Author: Carl Michael Galang1,2, Sukhvinder S Obhi3
1 Social Brain, Body and Action Lab, Department of Psychology, Neuroscience and Behaviour, McMaster University, Hamilton, Canada. email@example.com.
2 Social Intelligence Lab, Institute for Psychology and The Berlin School of Mind and Brain, Humboldt University of Berlin, Berlin, Germany. firstname.lastname@example.org.
3 Social Brain, Body and Action Lab, Department of Psychology, Neuroscience and Behaviour, McMaster University, Hamilton, Canada. email@example.com.
Conference/Journal: Exp Brain Res
Date published: 2023 Jan 1
Other: Volume ID: 241 , Issue ID: 1 , Pages: 263-276 , Special Notes: doi: 10.1007/s00221-022-06508-2. , Word Count: 224
Previous research has shown that empathic pain observation can lead to motor facilitation in the form of faster reaction times. However, it is unclear whether participants are focusing on the others' pain or simply focusing on their own discomfort/distress (from watching the videos) during the task. This is an important issue as self- vs other-oriented focusing plays a key role in empathic processing. To address this issue, we combined empathic pain observation with the automatic imitation task (AIT). Previous work has shown that AIT effects are smaller after experiencing pain, which has been interpreted as the result of the experience of pain leading to a self-oriented focus. If empathic pain observation similarly leads to a self-oriented focus, then we should expect similar AIT results after pain observation (smaller AIT effects); however, if it instead leads to an other-oriented focus, then we should see the opposite (larger AIT effects). Although we found initial evidence for the latter hypothesis (Experiment 1), subsequent failed replications suggests that we do not have sufficient evidence to claim that pain observation influences automatic imitation one way or the other (Experiment 2 and 3). We discuss some possible reasons for finding null results in these experiments and suggest future avenues of research to better elucidate this topic.
Keywords: Automatic imitation; Empathy; Error rates; Pain observation; Reaction times.
PMID: 36494458 DOI: 10.1007/s00221-022-06508-2