The Neurobiology of Empathy & Compassion (UCSD Zoominar)

Mindfulness doesn’t mean lying to yourself in blind pursuit of equalitarianism.

— Panelist Patricia Churchland

Acceptance & equanimity & compassion & mindfulness…

≠ passively resigned towards accepting everything

≠ I love kids on the opposite side of the world as much as my own. Be cognizant of the limits of mindfulness; you love your own kids more & that’s perfectly fine. Mindfulness doesn’t mean lying to yourself in blind pursuit of equalitarianism.

≠ I should just accept who I am. No, you should pursue positive self growth. It doesn’t mean perfectionism; it means don’t be dishonest with yourself regarding the acceptability of your vices.

— Panelist William Mobley

‘Saying that #meditation & #mindfulness works for us does nothing to convince the general public that these soft skills for emotional/ mental health are efficacious. Without empirical science documenting the benefits of these approaches, much of the world — especially the #WesternMedicine world — is not going to promote or seriously consider these practices.’

— Panelist Olga Klimecki

Olga Klimecki: ‘Finding that mindfulness worked in Germany is great. That doesn’t mean it’s going to work in Turkey or Cambodia or other places. Maybe meditation will work better in those places. Maybe #yoga & other #EasternMedicine coping/ mental health techniques will work in those other places. Although all of us know mindfulness, equanimity, meditation, etc works, we have to empirically determine which of these approaches works best in different geographies based on their stressors/ way of life.’

Additional Remarks

Molly Crocket: As a White person (woman) I’ll never know what it’s like to be a minority (man) subjectively.

There is an #Epistemic Wall: an inaccessibility to others’ experiences that limits the empathy we can feel.

- Panelist Molly Crocket

‘Watch out for research on the DLPFC & its connections.’ — Olga

‘Oxytocin may be key.’ — Patricia

Barton Blinder MD: Acceptance need not imply passivity or inaction but perhaps redirected more adaptive behavior acknowledging limitations.

Guest: Wonderful talks! I am interesting in implementing measures of empathy into my own clinical research, but am not sure how to go about this in a COVID world. How can changes in empathy be measured remotely?

Dana Garfin: Curious to hear more about any SES effects (particularly in the representative samples) as well as sustained/ longitudinal effects over time.

Anthony King: “acceptance” refers to openness & acknowledgement of my own emotional reactions, it does not mean resignation or passivity to evil.

Thanks everyone =^.^=

#WearAMask (or 2)


#WearGlasses (even if not prescription) (and if you wear contact lens wash your hands more intensely)

The nose as that’s more consequential to infection — both infecting yourself & you infecting others — than the mouth (Booth et al., 2005; Farzal et al., 2019; Hou et al., 2020; Teunis et al., 2010). Studies have reported a higher COVID-19 viral load in nasal swabs compared to throat swabs (Gallo et al., 20; Zou et al., 20).

- Cover Your Nose

Someone who gets infected with #COVID while they #WearAMask is more likely to have a mild infection whereas someone infected while not wearing a mask is likely to be a severe case due to a higher deposited dose (Gandhi et al., 2020).

“There is a benefit to using eye protection for healthcare workers and the general public and studies suggest that the lack of eye protection when other precautions are taken can result in contraction of the viral disease” (Veena Danthuluri & Maria Grant, 2020).

- Wear Glasses

#UCSD’s T. Denny Sanford Institute for Empathy & Compassion

Social Anhedonia —

“social anhedonia is not meant to describe enjoyment of solitary activities, normal introversion, or the occasional preference to be alone within the context of healthy social interests (Leary, Herbst, & McCrary, 2003); instead, it represents a traitlike disinterest in social contact, social withdrawal, and diminished pleasure during social situations”

Silvia, P. J., & Kwapil, T. R. (2011). Aberrant asociality: How individual differences in social anhedonia illuminate the need to belong. Journal of Personality, 79(6), 1315–1332.

Social anhedonia (SA) = reduced drive for and pleasure from social interaction

Dodell-Feder, D., & Germine, L. (2018). Epidemiological dimensions of social anhedonia. Clinical Psychological Science, 6(5), 735–743.

From June 2020 (when Facebook Notes still existed)

The deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, & (on my birthday, which I celebrated with my mom & my dad named George) George Floyd & sparked the release of long-tempered passions within the hearts of a diverse array of our fellow Americans & people around the world. For many, those passions will slowly show deference to our neural necessity of homeostasis. And that is okay: the unbearable grief & anguish we feel in the face of moral atrocities — the image of yet another body like mine in the posture of death in the street — needn’t last forever. What is critical is that we focus our resolve at this moment on introducing certain ideas into the sphere of conversational legitimacy.

Racial Trauma is one such concept. As is the reality that as America becomes ever more diverse our research & policy discussions must consider social processes beyond the scope of America’s original sin. The historical context of White-Black relations is critical as a baseline, but for too long we have treated the baseline like it’s the finish line. We are too diverse of a country for our discussions of intergroup relations to remain that limited, as though agnostic to the discrimination experienced by Hispanic & Asian Individuals, and the reality of interminority prejudice among minority groups (often in the form of Colorism).

Race Ratios matter when discussing the Sex Ratio, unless (1) you’re conducting research in a non-diverse country/state/municipality, or (2) you assume that racial homophily doesn’t exist anymore & we now live in a utopia where a Black kid walking home eating skittles won’t be killed because someone thought the neighborhood is too nice for him to have any reason to be in.

Preference/Type. We have a racial hierarchy of numerous preferences: romantic, interpersonal, who we will protect & serve vs put our knee on their neck, who really seems to be in enough pain to deserve pain killers, whose hand do we call on in class in 3rd grade when reading Anne Frank’s Diary, whose email do we reply to or take seriously when building a research team/ generating ideas, etc.

And perhaps the most fascinating concept related to ‘Type’ is the MultiRacial Dividend Effect.

In short, our emotions will reset. Right now an alarm is going off in our hearts but at some point our neural circuitry will begin to ‘cover its ears’ & we’ll turn our attention elsewhere. Thus, while we are within the womb of these overwhelming moments, let us strive to ensure that morally productive outcomes are yet borne from the labors of our collective civic virtue.


I'm passionate about making a tangible difference in the lives of others, & that's something I have the opportunity to do a professor & researcher.