Proposing Research On Empathy and Schizophrenia

A person’s capability to empathize fully depends on one’s mental ability to understand, relate and identify with another’s feelings and actions. The lack of understanding and social isolation are common characteristics of people with mental disorders, which leaves them with a significantly limited ability to empathize. One of the most acute mental disorder’s known to humanity is a schizophrenia. Schizophrenia is characterized by abnormal social behavior, social isolation, breakdown between thought, emotion and behavior leading to inappropriate emotional responses and inappropriate comprehension of actions and feelings. Thus, patients with schizophrenia demonstrate deficits in emotional processing and perspective taking, which is vital for empathizing. All of this leads me to the question: what is the reason behind the limited empathy in people with schizophrenia and in what extent do those diagnosed with schizophrenia experience empathy?

•Russel Crowe as John Nash in the Movie “A Beautiful Mind”

• Russell Crowe as John Nash in the Movie “A Beautiful Mind”

From my perspective, answering this question will be extremely challenging and thus interesting for a few reasons. First of all, as a huge fan of John Nash, one of the best economist who was diagnosed with schizophrenia, I regard schizophrenia as one of the most interesting medical conditions. Therefore, exploring the reasons behind the lack of empathy that are caused by a mental disorder that physically limits one’s ability to empathize will be extremely interesting and fascinating. Secondly, understanding the reason behind the lack of empathy and the extent of how those diagnosed with schizophrenia experience it will help us to shed light on the possible reasons and explanations behind social isolation that people with such mental disorders are characterized by. Finally, understanding the reasons behind limited empathy among individuals affected by schizophrenia will help us to better understand probable medical reasons behind lack of empathy in healthy individuals.

Recently, in class, we discussed the limitations of empathy and reasons behind the lack of it. However, most of the reasons we discussed were focusing on a person’s background, barrier-overcoming profile, views and other non-innate factors. My topic will be relevant to and interesting for our course as it will provide a rather different view on the limitations of empathy. I expect most of the sources to focus on more medical and scientific explanations of lack of empathy among individuals with schizophrenia. Moreover, understanding medical explanations on the lack of empathy, will further help us understand scientific reasons why we do actually feel empathy and what promotes our ability to empathize. One of the scholarly sources that I will use to get insight into the topic is an article by H. Haker and W. Rossler “Empathy in Schizophrenia: Impaired Resonance,” which describes differences in empathetic resonance in individuals with schizophrenia and healthy ones. All of this will help us to shed the light on the both the reasons behind empathy and the reasons behind lack of it.

Potential Sources:

  • Haker, H., and W. Rossler. “Empathy in Schizophrenia: Impaired Resonance.” European Archives of Psychiatry and Clinical Neuroscience, vol. 259, no. 6, 2009., pp. 352-361.
  • Bonfils, Kelsey A., et al. “Affective Empathy in Schizophrenia: A Meta-Analysis.” Schizophrenia research, vol. 175, no. 1-3, 2016., pp. 109-117.
  • Derntl, Birgit, et al. “Generalized Deficit in all Core Components of Empathy in Schizophrenia.” Schizophrenia Research, vol. 108, no. 1, 2009., pp. 197-206.
  • Didehbani, N., et al. “Insight and Empathy in Schizophrenia.” Schizophrenia Research, vol. 142, no. 1-3, 2012., pp. 246-247.
  • Shamay-Tsoory, Simone G., et al. “Neurocognitive Basis of Impaired Empathy in Schizophrenia.” Neuropsychology, vol. 21, no. 4, 2007., pp. 431-438.
  • McCormick, LM, et al. “Mirror Neuron Function, Psychosis, and Empathy in Schizophrenia.” Psychiatry Research-Neuroimaging, vol. 201, no. 3, 2012., pp. 233-239
  • Derntl, Birgit, et al. “Neural Correlates of the Core Facets of Empathy in Schizophrenia.” Schizophrenia Research, vol. 136, no. 1-3, 2012., pp. 70-81.
  • Russell Crowe as John Nash in the Movie “A Beautiful Mind”

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