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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Neural mechanisms underlying explicit evaluation of one's own and others' emotions: Understanding the role of empathic processing
by Lee, Kyung Hwa, Ph.D., University of Pittsburgh, 2011, 60; 3485869
Abstract (Summary)

This study examined the effects of empathy on common and distinct mechanisms underlying evaluation of one’s own emotions (self: How do I feel?) and others’ emotions (others: How do others feel?) by manipulating whether a target person was perceived as a good person (concordant condition: likely to provoke empathy) or a bad person (discordant condition: ideally, less likely to provoke empathy). In addition, this study explored whether findings from simple conditions are generalized to complex, ecological conditions by conducting two fMRI experiments: one with a relatively simple condition (e.g., faces: fMRI Experiment I) and another with a complex condition (e.g., video clips: fMRI Experiment II). The manipulation of person-valence (good/bad) was effective in creating the concordant and discordant conditions. Emotional ratings of self and others increased (became more negative) when something bad happened to the good person. In contrast, emotional ratings of self decreased, but emotional ratings of others increased when something bad happened to the bad person. fMRI Experiment I demonstrated that broad common networks including the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex (DMPFC) were commonly involved in self and others irrespective of different person conditions. In contrast, some common regions involved in cognitive effort were uniquely identified in the bad person condition. No modulation by person-valence (good/bad) was found in self-distinct regions including the rostral anterior cingulate cortex (rACC) and insula and other-distinct regions including the posterior superior temporal sulcus (pSTS). However, modulation by person-valence was reported in some regions including the medial PFC (MPFC), which is possibly involved in regulation of undesired emotional responses to the bad person. These results provided new insights about brain mechanisms associated with explicit emotional processing when people do not empathize with other people. fMRI Experiment II partially replicated findings from fMRI Experiment I. The insula and pSTS were involved in self and others, respectively. Overall, this study highlighted the important role of empathic confounds in understanding the common and distinct mechanisms associated with evaluation of one’s own and others’ emotions and the involvement of similar distinct mechanisms associated with evaluation of one’s own and others’ emotions in complex, ecological social contexts.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Siegle, Greg
School: University of Pittsburgh
School Location: United States -- Pennsylvania
Source: DAI-B 73/03, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Neurosciences, Social psychology, Cognitive psychology
Keywords: Bold responses, Contextual information, Emotion, Empathy
Publication Number: 3485869
ISBN: 978-1-267-03194-5
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