Friday, December 9, 2016

The relationship between self-control and empathy

Do you know Marshmallow Test? It is a simple experiment to evaluate the level of patience of children. A pick of sweet marshmallow is proposed to an examinee. The examiner tells him that he will get two picks of marshmallow after 30 minutes if he abandons the present one. If the examiner has enough ability of self-control, he will be glad to wait for another reward. In contrast, impulsive children will grab the immediate sweets without examining its disadvantage. This test is often used to assess the developmental stage of children.

According to this article below, self-control coincides with empathy. Thus, the ability to control yourself is deeply connected with the power of imagination. In this regard, the subject to be imagined is your own figure in the future. If you can feel your agony past committing a theft to get arrested, you will never rob valuable goods of the careless man in front of you.

The Atlantic: Self-Control Is Just Empathy With Your Future Self

The author suggests right temporoparietal junction in the brain as a region responsible to self-control. This region has been believed to regulate human emotion such as empathy. When you try to take other person’s perspective, the right temporoparietal junction is stimulated, brain research suggests.

However, is an estimation of your own emotion in the future the same as being empathetic to others’ feeling? I hardly accept it. Many people with good empathy to others fail to refuse extra fats after dinner.

In my sense, imagining self in the future is different from imagining others at present. Perhaps, the former is far difficult to the latter. It is because cognition bias occurs when we sense in the mind of ourselves. We often underestimate the future value compared to the present value. It is an instinct of animals to survive the current crisis.

Therefore, I disagree with the opinion that self-control is the same as empathy. Indeed, there are many people with high empathy who are difficult to control their own emotion.

On the other hand, these two abilities are corresponding with each other. A mature person is good at both of them. Some confounding factors are suggested such as rationality and experience.

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