Empathy is an interesting thing. We may think we “neurotypicals” are socially skilled, but in fact our empathy is limited by many factors. Work by cognitive neuroscientists Professor Tania Singer at the Max Planck Institute in Liepzig and Dr Geoff Bird of the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College London shows us that our empathy for someone is critically affected by how much we identify with them. For someone within our “in group” our hearts may bleed, but for someone perceived as part of an “out group” we can be amazingly callous. Religious and ethnic wars around the world illustrate this.

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