Daniel Goleman did a talk in 2007 on TED on compassion and empathy, and in it, he described an experiment that was done earlier. Students were given a bible text with the assignment to prepare and do a sermon about that bible text. One half of the students were given the “good Samaritan” text, the others a random bible text. As they walked to another building for them to actually do their sermon, they passed a man sitting on the ground, moaning, clearly in need, and the question was of course, would they help, and would the musing on the good Samaritan text made more students help the stranger or not.
It turned out there was no difference at all, and that in fact the determining factor to help or not turned out to be how much of a hurry the student in case felt, how much absorbed in what (s)he was going to do. Not only that, but he also postulates that we, as humans are wired by default to empathise and help, feeling ourselves the suffering we see others having and feeling the need to relieve the others.
That is quite an interesting finding, as in a way it tells us the way we stress ourselves, more, faster, bigger, we are suppressing our empathy, our ability for compassion and help.