People will choose to avoid feeling empathy for others six times out of 10, a new study suggests.
Empathy - imagining and understanding another person's situation and emotions - is important to our social functioning and decision-making.
While some say that too much empathy can override rationality and lead us to act against our own interests, it's also an important component to bonding and to motivating us to help one another.
But according to a new study from Pennsylvania State University, for most people, most of the time, acting empathetically just demands too much mental energy, even if the feelings we're absorbing are positive ones.
Most of us will avoid empathizing with others 65 percent of the time, simply because we find it more mentally draining, according to a new Pennsylvania State University study
Empathy is thought to be partially genetic, but it is certainly also a chosen response to others around us.
In the 1990s, scientists discovered mirror neurons - brain cells that fire when we see and hear the behaviors of others.
These neurons are thought to help our brains mimic one another's synaptic activity and therefore feel what one another are feeling (or at least make a closer approximation of the same feelings).
Mirror neurons were discovered in monkey and some scientists have expressed doubt that mirror neurons exist in humans, but we do know that there are certain areas in our brains that are active and involved in empathy.
And our level of empathy is to some extent encoded into our DNA.
University of Cambridge research suggested that about a tenth of the variation in our levels of empathy is explained by genetics - and women, on average, are more biologically empathetic than men are.
But there are plenty of cognitive choices and active motivations involved in our states of empathy too.
For the rare few that are empathetic to a fault, empathy can fuel undo sadness and lead to decisions that will cause them emotional pain or even financial loss.
For most, however, it just seems like more trouble than it's worth, according to the new research, published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General.
To see how motivated to empathize people might be, researchers recruited over 1,200