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Cognitive and affective empathy relate differentially to emotion regulation

Thompson, N. M., Van Reekum, C. M. ORCID: and Chakrabarti, B. ORCID: (2021) Cognitive and affective empathy relate differentially to emotion regulation. Affective Science. ISSN 2662-2041

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1007/s42761-021-00062-w


The constructs of empathy (i.e. understanding/sharing another’s emotion) and emotion regulation (i.e. the processes by which one manages emotions) have largely been studied in relative isolation of one another. To better understand the interrelationships between their various component processes, this manuscript reports two studies that examined the relationship between empathy and emotion regulation using a combination of self-report and task measures. In study 1 (N=137), trait cognitive and affective empathy were found to share divergent relationships with self-reported emotion dysregulation. Trait emotion dysregulation was negatively related to cognitive empathy but did not show a significant relationship with affective empathy. In the second study (N=92), the magnitude of emotion interference effects (i.e. the extent to which inhibitory control was impacted by emotional relative to neutral stimuli) in variants of a Go/NoGo and Stroop task were used as proxy measures of implicit emotion regulation abilities. Trait cognitive and affective empathy were differentially related to both task metrics. Higher affective empathy was associated with increased emotional interference in the Emotional Go/NoGo task; no such relationship was observed for trait cognitive empathy. In the Emotional Stroop task, higher cognitive empathy was associated with reduced emotional interference; no such relationship was observed for affective empathy. Together, these studies demonstrate that greater cognitive empathy was broadly associated with improved emotion regulation abilities, while greater affective empathy was typically associated with increased difficulties with emotion regulation. These findings point to the need for assessing the different components of empathy in psychopathological conditions marked by difficulties in emotion regulation.

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
Life Sciences > School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences > Psychopathology and Affective Neuroscience
ID Code:99158


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