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vegans show more empathic brain activity
Diana Posted at 2010/06/08 10:21am reply to

Diana
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weigand Posted at 2010/06/08 3:56pm reply to

weigand
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That is very interesting!

Diana, I think you're doing research in psychology, yes? You know what might be an interesting additional contribution along this line of thought? How about doing the same sort of studies using fMRI brain scans, but do them on a group of typical omnivores. Then take those same omnivores and have them read vegan books and repeat the fMRI scans one or two years later. Hopefully some have become vegetarian/vegan in that time period.  See if their brain scans have changed since their baseline scan.  It might be interesting to see that the ones that turned vegetarian/vegan actually had different brain scans before vs. after their conversion, whereas the rest of the omnis might stay the same.

My prediction is that empathy can be learned and isn't necessarily something you have to be born with. Or is it? It would make for an interesting study anyway.

For me, I feel that my empathy became heightened after I had experienced an incident in my personal life which resulted in pain and suffering. I became much more aware of suffering in people and animals. That lead me to become vegetarian and eventually vegan.

Mind you, had I not experienced that and merely read vegan literature,  I'm not sure I would have gone vegan.  I may have not been affected by it. But it would have been interesting to see my brain scans back then before I became vegetarian and again afterward, just to know if this is something I was born with or something that changed through experience and insight. Hmmm.

- Steve
zvezdy Posted at 2010/06/08 4:09pm reply to

zvezdy
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I think Weigand's idea is awesome. It would be interesting to see how one affects the other. Do you need to be a certain type of person to sustain veganism, or does veganism make you a certain type of person? Interesting...
posirich Posted at 2010/06/08 5:44pm reply to

posirich
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I think it will be found that more empathetic individuals are predisposed to Veg/AR, but also that empathy can be learned/gained. I don't know if that would lead to wholesale changes in the brain.  I know that as an extremely empathetic individual, it took diet for a new america and some others to start going veg in 92, whereas today i feel the info needed is so much easier to find and obviously more accessible that empathy+know how are easily and quickly joined.
Georgeous Posted at 2010/06/09 9:29am reply to

Georgeous
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>For me, I feel that my empathy became heightened after I had experienced an incident in my personal life which resulted in pain and suffering. I became much more aware of suffering in people and animals. That lead me to become vegetarian and eventually vegan.

I'm in the same boat- my mom was a very 'earth-mother' type person so she did influence my thoughts on the world. However, her violent death when I was just a kid is a huge part of what made me more aware of how valuable and irreplaceable life is, and thus made me more likely to feel that same compassion towards animals. Unfortunately, it also makes me waaaay less compassionate towards those who treat life as dispensable...

So I would say that my empathy is learned from my parents which opened the door for life experiences to strengthen those feelings.

This could be a really interesting study!
VeganBrian Posted at 2010/06/10 12:36am reply to

VeganBrian
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Empathy is definitely something one can learn. I don't see why it isn't a given that vegans mentally process animal suffering in a different way from omnivores. There is also research suggesting that children who are vegetarians have higher levels of moral reasoning than compared to their cohort. Cool stuff.
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