A study led by a Case Western Reserve University researcher shows that the brain's networks for empathy and analytic thought can be at odds with one another.
"When the brain's analytic network is engaged, our ability to appreciate the human cost of our action is repressed.... The study shows for the first time that we have a built-in neural constraint on our ability to be both empathetic and analytic at the same time."
For the study, the researchers asked each subject to take five 10-minute turns in an MRI as they were presented with problems that required them to think about how others might feel - followed by problems that required analytical reasoning (physics questions).
"The MRI images showed that social problems deactivated brain regions associated with analysis, and activated the social network. This finding held true whether the questions came via video or print. Meanwhile, the physics questions deactivated the brain regions associated with empathizing and activated the analytical network."
He claims to call it 'perceptual rivalry' and it seems to prove that both Empathetic and Analytic thought both have qualities missing from them that the other has.
It is perfectly normal for the brain to cycle between the two pathways of thought. However, much of the time, many healthy adults will stick to one network of thinking more than the other. We can't get by without using both at different times in life.