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How We Understand Others

Face, Head, Empathy, Meet, Sensitivity, FriendlinessPeople who empathize easily with others do not necessarily understand them well. To the contrary: Excessive empathy can even impair understanding as a new study conducted by psychologists from Würzburg and Leipzig has established. “Successful social interaction is based on our ability to feel with others and to understand their thoughts and intentions,” Anne Böckler explains. She says that it had been unclear previously whether and to what extend these two skills were interrelated – that is whether people who empathize easily with others are also capable of grasping their thoughts and intentions. According to the junior professor, the scientists also looked into the question of whether the neuronal networks responsible for these abilities interact. The authors believe that the results of this study are important both for neurosciences and clinical applications. For example, they suggest that training aimed at improving social skills, the willingness to empathize and the ability to understand others at the cognitive level and take their perspective should be promoted selectively and separately of one another. The group in the Department of Social Neurosciences in Leipzig is currently working on exactly this topic within the scope of the ReSource project, namely how to specifically train different social skills.

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