Sunday, November 18, 2012

Empathetic and analytic thinking are opposites

A reader sends this story:
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 ...

"This is the cognitive structure we've evolved," said Anthony Jack, an assistant professor of cognitive science at Case Western Reserve and lead author of the new study. "Empathetic and analytic thinking are, at least to some extent, mutually exclusive in the brain."
I frequently complain that dads are blamed for personality characteristics, even tho there is no consensus that the personality is disordered or harmful or has any relevance to the family court.

For example, someone might be introverted or extroverted. Extroverts think that introverts are abnormal, and introverts think that extroverts are abnormal. The truth is that they are just personality types, and neither is known to be better suited to be a parent.

Likewise there is a contrast between social and analytical thinking. While it might seem to some that empathetic thinking is superior, it is not. It comes at the expense of analytic thinking.

I had a court psychologist, Ken Perlmutter, say that I lack empathy. When I asked him in court to say what he meant by empathy, or to give an example of my supposed lack of empathy, or to explain why his opinion had some relevance to our child custody dispute, he could not give a coherent answer. He ultimately said he had no facts or psychology or law to back him up, and he was just giving his opinion.

Okay, I am a more analytical thinker than an empathetic thinker. You don't need to be a psychologist to figure that out. But a psychologist should know that the published papers do not say that one personality type is better than the other.


Southern Man said...

I find that most of the men I know are mostly analytic thinkers but can move into the empathic mode if necessary. On the other hand, all of the women I know are empathic thinkers who are incapable of any kind of analytic thinking.

Anonymous said...

Analysis and Empathy cannot happen AT THE SAME TIME, according to the research. It does not mean, however, that they are mutually exclusive in a general sense.