Self-Control Is Just Empathy With Your Future Self

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Self-Control Is Just Empathy With Your Future Self

Post by Guest on Sun Dec 18, 2016 1:42 pm

i think i have empathy, but i lack self control in most things except maybe when it's work/study/family related

You’ve likely seen the video before: a stream of kids, confronted with a single, alluring marshmallow. If they can resist eating it for 15 minutes, they’ll get two. Some do. Others cave almost immediately.  


Empathy depends on your ability to overcome your own perspective, appreciate someone else’s, and step into their shoes. Self-control is essentially the same skill, except that those other shoes belong to your future self—a removed and hypothetical entity who might as well be a different person. So think of self-control as a kind of temporal selflessness. It’s Present You taking a hit to help out Future You.

“For a long time, people have speculated that we use the same mechanisms to reason about other people as about our hypothetical selves,” says Rebecca Saxe from MIT. “So this new study fits really well.”

Saxe should know. She was one of the first scientists to link the rTPJ to theory of mind—the ability to understand the mental states of other people. In 2005, she and Nancy Kanwisher scanned people’s brains while they listened to stories in which protagonists made poor choices based on false beliefs. This experiment showed that the TPJ is active specifically when people are “reasoning about the contents of another person’s minds”—the essence of theory of mind. This region, the duo wrote, helps people to think about thinking people.


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