Babies have shown behavioral patterns for helping each other out of intrinsic motivation without any expectation of reward. An international study conducted by Ronit Roth-Hanania, Maayan Davidov, and Carolyn Zahn-Waxler, went into the homes of 37 infants aged 8 to 16 months. For the study, the researchers set up three troubling situations with the infants’ mothers. In each instance, the infants demonstrated emotional and cognitive empathy. The babies’ feelings of concern for their mothers’ pain showed up on their faces, and many made sympathetic sounds. Ultimately, there were no gender differences in behavior.
Another study by Umberto Castiello, published by PLOS One, looked at babies inside their mothers’ wombs. They found that fetus twins showed social interaction. The researchers used four-dimensional ultrasound to record videos of twins at 14 and 18 weeks of their development. At week 14, the twins touched each other head to head, arm to head, and head to arm.
By week 18, they made more contact and began spending up to 30 percent of their time reaching out and stroking each other. Their movements were described as planned movements — not reflexes — including purposeful contacts with each other’s eyes and mouth areas, during which the twins took care of these delicate body parts. Researchers also observed the twins “caressing” each other’s backs.
Because they are babies, unbiased by any artificial constructs such as speech or morality, these findings point to the fact that empathy and care are natural traits that we as human beings have, rather than being feelings which we learn.
Nearly all of our brain cells are developed before we are even born. Our brains are never more pure than at the moment of birth. As newborns, we know nothing of race, religion, socioeconomic class, sex, or any other identity boundary. It is only as we develop language that we establish our differences, which include gender differences.
How to recover that innate empathy becomes a relevant question when addressing inequality issues. Assuming the premise that the mind and body are fundamentally connected, one avenue worth venturing could involve a comprehensive approach to all these topics, focusing on the importance of the mindset of individuals. When it comes to educating the mind, let’s try looking at gender inequality without judgment — as a habit, rather than a moral concern, trusting that no one really believes they are better or worse than anybody else.
Many people just fall into the habit of making assumptions about inequality. Usually, the way we go about these issues is through offensive and defensive strategies, entering a debate that has no end. However, if we work on educating both men and women about their similarities, on the basis of brain-related discoveries, perhaps we can help them recover their own ability to see each other as equal — which might end up proving a more cost-effective and sustainable approach to resolving the issue.
If women and girls, men and boys, can be made aware of the great value of their brain as our human common denominator and life source, and of their body as having a unique purpose and role in society, we might stand a chance at reaching equality.
Action in the United Nations
With this concern in mind, on January 12, IBREA Foundation (International Brain Education Association) and Brain World magazine held an event at the U.N., titled “Brain-Based Holistic Education to Address Inequality Challenges Faced by Women and Girls Globally.” For the first time, U.N. delegates, U.N. agencies, and nongovernmental organization representatives discussed the possibility of looking at this topic from a neurological as well as a holistic approach.
Three main areas of concern were at the heart of the discussion: health, education, and violence.
A suggestion was made to educate women and girls to take care of their health in a more preventive, proactive, and natural manner. Together with measures that improve their access to proper health care, and provide better health services, there needs to be an effort to educate women and girls on how to effectively manage their health by themselves. Although it is not the ultimate solution, there is a lot one can do to increase her awareness of body and mind, prevent illnesses, and better endure moments when the body is required to make a stronger-than-usual effort — such as during childbirth.
Improving girls’ access to schools is important, but also important is improving their motivation to excel and to continue pursuing education. When it comes to staying in school, women are more likely to drop out because of gender bias and the widespread pressure to take care of their families. In this regard, it is important to focus on enhancing their confidence and motivation, as well as other emotional factors. In schools worldwide, there is much emphasis on academic results, which is detrimental to emotional management. In fact, emotional regulation, according to recent studies, may be at the foundation of good academic performance.
CULTURES OF PEACE
Many victims of violence around the world are women — at some point of their lives experiencing domestic violence, rape, and sexual abuse. As such, preventing and combating all forms of violence against women is fundamental. To this end, actively creating cultures of peace might be a more sustainable approach to eradicating violence.
Creating cultures of peace does not happen overnight. It needs nurturing and focused attention. It means educating for peace and spreading the value that a peaceful inner mindset brings to our communities and nations. Some of the main reasons for violence are mental illness and heightened levels of stress and tension. Numerous studies have shown that when people learn to manage mental imbalances and stress, they are less prone to violence. When this level of self-responsibility is fostered through education and mentoring, eventually people develop a peaceful mindset and naturally create peace in their families and communities.
This article was originally published in the Spring 2016 issue of Brain World Magazine.
- Brain-Based Holistic Education and the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals
- Every Human Being Has The Fundamental Right To Education
- It’s a Matter of Confidence: Brain Education in El Salvador
- Reaching For Gender Equality with Brain-Based Holistic Education
- Progress and Resistance: The Global Press for Gender Equality