"We found that when people were experiencing mild discomfort as a result of touching a rough surface, they were more aware of discomfort in their immediate environment," said Chen Wang, an assistant marketing professor at Drexel University in Pennsylvania, US.
    
"They could better empathise with individuals who were suffering," said Wang.
    
In one experiment, the team tested brain activity when participants viewed painful versus neutral images. In some trials the participants held an object wrapped in sandpaper-known as haptic roughness- while they saw the pictures.
    
In other trials they held an object wrapped in smooth paper. The participants showed more brain activity when touching the sandpaper than the smooth paper, particularly when viewing the painful images.
    
In another experiment the researchers asked one group of participants to wash their hands with a smooth soap and the other with a rough, exfoliating solution. Then each group filled out questionnaires rating their willingness to donate to a charity.

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