Accessibility navigation

Empathy modulates the temporal structure of social attention

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

Text - Accepted Version
· Please see our End User Agreement before downloading.


It is advisable to refer to the publisher's version if you intend to cite from this work. See Guidance on citing.

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


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
Divisions:Interdisciplinary Research Centres (IDRCs) > Centre for Integrative Neuroscience and Neurodynamics (CINN)
Interdisciplinary centres and themes > ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorders) Research Network
Life Sciences > School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences > Department of Psychology
Life Sciences > School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences > Neuroscience
Interdisciplinary Research Centres (IDRCs) > Centre for Cognition Research (CCR)
Life Sciences > School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences > Psychopathology and Affective Neuroscience
ID Code:81241
Publisher:Royal Society Publishing


Downloads per month over past year

University Staff: Request a correction | Centaur Editors: Update this record

Page navigation