The present research firstly investigated the neural correlates (ERPs, event-related potentials) of attitudes to engage in prosocial-helping behaviors, and secondly, it analyzed the relation between these brain-based potentials and personal profile (high vs. low empathic profile). It was considered the subjects’ behavior in response to specific emotional situations (positive vs. negative) in case it was required a possible prosocial intervention. Thirty-one subjects were invited to empathize with the emotional contexts (videotapes that reproduced two person’s exchanges) and to decide whether to intervene or not to support these persons. BEES questionnaire for empathic behavior was submitted to the subjects after the experimental session. ERP acquisition and LORETA source analysis revealed a negative ongoing deflection (N200 effect) more prefrontally distributed (dorsolateral prefrontal cortex) in response to prosocial intervention options mainly for negative and positive contexts. Moreover, a significant positive correlation was found between high-empathic profiles, intervention behaviors (higher frequency of interventions) and N200 amplitude (higher peak). These results highlight the role of emotions in prosocial behavior, since the N200 effect was considered a marker of the emotional significance of the interpersonal situation. Secondly, the empathic trait may explain the prosocial decisional processes: Higher empathic trait contributes to induce subject’s intervention behavior which in turn appears to be directly related to the cortical responsiveness within the prefrontal areas.
- LORETA analysis
- Prosocial behavior