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Empathy modulates the temporal structure of social attention

Hedger, N., Haffey, A., McSorley, E. and Chakrabarti, B. (2018) Empathy modulates the temporal structure of social attention. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 285 (1893). 20181716. ISSN 0962-8452

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2018.1716

Abstract/Summary

Individuals with low empathy often show reduced attention towards social stimuli. A limitation of this literature is the lack of empirical work that has explicitly characterized how this relationship manifests itself over time. We investigate this issue by analysing data from two large eye-tracking datasets (total n = 176). Via growth-curve analysis, we demonstrate that self-reported empathy (as measured by the empathy quotient—EQ) predicts the temporal evolution of gaze behaviour under conditions where social and non-social stimuli compete for attention. In both datasets, we found that EQ not only predicted a global increase in social attention, but predicted a different temporal profile of social attention. Specifically, we detected a reliable effect of empathy on gaze towards social images after prolonged viewing. An analysis of switch latencies revealed that low-EQ observers switched gaze away from an initially fixated social image more frequently and at earlier latencies than high-EQ observers. Our analyses demonstrate that modelling these temporal components of gaze signals may reveal useful behavioural phenotypes. The explanatory power of this approach may provide enhanced biomarkers for conditions marked by deficits in empathy-related processes.

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
Interdisciplinary centres and themes > Centre for Cognition Research (CCR)
Faculty of Life Sciences > School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences > Psychopathology and Affective Neuroscience
ID Code:81241
Publisher:Royal Society Publishing

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