What are the neuroscientists watching?

They call it empathy – but actually they are looking at the bits of the brain that light up when the person in the machine is looking at pcitures of other people, usually other people suffering pain. I’m having a puzzled moment – if we label it “empathy” it suggests a mental experience, some kind of thought-and-feeling, that is stable and repeatable enough to warrant a label at all. How do our brains create this unity, this thing called empathy with strong enough identity to be labelled as such over and over, in different brains? Some kind of emergence? Or is the unity just created by the brain imager’s decision to label?

And why would this brain activity have anything much to do with the mind activity that goes on in dialogue?


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