Do People Feel The Pain Of Other Ethnic Groups?

Do you feel anything?

Do you feel anything?

I thought this was a very interesting study that I read about on Slate:

Let’s do a quick experiment. You watch a needle pierce someone’s skin. Do you feel this person’s pain? Does it matter if the person’s skin is white or black?

For many people, race does matter, even if they don’t know it. They feel more empathy when they see white skin pierced than black. This is known as the racial empathy gap. To study it, researchers at the University of Milano-Bicocca showed participants (all of whom were white) video clips of a needle or an eraser touching someone’s skin. They measured participants’ reactions through skin conductance tests—basically whether their hands got sweaty—which reflect activity in the pain matrix of the brain. If we see someone in pain, it triggers the same network in our brains that’s activated when we are hurt. But people do not respond to the pain of others equally. In this experiment, when viewers saw white people receiving a painful stimulus, they responded more dramatically than they did for black people.

The racial empathy gap helps explain disparities in everything from pain management to the criminal justice system. But the problem isn’t just that people disregard the pain of black people. It’s somehow even worse. The problem is that the pain isn’t even felt.

A recent study shows that people, including medical personnel, assume black people feel less pain than white people. The researchers asked participants to rate how much pain they would feel in 18 common scenarios. The participants rated experiences such as stubbing a toe or getting shampoo in their eyes on a four-point scale (where 1 is “not painful” and 4 is “extremely painful”). Then they rated how another person (a randomly assigned photo of an experimental “target”) would feel in the same situations. Sometimes the target was white, sometimes black. In each experiment, the researchers found that white participants, black participants, and nurses and nursing students assumed that blacks felt less pain than whites.
You will definitely find the rest of the article and more on the study interesting. Read it here. So interesting how deep and subconscious discrimination can go.
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5 thoughts on “Do People Feel The Pain Of Other Ethnic Groups?

  1. ericjbaker says:

    Do people feel the pain of other ethnic groups?

    Oh hell yes, and I’m living proof. Have you ever seen John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982)? For all the flesh eating and exploding monster guts in that movie, the only part that makes me squirm is when Kurt Russell slices TK Carter’s thumb open with a pocket knife to draw blood. My own thumb curls up in self-defense during that sequence.

    See. Scientific proof!

    The Thing is one of my favorite horror flicks of all time, but I can’t recommend it to you because you once told me you don’t like violent films. I assume a giant alien eating a guy’s head while it’s still attached qualifies as violence…

    • Earnest Harris says:

      You are too much! Hey I didn’t mean I didn’t like all violence in movies. Believe me I’ve seen mu share. Too much blood and “stuff” now that is different. I know, my man card is at risk now.

      • ericjbaker says:

        You mean Steel Magnolias is not your favorite flick? 😉

        This exchange is probably less about your man points and more about my immaturity for still preferring the trashy horror movies I liked as a child to legitimate cinema.

      • Earnest Harris says:

        LOL. Hey it’s all legitimate isn’t it?

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