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Empathy modulates the rewarding effect of mimicry

Neufeld, J. and Chakrabarti, B. (2016) Empathy modulates the rewarding effect of mimicry. Scientific Reports, 6. 27751. ISSN 2045-2322

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1038/srep27751

Abstract/Summary

We tend to like those who mimic us. In this study we formally test if mimicry changes the reward value of the mimicker, using gaze bias as a proxy for reward. Previous research has demonstrated that people show gaze bias towards more rewarding targets, suggesting that gaze bias can be considered a proxy for relative reward value. Forty adults participated in a conditioning task, where they were mimicked by one face and ‘anti-mimicked’ by another. Subsequently, they were found to show gaze-bias towards faces that mimicked them compared to those that did not, in a preferential looking task. The strength of this effect correlated positively with individual levels of trait empathy. In a separate, similar task, these participants showed a gaze bias for faces paired with high vs low monetary rewards, thus validating the use of gaze bias as a proxy for learnt reward. Together, these results demonstrate that mimicry changes the reward value of social stimuli, and empathy influences the extent of this change. This can potentially inform conditions marked by deficits in forming social bonds, such as Autism.

Item Type:Article
Refereed:Yes
Divisions:Interdisciplinary centres and themes > Centre for Integrative Neuroscience and Neurodynamics (CINN)
Interdisciplinary centres and themes > ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorders) Research Network
Faculty of Life Sciences > School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences > Department of Psychology
Faculty of Life Sciences > School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences > Neuroscience
Faculty of Life Sciences > School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences > Psychopathology and Affective Neuroscience
ID Code:65851
Publisher:Nature Publishing Group

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