Poster F13, Tuesday, March 28, 8:00 – 10:00 am, Pacific Concourse
Empathy and psychological pain: The influence of First-hand Experience
Paria Yaghoubi Jami1, Behzad Mansouri1, Steve Thoma1; 1The University of Alabama
Observing others in pain activates bilateral anterior Insula, rostral anterior cingulate cortex, brainstem and cerebellum (Singer et al, 2004) which could be slower when emphatic individuals are in an unfamiliar simulated condition (Lamm, 2010). Result of an ERP study showed an activity over central-parietal region especially in left hemisphere at 380ms after an increased activity in frontal lobe at 140ms. These findings support a newly proposed model of empathy composed of early emotional sharing followed by a late cognitive process (Fan & Han, 2008). Research findings also showed that the same pain matrix would be activated when a person is experiencing psychological pain (Gundel et al., 2003). What remains unaddressed is the empathic reaction of people to psychological pain experienced by someone else. This study explores the relationship between individuals’ degree of familiarity with a potential psychological pain-inducing situation and their empathic reaction. 100 participants completed three Empathy questionnaires and rated a set of fifty pictures of strangers experiencing psychological and physical pain. They were asked to determine their level of pain, feeling, perspective taking, empathic concern toward that person, and willingness to help on a 5-point Likert scale. The analyses showed a significant role of individuals’ past experience with their empathic concerns, personal distress, and pain judgment. The findings also suggest that individuals suffering from psychological pain are more willing to help others and might have a faster, more intense and automatic response in familiar conditions, while those without first-hand experience might have more cognitive empathic responses.
Topic Area: EMOTION & SOCIAL: Emotional responding