How a Bad Mood Affects Empathy in Your Brain


Bad moods are no fun; but we all get them from time to time. I sometimes feel down reading the news or forgetting to exercise; others may become moody after a setback at work or a fight with their partner.

Now, a new study published in Psychophysiology suggests that bad moods seem to impact the neural underpinnings of empathy, as well, with important implications for our relationships.

Past research has shown that our neural wiring allows us to experience what another person is feeling—something called emotional resonance, an important element of empathy. This is why we tend to get scared watching horror movies and feel happy when a loved one expresses joy.

To look at how moods might affect emotional resonance, researchers in the new study hooked up 23 students from a Chinese university to an EEG to measure brain activity and had them listen to music or to a broadcast that put them in either a good, bad, or neutral mood. Participants were then shown pictures of people going through painful or neutral experiences—such as getting a hand shut in a door versus seeing a hand closing the same door. Afterwards, they reported how much pain they thought the person in the picture felt and how painful it was for them to see these pictures. To read more from JILL SUTTIE, click here.

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