New scientific evidence of the Golden Rule goes beyond the usual assumptions and suggests that if you treat others with disdain, you not only suffer, but activate the same neurology as physical pain.
Richard Ryan, co-author of a new University of Rochester study says, “This study shows that when people bend to pressure to exclude others, they also pay a steep personal cost. Their distress is different from the person excluded, but no less intense.”
The research discovered that following with instructions to exclude another person from a social activity leads people to feel shame and guilt, explains Nicole Legate, lead author of the Psychological Science paper. Essentially, inflicting social pain makes people feel less connected to others. The loss of connection is painful.
“Although there are no visible scars, ostracism has been shown to activate the same neural pathways as physical pain,” says Ryan. But complying with instructions to exclude others was equally disheartening, the data shows, albeit for different reasons.
This study reminds me of the work of philosopher Martin Buber, author of the book I and Thou. Buber reminds us that everyone we meet is a person. The more we treat people like people, as opposed to objects, the more we live in tune with our basic humanity.
The problem is, most of us don’t realize how we subtly dismiss, reject, exclude and offend other people. If we don’t know we are hurting others, does it still hurt us?
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Last reviewed: 6 Mar 2013