Experts have long thought that children and adults who bully others are rather cool and indifferent to the people they bully; that they lack the empathy and sympathy needed to know what it's like to walk in someone else's shoes.
New research has shown the brain receptors that show reward or pleasure (known as the amygdala and ventral striatum) light up with activity when these people inflict physical or emotional pain on another. The brain activity of eight teenage boys with a history of bulling was studied via MRI. The boys were shown pictures or video of pain being inflicted on others, and the results showed a strong reaction in the reward center of their brains. Bottom line : they enjoyed seeing another person in distress.
In comparison, another eight boys with no history of bullying or aggression toward others were shown the same images and did not show the same reaction in the reward centers of their brains. Another strong difference was that the area in the brain that governs self-control and parameters did not respond with the aggressive group but did with the non aggressive boys.
While this study was a small one - 16 boys in total, the results were so different between both groups (the aggressive versus the non aggressive groups) that further study is warranted.
The study was conducted by the University of Chicago.
Have you been a victim of bullying or did you bully as a child (or adult)? How did you feel during or after?
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