set of brain areas, known as the task-positive network and simultaneously deactivate a different set of brain regions, commonly referred to as the task negative or default mode network.

Second, functional connectivity analyses show that these same opposed networks are anti-correlated in the resting state. We hypothesize that these reciprocally inhibitory effects reflect two incompatible cognitive modes, each of which is directed towards understanding the external world. Thus, engaging one mode activates one set of regions and suppresses activity in the other"


 In the Brain, Empathy and Analysis May Be Mutually Exclusive - Psych Central News

"Functional magnetic imaging has allowed researchers to view the brain as it struggles to multi-task empathetic feelings and analytical thoughts. The discovery may explain why even the most intelligent can fall for hard-luck stories or when significant decisions are viewed as insensitive or uncaring. Investigators say the brain normally balances a neural pathway driven by hard analytical facts against a neural pathway that evokes a softer emotional response."

Empathy represses analytic thought, and vice versa  -
"New research shows a simple reason why even the most intelligent, complex brains can be taken by a swindler’s story – one that upon a second look offers clues it was false.

When the brain fires up the network of neurons that allows us to empathize, it suppresses the network used for analysis, a pivotal study led by a Case Western Reserve University researcher shows"



Mar 27, 2013 - Wisom 2.0: Cultivating Empathic Design in an Analytical World: Irene Au, Jane Suri, Bradley Horowitz, Tony Jack


Empathy represses analytic thought, and vice versa: Brain physiology limits simultaneous use of both networks -

A number of earlier studies showed that two large scale brain networks are in tension in the brain, one which is known as the default mode network and a second known as the task positive network. But other researchers have suggested that different mechanisms drive this tension: One theory says that we have one network for engaging in goal directed tasks. This theory posits that our second network allows the mind to wander. The other theory says that one network is for external attention, and the second network is for internal attention.