Is empathy necessary to comprehend the emotional faces? Attentional (eye-movements), cortical correlates (N200 ERPs) and autonomic (EMG) measures in face processing

Michela Balconi, Ylenia Canavesio

Risultato della ricerca: Contributo in libroContributo a convegno

Abstract

The present research explored the effect of empathy on processing emotional facial expressions. A vast amount of research has shown that there is a direct relationship between trait empathy and comprehension of facial expressions (Balconi & Bortolotti 2012; Balconi & Canavesio 2013; Goldman & Shirapda 2005). Previous evidence suggested a close relationship between emotional empathy and both the ability to recognize facial emotions and the attentional mechanisms involved (Balconi & Canavesio, 2014; Balconi, Falbo & Conte, 2012). However no previous study has adopted a multi-measure approach. We investigated the association between trait empathy (Balanced Emotional Empathy Scale, BEES) and individuals’ performance (response times; RTs), attentional mechanisms (eye movements; number and duration of fixations), correlates of cortical activation (event-related potential (ERP) N200 component), and autonomic responsiveness (facial feedback, zygomatic and corrugator activity). Four emotional expressions (anger, fear, happiness, sadness) and a neutral expression were used as stimuli an emotional detection task. Trait empathy was found to affect face detection performance (reduced RTs), attentional processes (more scanning eye movements in specific Areas of Interest; AOIs), ERP salience effect (increased N200 amplitude), and autonomic activity (more facial mimicry). A second important result was the demonstration of strong, direct correlations among these measures. Thirdly, the emotional content of facial expressions, in terms of valence and arousal, was found to affect all these variables. We suggest that empathy may function as a facilitator of the processes underlying the recognition of facial emotion, and a general ‘mimicry effect’ is proposed to explain these results. We assumed that empathy influences cognitive and the autonomic responsiveness, such that empathic individuals are more skilful in processing facial emotion.
Lingua originaleEnglish
Titolo della pubblicazione ospiteProceedings of the «VI International Scientific Conference on Neuroethics and First Conference of the Italian Society for Neuroethics (SINe)»
Pagine17-18
Numero di pagine2
Stato di pubblicazionePubblicato - 2014
EventoVI International Scientific Conference on Neuroethics and First Conference of the Italian Society for Neuroethics (SINe) - Padova
Durata: 14 mag 201416 mag 2014

Convegno

ConvegnoVI International Scientific Conference on Neuroethics and First Conference of the Italian Society for Neuroethics (SINe)
CittàPadova
Periodo14/5/1416/5/14

Keywords

  • ERP
  • Empathy
  • Facial expressions
  • Psychophysiology

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