According to a new study conducted by Drexel University, people may be more inclined to feel empathy when experiencing physical discomfort. Results published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology indicate that mild physical discomfort raises an individual’s awareness of exterior discomfort in his or her immediate surroundings.
To make this discovery, researchers showed both painful and neutral images to participants. While viewing the images, one group held a sandpaper-covered object in one hand, while a second group held an object wrapped in smooth paper. The brain activity of participants who held the sandpaper-covered object was greater than the activity of those holding the object covered in smooth paper.
The team also conducted a second study on the theory. In this experiment, members of one group of participants was instructed to use a rough, exfoliating soap to wash their hands, while members of the second group washed their hands using a soft soap. The first group’s members were more likely to display a willingness to donate to an unfamiliar charity after handwashing than members of the second group.