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Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, Which Gender Has the Most Mirror Neurons of All?

 

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Let’s begin with a simple explanation of mirror neurons. Mirror neurons are brain cells that become active when we observe other people engaging in an action. For example, when we see others experience an emotion by changes in their facial expression and body, our mirror neurons send signals to help us to feel what we perceive their emotion to be. Most researchers believe the more mirror neurons we have, the greater our capacity for empathy. So, which gender do you think has more mirror neurons?

 

Most people think women do. Research shows in studies conducted by Yawei Cheng that, indeed, women do have stronger mirror neuron resonance than men. Dr. Simon Baron Cohen also found that women score higher on tests measuring empathy than men.

 

Based upon our experience in doing Empathy Training with thousands of people for several decades, we agree. But it’s not that simple! We believe men are gradually narrowing the gap. We have witnessed a steady increase in male empathy in our UCLA workshops coinciding with the growing impact of the men’s groups, parenting classes, and business communication workshops.

 

Although men are sometimes teased or called overly sensitive for being empathic, the above mentioned activities have been supporting men to connect better with their feelings of vulnerability and tenderness and to tune into those feelings in their friends, partners, and children.

 

In contrast, women’s roles have emphasized raising children, cooperating, and fostering family closeness -all of which require high levels of empathy and the ability to take in another’s feelings via mirror neurons. Biologically, it makes sense since women give birth, provide milk and are usually a baby’s primary attachment.

 

Of course, there are individual differences, and some men have more empathy than some women. The good news for society is that men who take Empathy Training increase their empathy scores as much as women.However, since women tend to begin the training with higher scores, they also tend to complete the training with higher scores.

 

See how you can increase your verbal and nonverbal empathy in one day in the June 4 UCLA Extension workshop, Empathy Training: How to Strengthen Personal and Professional Relationships.

 

If you want to deepen your understanding of why empathy is so crucial in couples therapy:

 

 

Send us your comments, insights, and discoveries after reflecting about the Blog.

 

 

James W. Gottfurcht,
PhD, Psychologist in private practice; Board Certified Coach; President, Psychology of Money Consultants.

 

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