Welcome to the Nexus of Ethics, Psychology, Morality, Philosophy and Health Care

Welcome to the nexus of ethics, psychology, morality, technology, health care, and philosophy
Showing posts with label Social Connections. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Social Connections. Show all posts

Friday, April 2, 2021

Neuroscience shows how interconnected we are – even in a time of isolation

Lisa Feldman Barrett
The Guardian
Originally posted 10 Feb 21

Here is an excerpt:

Being the caretakers of each other’s body budgets is challenging when so many of us feel lonely or are physically alone. But social distancing doesn’t have to mean social isolation. Humans have a special power to connect with and regulate each other in another way, even at a distance: with words. If you’ve ever received a text message from a loved one and felt a rush of warmth, or been criticised by your boss and felt like you’d been punched in the gut, you know what I’m talking about. Words are tools for regulating bodies.

In my research lab, we run experiments to demonstrate this power of words. Our participants lie still in a brain scanner and listen to evocative descriptions of different situations. One is about walking into your childhood home and being smothered in hugs and smiles. Another is about awakening to your buzzing alarm clock and finding a sweet note from your significant other. As they listen, we see increased activity in brain regions that control heart rate, breathing, metabolism and the immune system. Yes, the same brain regions that process language also help to run your body budget. Words have power over your biology – your brain wiring guarantees it.

Our participants also had increased activity in brain regions involved in vision and movement, even though they were lying still with their eyes closed. Their brains were changing the firing of their own neurons to simulate sight and motion in their mind’s eye. This same ability can build a sense of connection, from a few seconds of poor-quality mobile phone audio, or from a rectangle of pixels in the shape of a friend’s face. Your brain fills in the gaps – the sense data that you don’t receive through these media – and can ease your body budget deficit in the moment.

In the midst of social distancing, my Zoom friend and I rediscovered the body-budgeting benefits of older means of communication, such as letter writing. The handwriting of someone we care about can have an unexpected emotional impact. A piece of paper becomes a wave of love, a flood of gratitude, a belly-aching laugh.

Sunday, March 28, 2021

Negativity Spreads More than Positivity on Twitter after both Positive and Negative Political Situations

Schöne, J., Parkinson, B., & Goldenberg, A. 
(2021, January 2). 


What type of emotional language spreads further in political discourses on social media? Previous research has focused on situations that primarily elicited negative emotions, showing that negative language tended to spread further. The current project addressed the gap introduced when looking only at negative situations by comparing the spread of emotional language in response to both predominantly positive and negative political situations. In Study 1, we examined the spread of emotional language among tweets related to the winning and losing parties in the 2016 US elections, finding that increased negativity (but not positivity) predicted content sharing in both situations. In Study 2, we compared the spread of emotional language in two separate situations: the celebration of the US Supreme Court approval of same-sex marriage (positive), and the Ferguson Unrest (negative), finding again that negativity spread further. These results shed light on the nature of political discourse and engagement.

General Discussion

The goal of the project was to investigate what types of emotional language spread further in response to negative and positive political situations. In Studies 1 (same situation) and 2 (separate situations),we examined the spread of emotional language in response to negative and positive situations. Results from both of our studies suggested that negative language tended to spread further both in negative and positive situations. Analysis of political affiliation in both studies indicated that the users that produced the negative language in the political celebrations were ingroup members (conservatives in Study 1 and liberals in Study 2). Analysis of negative content produced in celebrations shows that negative language was mainly used to describe hardships or past obstacles. Combined, these two studies shed light on the nature of political engagement online. 

Friday, February 21, 2020

Friends or foes: Is empathy necessary for moral behavior?

Jean Decety and Jason M. Cowell
Perspect Psychol Sci. 2014 Sep; 9(4): 525–537.
doi: 10.1177/1745691614545130


The past decade has witnessed a flurry of empirical and theoretical research on morality and empathy, as well as increased interest and usage in the media and the public arena. At times, in both popular and academia, morality and empathy are used interchangeably, and quite often the latter is considered to play a foundational role for the former. In this article, we argue that, while there is a relationship between morality and empathy, it is not as straightforward as apparent at first glance. Moreover, it is critical to distinguish between the different facets of empathy (emotional sharing, empathic concern, and perspective taking), as each uniquely influences moral cognition and predicts differential outcomes in moral behavior. Empirical evidence and theories from evolutionary biology, developmental, behavioral, and affective and social neuroscience are comprehensively integrated in support of this argument. The wealth of findings illustrates a complex and equivocal relationship between morality and empathy. The key to understanding such relations is to be more precise on the concepts being used, and perhaps abandoning the muddy concept of empathy.

From the Conclusion:

To wrap up on a provocative note, it may be advantageous for the science of morality, in the future, to refrain from using the catch-all term of empathy, which applies to a myriad of processes and phenomena, and as a result yields confusion in both understanding and predictive ability. In both academic and applied domains such medicine, ethics, law and policy, empathy has become an enticing, but muddy notion, potentially leading to misinterpretation. If ancient Greek philosophy has taught us anything, it is that when a concept is attributed with so many meanings, it is at risk for losing function.

The article is here.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Donald Hoffman: The Case Against Reality

The Institute of Arts and Ideas
Originally published September 8, 2019

Many scientists believe that natural selection brought our perception of reality into clearer and deeper focus, reasoning that growing more attuned to the outside world gave our ancestors an evolutionary edge. Donald Hoffman, a cognitive scientist at the University of California, Irvine, thinks that just the opposite is true. Because evolution selects for survival, not accuracy, he proposes that our conscious experience masks reality behind millennia of adaptions for ‘fitness payoffs’ – an argument supported by his work running evolutionary game-theory simulations. In this interview recorded at the HowTheLightGetsIn Festival from the Institute of Arts and Ideas in 2019, Hoffman explains why he believes that perception must necessarily hide reality for conscious agents to survive and reproduce. With that view serving as a springboard, the wide-ranging discussion also touches on Hoffman’s consciousness-centric framework for reality, and its potential implications for our everyday lives.

Editor Note: If you work as a mental health professional, this video may be helpful in understanding perceptions, understanding self, and consciousness.

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Empathy in the Age of the EMR

Danielle Ofri
The Lancet

Here is an excerpt:

Keeping the doctor-patient connection from eroding in the age of the EMR is an uphill battle. We all know that the eye contact that Fildes depicts is a critical ingredient for communication and connection, but when the computer screen is so demanding of focus that the patient becomes a distraction, even an impediment—this is hopelessly elusive.

Recently, I was battling the EMR during a visit with a patient who had particularly complicated medical conditions. We hadn’t seen each other in more than a year, so there was much to catch up on. Each time she raised an issue, I turned to the computer to complete the requisite documentation for that concern. In that pause, however, my patient intuited a natural turn of conversation. Thinking that it was now her turn to talk, she would bring up the next thing on her mind. But of course I wasn’t finished with the last thing, so I would say, “Would you mind holding that thought for a second? I just need to finish this one thing…”

I’d turn back to the computer and fall silent to finish documenting. After a polite minute, she would apparently sense that it was again her turn in the conversation and thus begin her next thought. I was torn because I didn’t want to stop her in her tracks, but we’ve been so admonished about the risks inherent in distracted multitasking that I wanted to focus fully on the thought I was entering into the computer. I know it’s rude to cut someone off, but preserving a clinical train of thought is crucial for avoiding medical error.

The info is here.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Business Ethics And Integrity: It Starts With The Tone At The Top

Betsy Atkins
Originally posted 7, 2019

Here is the conclusion:

Transparency leads to empowerment:

Share your successes and your failures and look to everyone to help build a better company.  By including everyone, you create the illusive “we” that is the essence of company culture.  Transparency leads to a company culture that creates an outcome because the CEO creates a bigger purpose for the organization than just making money or reaching quarterly numbers.  Company culture guru Kenneth Kurtzman author of Common Purpose said it best when he said “CEOs need to know how to read their organizations’ emotional tone and need to engage behaviors that build trust including leading-by-listening, building bridges, showing compassion and caring, demonstrating their own commitment to the organization, and giving employees the authority to do their job while inspiring them to do their best work.”

There is no substitute for CEO leadership in creating a company culture of integrity.  A board that supports the CEO in building a company culture of integrity, transparency, and collaboration will be supporting a successful company.

The info is here.

Monday, January 7, 2019

The Boundary Between Our Bodies and Our Tech

Kevin Lincoln
Pacific Standard
Originally published November 8, 2018

Here is an excerpt:

"They argued that, essentially, the mind and the self are extended to those devices that help us perform what we ordinarily think of as our cognitive tasks," Lynch says. This can include items as seemingly banal and analog as a piece of paper and a pen, which help us remember, a duty otherwise performed by the brain. According to this philosophy, the shopping list, for example, becomes part of our memory, the mind spilling out beyond the confines of our skull to encompass anything that helps it think.

"Now if that thought is right, it's pretty clear that our minds have become even more radically extended than ever before," Lynch says. "The idea that our self is expanding through our phones is plausible, and that's because our phones, and our digital devices generally—our smartwatches, our iPads—all these things have become a really intimate part of how we go about our daily lives. Intimate in the sense in which they're not only on our body, but we sleep with them, we wake up with them, and the air we breathe is filled, in both a literal and figurative sense, with the trails of ones and zeros that these devices leave behind."

This gets at one of the essential differences between a smartphone and a piece of paper, which is that our relationship with our phones is reciprocal: We not only put information into the device, we also receive information from it, and, in that sense, it shapes our lives far more actively than would, say, a shopping list. The shopping list isn't suggesting to us, based on algorithmic responses to our past and current shopping behavior, what we should buy; the phone is.

The info is here.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Why Facts Don’t Change Our Minds

James Clear

Facts Don't Change Our Minds. Friendship Does.

Convincing someone to change their mind is really the process of convincing them to change their tribe. If they abandon their beliefs, they run the risk of losing social ties. You can’t expect someone to change their mind if you take away their community too. You have to give them somewhere to go. Nobody wants their worldview torn apart if loneliness is the outcome.

The way to change people’s minds is to become friends with them, to integrate them into your tribe, to bring them into your circle. Now, they can change their beliefs without the risk of being abandoned socially.

The British philosopher Alain de Botton suggests that we simply share meals with those who disagree with us:
“Sitting down at a table with a group of strangers has the incomparable and odd benefit of making it a little more difficult to hate them with impunity. Prejudice and ethnic strife feed off abstraction. However, the proximity required by a meal – something about handing dishes around, unfurling napkins at the same moment, even asking a stranger to pass the salt – disrupts our ability to cling to the belief that the outsiders who wear unusual clothes and speak in distinctive accents deserve to be sent home or assaulted. For all the large-scale political solutions which have been proposed to salve ethnic conflict, there are few more effective ways to promote tolerance between suspicious neighbours than to force them to eat supper together.” 
Perhaps it is not difference, but distance that breeds tribalism and hostility. As proximity increases, so does understanding. I am reminded of Abraham Lincoln's quote, “I don't like that man. I must get to know him better.”

Facts don't change our minds. Friendship does.

Friday, November 9, 2018

Believing without evidence is always morally wrong

Francisco Mejia Uribe
Originally posted November 5, 2018

Here are two excerpts:

But it is not only our own self-preservation that is at stake here. As social animals, our agency impacts on those around us, and improper believing puts our fellow humans at risk. As Clifford warns: ‘We all suffer severely enough from the maintenance and support of false beliefs and the fatally wrong actions which they lead to …’ In short, sloppy practices of belief-formation are ethically wrong because – as social beings – when we believe something, the stakes are very high.


Translating Clifford’s warning to our interconnected times, what he tells us is that careless believing turns us into easy prey for fake-news peddlers, conspiracy theorists and charlatans. And letting ourselves become hosts to these false beliefs is morally wrong because, as we have seen, the error cost for society can be devastating. Epistemic alertness is a much more precious virtue today than it ever was, since the need to sift through conflicting information has exponentially increased, and the risk of becoming a vessel of credulity is just a few taps of a smartphone away.

Clifford’s third and final argument as to why believing without evidence is morally wrong is that, in our capacity as communicators of belief, we have the moral responsibility not to pollute the well of collective knowledge. In Clifford’s time, the way in which our beliefs were woven into the ‘precious deposit’ of common knowledge was primarily through speech and writing. Because of this capacity to communicate, ‘our words, our phrases, our forms and processes and modes of thought’ become ‘common property’. Subverting this ‘heirloom’, as he called it, by adding false beliefs is immoral because everyone’s lives ultimately rely on this vital, shared resource.

The info is here.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Descartes was wrong: ‘a person is a person through other persons’

Abeba Birhane
Originally published April 7, 2017

Here is an excerpt:

So reality is not simply out there, waiting to be uncovered. ‘Truth is not born nor is it to be found inside the head of an individual person, it is born between people collectively searching for truth, in the process of their dialogic interaction,’ Bakhtin wrote in Problems of Dostoevsky’s Poetics (1929). Nothing simply is itself, outside the matrix of relationships in which it appears. Instead, being is an act or event that must happen in the space between the self and the world.

Accepting that others are vital to our self-perception is a corrective to the limitations of the Cartesian view. Consider two different models of child psychology. Jean Piaget’s theory of cognitive development conceives of individual growth in a Cartesian fashion, as the reorganisation of mental processes. The developing child is depicted as a lone learner – an inventive scientist, struggling independently to make sense of the world. By contrast, ‘dialogical’ theories, brought to life in experiments such as Lisa Freund’s ‘doll house study’ from 1990, emphasise interactions between the child and the adult who can provide ‘scaffolding’ for how she understands the world.

A grimmer example might be solitary confinement in prisons. The punishment was originally designed to encourage introspection: to turn the prisoner’s thoughts inward, to prompt her to reflect on her crimes, and to eventually help her return to society as a morally cleansed citizen. A perfect policy for the reform of Cartesian individuals.

The information is here.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Why are Americans so sad?

Monica H. Swahn
Originally published June 16, 2018

Suicide rates in the US have increased nearly 30% in less than 20 years, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported June 7. These mind-numbing statistics were released the same week two very famous, successful and beloved people committed suicide—Kate Spade, a tremendous entrepreneur, trendsetter and fashion icon, and Anthony Bourdain, a distinguished chef and world traveler who took us on gastronomic journeys to all corners of the world through his TV shows.

Their tragic deaths, and others like them, have brought new awareness to the rapidly growing public health problem of suicide in the US. These deaths have renewed the country’s conversation about the scope of the problem. The sad truth is that suicide is the 10th leading cause of death among all Americans, and among youth and young adults, suicide is the third leading cause of death.

I believe it’s time for us to pause and to ask the question why? Why are the suicide rates increasing so fast? And, are the increasing suicide rates linked to the seeming increase in demand for drugs such as marijuana, opioids and psychiatric medicine? As a public health researcher and epidemiologist who has studied these issues for a long time, I think there may be deeper issues to explore.

Suicide: more than a mental health issue

Suicide prevention is usually focused on the individual and within the context of mental health illness, which is a very limited approach. Typically, suicide is described as an outcome of depression, anxiety, and other mental health concerns including substance use. And, these should not be trivialized; these conditions can be debilitating and life-threatening and should receive treatment. (If you or someone you know need help, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255).

The info is here.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

The Fear Factor

Matthieu Ricard
Originally published January 5, 2018

Here is an excerpt:

Research by Abigail Marsh and other neuroscientists reveals that psychopaths’ brains are marked by a dysfunction in the structure called the amygdala that is responsible for essential social and emotional function. In psychopaths, the amygdala is not only under-responsive to images of people experiencing fear, but is also up to 20% smaller than average.

Marsh also wondered about people who are at the other end of the spectrum, extreme altruists: people filled with compassion, people who volunteer, for example, to donate one of their kidneys to a stranger. The answer is remarkable: extreme altruists surpass everyone in detecting expressions of fear in others and, while they do experience fear themselves, that does not stop them from acting in ways that are considered very courageous.

Since her initial discovery, several studies have confirmed that the ability to label other peoples’ fear predicts altruism better than gender, mood or how compassionate people claim to be. In addition, Abigail Marsh found that, among extreme altruists, the amygdala is physically larger than the average by about 8%. The significance of this fact held up even after finding something rather unexpected: the altruists’s brains are in general larger than those of the average person.

The information is here.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Reciprocity Outperforms Conformity to Promote Cooperation

Angelo Romano, Daniel Balliet
Psychological Sciences
First Published September 6, 2017


Evolutionary psychologists have proposed two processes that could give rise to the pervasiveness of human cooperation observed among individuals who are not genetically related: reciprocity and conformity. We tested whether reciprocity outperformed conformity in promoting cooperation, especially when these psychological processes would promote a different cooperative or noncooperative response. To do so, across three studies, we observed participants’ cooperation with a partner after learning (a) that their partner had behaved cooperatively (or not) on several previous trials and (b) that their group members had behaved cooperatively (or not) on several previous trials with that same partner. Although we found that people both reciprocate and conform, reciprocity has a stronger influence on cooperation. Moreover, we found that conformity can be partly explained by a concern about one’s reputation—a finding that supports a reciprocity framework.

The article is here.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Work and the Loneliness Epidemic

Vivek Murphy
Harvard Business Review

Here is an excerpt:

During my years caring for patients, the most common pathology I saw was not heart disease or diabetes; it was loneliness. The elderly man who came to our hospital every few weeks seeking relief from chronic pain was also looking for human connection: He was lonely. The middle-aged woman battling advanced HIV who had no one to call to inform that she was sick: She was lonely too. I found that loneliness was often in the background of clinical illness, contributing to disease and making it harder for patients to cope and heal.

This may not surprise you. Chances are, you or someone you know has been struggling with loneliness. And that can be a serious problem. Loneliness and weak social connections are associated with a reduction in lifespan similar to that caused by smoking 15 cigarettes a day and even greater than that associated with obesity. But we haven’t focused nearly as much effort on strengthening connections between people as we have on curbing tobacco use or obesity. Loneliness is also associated with a greater risk of cardiovascular disease, dementia, depression, and anxiety. At work, loneliness reduces task performance, limits creativity, and impairs other aspects of executive function such as reasoning and decision making. For our health and our work, it is imperative that we address the loneliness epidemic quickly.

Once we understand the profound human and economic costs of loneliness, we must determine whose responsibility it is to address the problem.

The article is here.

Monday, June 19, 2017

The Value of Sharing Information: A Neural Account of Information Transmission

Elisa C. Baek, Christin Scholz, Matthew Brook O’Donnell, & Emily Falk
Psychological Science
May 2017


Humans routinely share information with one another. What drives this behavior? We used neuroimaging to test an account of information selection and sharing that emphasizes inherent reward in self-reflection and connecting with other people. Participants underwent functional MRI while they considered personally reading and sharing New York Times articles. Activity in neural regions involved in positive valuation, self-related processing, and taking the perspective of others was significantly associated with decisions to select and share articles, and scaled with preferences to do so. Activity in all three sets of regions was greater when participants considered sharing articles with other people rather than selecting articles to read themselves. The findings suggest that people may consider value not only to themselves but also to others even when selecting news articles to consume personally. Further, sharing heightens activity in these pathways, in line with our proposal that humans derive value from self-reflection and connecting to others via sharing.

The article is here.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

How the Science of “Blue Lies” May Explain Trump’s Support

Jeremy Adam Smith
Scientific American
Originally posted on March 24, 2017

Here are two excerpts:

This has led many people to ask themselves: How does the former reality-TV star get away with it? How can he tell so many lies and still win support from many Americans?

Journalists and researchers have suggested many answers, from a hyperbiased, segmented media to simple ignorance on the part of GOP voters. But there is another explanation that no one seems to have entertained. It is that Trump is telling “blue lies”—a psychologist’s term for falsehoods, told on behalf of a group, that can actually strengthen bonds among the members of that group.


This research—and these stories—highlights a difficult truth about our species: we are intensely social creatures, but we are prone to divide ourselves into competitive groups, largely for the purpose of allocating resources. People can be prosocial—compassionate, empathetic, generous, honest—in their group and aggressively antisocial toward out-groups. When we divide people into groups, we open the door to competition, dehumanization, violence—and socially sanctioned deceit.

“People condone lying against enemy nations, and since many people now see those on the other side of American politics as enemies, they may feel that lies, when they recognize them, are appropriate means of warfare,” says George Edwards, a political scientist at Texas A&M University and one of the country’s leading scholars of the presidency.

The article is here.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Trust Your Gut or Think Carefully? Empathy Research

Ma-Kellams, C., & Lerner, J.
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology
Online First Publication, July 21, 2016.


Cultivating successful personal and professional relationships requires the ability to accurately infer the feelings of others — i.e., to be empathically accurate. Some are better than others at this, which may be explained by mode of thought, among other factors. Specifically, it may be that empathically-accurate people tend to rely more on intuitive rather than systematic thought when perceiving others. Alternatively, it may be the reverse — that systematic thought increases accuracy. In order to determine which view receives empirical support, we conducted four studies examining relations between mode of thought (intuitive versus systematic) and empathic accuracy. Study 1 revealed a lay belief that empathic accuracy arises from intuitive modes of thought. Studies 2-4, each using executive-level professionals as participants, demonstrated that (contrary to lay beliefs) people who tend to rely on intuitive thinking also tend to exhibit lower empathic accuracy. This pattern held when participants inferred others’ emotional states based on (a) in-person face-to-face interactions with partners (Study 2) as well as on (b) pictures with limited facial cues (Study 3). Study 4 confirmed that the relationship is causal: experimentally inducing systematic (as opposed to intuitive) thought led to improved empathic accuracy. In sum, evidence regarding personal and social processes in these four samples of working professionals converges on the conclusion that — contrary to lay beliefs — empathic accuracy arises more from systematic thought than from gut intuition.

The article is here.

Editor's Note: This article has profound implications for psychotherapy.

Friday, March 27, 2015

How Should We Make the Most Important Decisions of Our Lives?

By L.A. Paul and Paul Bloom
Originally posted on March 5, 2015

Here is an excerpt:

Of course, introspection might be a terrible guide to what we really want from our lives. I suspect that it is. But while rejecting introspection might be rational, we rarely want to abandon it completely when making important personal choices about how to live our lives. Instead, we tend to mix it with evidence in rather unstable ways. We’re often surprised at our own experiences and rueful about what we now see as our earlier, deluded predictions of how things would go. But at the same time, we’re confident about our current views.

So when I consider the major, irreversible, long-term and life-changing decision to have a baby, of course I should weigh what other people tell me about it, and I should also attend to what the best science says. But I also want to consider what I think it will be like for me. After all, I’m the one who will be spending the next 18 years raising my child. I want to base my decision, at least partly, on what I think it will be like to be a parent, and I want my thoughts and feelings about it to play a central role in what I decide to do. If becoming a parent is transformative, I can’t rationally do that.

The entire interview is here.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

When good people do bad things

Being in a group makes some people lose touch with their personal moral beliefs, researchers find

By Anne Trafton
MIT News
Originally posted June 12, 2014

When people get together in groups, unusual things can happen — both good and bad. Groups create important social institutions that an individual could not achieve alone, but there can be a darker side to such alliances: Belonging to a group makes people more likely to harm others outside the group.

“Although humans exhibit strong preferences for equity and moral prohibitions against harm in many contexts, people’s priorities change when there is an ‘us’ and a ‘them,’” says Rebecca Saxe, an associate professor of cognitive neuroscience at MIT. “A group of people will often engage in actions that are contrary to the private moral standards of each individual in that group, sweeping otherwise decent individuals into ‘mobs’ that commit looting, vandalism, even physical brutality.”

Several factors play into this transformation. When people are in a group, they feel more anonymous, and less likely to be caught doing something wrong. They may also feel a diminished sense of personal responsibility for collective actions.

The entire article is here.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Study confirms impact of clinician-patient relationship on health outcomes

Meta-analysis finds relationship improvement has beneficial effects similar to some common treatments

Massachusetts General Hospital Press Release
Originally released on April 9, 2014

A meta-analysis of studies that investigated measures designed to improve health professionals' interactions with patients confirms that such efforts can produce health effects just as beneficial as taking a daily aspirin to prevent heart attack. In contrast to previous such reviews, the current report from the Empathy and Relational Science Program at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) only included randomized, controlled trials with more reliable results than those included in earlier studies. While it has long been believed that a good patient-clinician relationship can improve health outcomes, objective evidence to support that belief has been hard to come by.

"Although the effect we found was small, this is the first analysis of the combined results of previous studies to show that relationship factors really do make a difference in patients' health outcomes," says Helen Riess, MD, director of the Empathy and Relational Science Program in the MGH Department of Psychiatry, senior author of the report in the open-access journal PLOS ONE.

The entire press release is here.

The entire article is here.