In the study (being published next week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Online Early Edition), the researchers used real-life stories to induce admiration for virtue or skill, or compassion for physical or social pain, in 13 volunteers (verifying the emotions through pre- and post-imaging interviews).
They found, using brain imaging, that while humans can respond in fractions of seconds to signs of physical pain in others, awakening admiration and compassion take much longer: six to eight seconds to fully respond to the stories of virtue or social pain, in the case of the study.
So, what does that say about the emotional cost of relying on a rapid stream of short news bits pouring into the brain through online feeds or Twitter?
Lead author Mary Helen Immordino-Yang puts it this way:
“If things are happening too fast, you may not ever fully experience emotions about other people’s psychological states and that would have implications for your morality,” Immordino- Yang said.
She worries that
fast-paced digital media tools may direct some heavy users away from traditional avenues for learning about humanity, such as engagement with literature or face-to-face social interactions.
Immordino-Yang did not blame digital media. “It’s not about what tools you have, it’s about how you use those tools,” she said.
(USC media scholar Manuel) Castells said he was less concerned about online social spaces, some of which can provide opportunities for reflection, than about “fast-moving television or virtual games.”
“In a media culture in which violence and suffering becomes an endless show, be it in fiction or in infotainment, indifference to the vision of human suffering gradually sets in,” he said.
Damasio agreed: “What I’m more worried about is what is happening in the (abrupt) juxtapositions that you find, for example, in the news.
“When it comes to emotion, because these systems are inherently slow, perhaps all we can say is, not so fast.”
How do you feel about that?
Take your time.
(Image: Wikimedia Commons.)
[tags]Twitter,social media, computers, communication, ethics, morality[/tags]