Why are some people more compassionate/empathic than others?

Why are some people more compassionate/empathic than others?

I don’t want pointless answers like “because they’re just nicer people”. I actually want to know if there are any scientific or academic approaches to this, if there has been any research done regarding compassion and human empathy and why some people seem more in tune with it than others. What are the reasons? Could it be the environment they grew up in? Personal life experiences? Religion? Or something to do with a “gene”, the mind or DNA?

  1. Intrinsic Random EventApr 30, 2010

    It is the product of both genetics and a person’s experiences. Studies of psychopaths in prisons have demonstrated that they tend to lack the capacity for compassion or empathy, regardless of whether their upbringing was good or bad. So the ability to empathise is something we are born with to a lesser or greater degree, and then learn to develop according to our circumstances. However, if someone is born without much capacity for empathy, then there is very little to develop.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychopathy

  2. meanolmawApr 30, 2010

    http://www.cnn.com/2008/HEALTH/12/19/milgram.experiment.obedience/

    for an eye-opener, read the above…..

  3. Chris PApr 30, 2010

    Empathy is certainly a human trait. Like other genetic traits, it likely follows a “normal distribution pattern,” like a bell curve in a chart (see my sources for a visual representation). In the middle is the majority of distribution- that would represent an average person, with an average sense of empathy. To the right, where the line tapers off, would represent people with an above average sense of empathy- they exist, but there’s less of them. Similarly, to the left of the middle are those with a less than average sense of empathy- ie, sociopaths. There’s less of them as well, but they exist too.

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