Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Need an Electronic Pause?

Once again, neuroscience seems to have gained a new insight into an aspect of human brains that folks with general semantics experience have known about for some time. You tend to produce a more compassionate response if you wait a few seconds for the higher brain circuits to kick in and add reason to your evaluation. This story from Wired describes research that found that brain circuits involved in the experience of empathy take several seconds to activate. The rest of the story worries, probably with some good justification, that today's instantaneous communication modes, especially social networks like Facebook and Twitter, allow us to respond before we have had a chance to engage in a deeper emotional and rational evaluation.

One sentence in particular gave me pause: Empathy "...might even fail to properly develop in children, whose brains are being formed in ways that will last a lifetime."

The entertainment and communications industry have long denied that consuming their products can "harm" or even seriously affect the brains of viewers and listeners. This suggests otherwise--or at least, it makes it pretty apparent that what we do affects the shape and circuitry of our brains.

No comments: