Police culture influences the brain function underlying compassion: a gender study.


Compassion is a prototypical moral emotion supporting cooperation and involves empathic decision-making and motor processes representing the interplay of biologically evolved and cultural mechanisms. We propose a social neuroscience approach to identify gender differences and to assess biological and cultural factors shaping compassion. We consider the police force as a cultural model to study this emotion, because it comprises a mixed-gender group using specific codes for collective safety that influence empathy and cooperativeness. From a sample of Mexican police officers working in a violent environment we integrated ethnographic data categorizing compassionate elements in the officers' activities, psychometric measures evaluating empathic attitudes, and fMRI scans identifying the brain activity related to compassionate experiences and decisions. The results suggest that the police culture influences genders equally with respect to empathic behavioral expressions. Nevertheless, women showed insular and prefrontal cortical activation, suggesting a more empathic experience of compassion. Officers manifested activity in the caudate nucleus, amygdala, and cerebellum, suggesting a more a highly accurate process to infer another's suffering and a reward system motivated by the notion of service and cooperation, both of which are cultural traits represented in the police force.

DOI: 10.1080/17470919.2014.977402

Cite this paper

@article{Mercadillo2015PoliceCI, title={Police culture influences the brain function underlying compassion: a gender study.}, author={Roberto Emmanuele Mercadillo and Sarael Alcauter and Juan Fern{\'a}ndez-Ruiz and Fernando A. Barrios}, journal={Social neuroscience}, year={2015}, volume={10 2}, pages={135-52} }