Recent quotes:

In product design, imagining end user's feelings leads to more original outcomes -- ScienceDaily

"You always want to have new products that solve problems more efficiently, more effectively and at a lesser cost. So product designers fall into this trap of being very objective in focusing on the utility of a product. That's important, but the objectivity of the thought process only takes them so far, because they're not imagining how the product will ultimately make consumers feel." When designers start incorporating what they perceive the end user's feelings will be into product design, "what that does is enhance empathy for the consumer -- and that, in turn, produces more out-of-the-box ideas. That's our big takeaway: When you imagine consumers and focus on their feelings, that's powerful and will lead to something much more innovative than only focusing on a product's utility."

I feel you: Emotional mirror neurons found in the rat -- ScienceDaily

On the basis of this, researchers formulated two speculations: (a) the cingulate cortex contains mirror neurons, i.e. neurons that trigger our own feeling of pain and are reactivated when we see the pain of others, and (b) that this is the reason why we wince and feel pain while seeing the pain of others. This intuitively plausible theory of empathy however remained untested because it is not possible to record the activity of individual brain cells in humans. Moreover, it is not possible to modulate brain activity in the human cingulate cortex to determine whether this brain region is responsible for empathy. Rat shares emotions of others For the first time, researchers at the Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience were able to test the theory of empathy in rats. They had rats look at other rats receiving an unpleasant stimulus (mild shock), and measured what happened with the brain and behavior of the observing rat. When rats are scared, their natural reaction is to freeze to avoid being detected by predators. The researchers found that the rat also froze when it observed another rat exposed to an unpleasant situation. This finding suggests that the observing rat shared the emotion of the other rat. Corresponding recordings of the cingulate cortex, the very region thought to underpin empathy in humans, showed that the observing rats activated the very neurons in the cingulate cortex that also became active when the rat experienced pain himself in a separate experiment. Subsequently, the researchers suppressed the activity of cells in the cingulate cortex through the injection of a drug. They found that observing rats no longer froze without activity in this brain region.

'Mindreading' neurons simulate decisions of social partners -- ScienceDaily

The researchers go on to speculate that if simulation neurons became dysfunctional this could restrict social cognition, a symptom of autism. By contrast, they suggest overactive neurons could result in exaggerated simulation of what others might be thinking, which may play a role in social anxiety. The study's lead author, Dr Fabian Grabenhorst from the Department of Physiology, Development and Neuroscience, says: "We started out looking for neurons that might be involved in social learning. We were surprised to find that amygdala neurons not only learn the value of objects from social observation but actually use this information to simulate a partner's decisions." Simulating others' decisions is a sophisticated cognitive process that is rooted in social learning. By observing a partner's foraging choices, for instance, we learn which foods are valuable and worth choosing. Such knowledge not only informs our own decisions but also helps us predict the future decisions of our partner.

What if the Placebo Effect Isn’t a Trick? - The New York Times

Will this work destroy the stuff that actually has to do with wisdom, preciousness, imagination, the things that are actually critical to who we are as human beings?” he asks. His answer: “I don’t know, but I have to believe there is an infinite reserve of wisdom and imagination that will resist being reduced to simple materialistic explanations.”

Self-compassion may protect people from the harmful effects of perfectionism -- ScienceDaily

The researchers administered anonymous questionnaires to assess perfectionism, depression, and self-compassion across 541 adolescents and 515 adults. Their analyses of these self-assessments revealed that self-compassion may help uncouple perfectionism and depression. The replication of this finding in two groups of differently-aged people suggests that self-compassion may help moderate the link between perfectionism and depression across the lifespan. The authors suggest that self-compassion interventions could be a useful way to undermine the effects of perfectionism, but future experimental or intervention research is needed to fully assess this possibility. "Self-compassion, the practice of self-kindness, consistently reduces the strength of the relationship between maladaptive perfectionism and depression for both adolescents and adults," says lead author Madeleine Ferrari.

The negative side of negativity

In fact, researchers have long documented how certain emotional reactions from family members correlate with higher relapse rates for people who have a diagnosis of schizophrenia. Collectively referred to as “high expressed emotion,” these reactions include criticism, hostility and emotional overinvolvement (like overprotectiveness or constant intrusiveness in the patient’s life). In one study, 67 percent of white American families with a schizophrenic family member were rated as “high EE.” (Among British families, 48 percent were high EE; among Mexican families the figure was 41 percent and for Indian families 23 percent.)

Is lower stress the secret to finding empathy?

A drug that blocks stress hormones increases the ability of college students and mice to “feel” the pain of a stranger, the study shows. That phenomenon, known as “emotional contagion of pain,” is one form of empathy. In even better news, a shared round of the video game Rock Band worked just as well as the drugs among those undergrads.

A Path With Heart by Carlos Castaneda

You must always keep in mind that a path is only a path. Each path is only one of a million paths. If you feel that you must now follow it, you need not stay with it under any circumstances. Any path is only a path. There is no affront to yourself or others in dropping a path if that is what your heart tells you to do. But your decision to keep on a path or to leave it must be free of fear and ambition. I caution you: look at every path closely and deliberately. Try it as many times as you think necessary. Then ask yourself and yourself alone this one question. Does this path have a heart? All paths are the same. They lead nowhere. They are paths going through the brush or into the brush or under the brush of the Universe. The only question is: Does this path have a heart? If it does, then it is a good path. If it doesn’t, then it is of no use.

Remembering David Carr - Twiangulate Blog

This amazing man -- the boy from Hopkins, Minnesota, brilliant writer, father of three, recovering crack addict, recovering alcoholic, cancer survivor -- was followed by more Times-tweeps than powerful newspapers (WSJ: 300 NYT followers), presidents (Obama: 244), former Presidents (Clinton: 181), stars (Lena Dunham: 182; Jon Stewart: 175), moguls (Bloomberg: 172), or political honchos (David Axelrod: 159.) David also had far more NYT followers than fellow staffers like @nickkristof (1,563,804 followers, 378 from NYT staff) or @NYTimeskrugman (1,309,170 followers, 263 NYT staff.)
In one study, researchers first assessed the baseline mindfulness of 45 doctors, nurses and physician assistants by asking them to respond to statements like, “I tend to walk quickly to where I am going without paying attention to what I experience along the way,” “I find myself listening to someone with one ear, doing something else at the same time,” and “I forget a person’s name almost as soon as I’ve been told it for the first time.” Then the investigators recorded the clinicians’ interactions with more than 400 patients and interviewed the patients to gauge their level of satisfaction. After analyzing the audio recordings and the patients’ responses, the researchers found that patients were more satisfied and more open with the more mindful clinicians. They also discovered that more mindful clinicians tended to be more upbeat during patient interactions, more focused on the conversation and more likely to make attempts to strengthen the relationship or ferret out details of the patient’s feelings. The less mindful clinicians, on the other hand, more frequently missed opportunities to be empathic and, in the most extreme cases, failed to pay attention at all, responding, for example, to a patient’s description of waking up in the middle of the night crying in pain with a question about a flu shot. Significantly, the most mindful doctors remained efficient. They accomplished just as much medically for their patients as their least mindful colleagues, despite all the extra conversation with patients about experiences and relationships.