ArticlePDF Available

Abstract and Figures

Empathy is related to a variety of prosocial behaviors, but the brain mechanisms producing the experience of empathy have not been fully characterized. This study investigated whether the experience of empathy raises oxytocin levels and affects subsequent generosity toward strangers. Short video clips of an emotional scene and an unemotional scene were used as stimuli. Participants rated the emotions they experienced and then played a $40 ultimatum game to gauge their generosity. We found that empathy was associated with a 47% increase in oxytocin from baseline. We also found the empathy-oxytocin response was stronger in women than in men. Higher levels of empathy were also associated with more generous monetary offers toward strangers in the ultimatum game. Our findings provide the first evidence that oxytocin is a physiologic signature for empathy and that empathy mediates generosity.
Content may be subject to copyright.
VALUES, EMPATHY, AND FAIRNESS ACROSS SOCIAL BARRIERS
Empathy toward Strangers Triggers Oxytocin
Release and Subsequent Generosity
Jorge A. Barrazaaand Paul J. Zakb
aSchool of Organizational and Behavioral Studies and Center for Neuroeconomics
Studies, Claremont Graduate University, Claremont, California 91711, USA
bDepartment of Economics and Center for Neuroeconomics Studies, Claremont Graduate
University, Claremont, California 91711, USA
Empathy is related to a variety of prosocial behaviors,but the brain mechanisms produc-
ing the experience of empathy have not been fully characterized. This study investigated
whether the experience of empathy raises oxytocin levels and affects subsequent gen-
erosity toward strangers. Short video clips of an emotional scene and an unemotional
scene were used as stimuli. Participants rated the emotions they experienced and then
played a $40 ultimatum game to gauge their generosity. We found that empathy was
associated with a 47% increase in oxytocin from baseline. We also found the empathy–
oxytocin response was stronger in women than in men. Higher levels of empathy were
also associated with more generous monetary offers toward strangers in the ultimatum
game. Our findings provide the first evidence that oxytocin is a physiologic signature
for empathy and that empathy mediates generosity.
Key words: oxytocin; empathy; distress; gender; hormones; emotion induction
Introduction
Humans are often aroused by the distress
of others. Empathy allows us to perceive an-
other’s affective state and motivates action if the
other is perceived to be in an aversive state.13
The enduring interest in empathy across disci-
plines (as illustrated by this issue) is caused, in
part, by its relationship to moral behaviors, as
argued by Aristotle in The Nicomachean Ethics4
and Adam Smith in The Theory of Moral Senti-
ments5as well as other scholars. Altruism can
be considered morally virtuous and has been
associated with empathy.2,6The experience of
empathy has been shown to motivate prosocial
behaviors, such as volunteering and donations
to charities.7,8
Although much is known about the behav-
ioral outcomes when people are empathic, the
Address for correspondence: Paul J. Zak, Department of Economics
and Center for Neuroeconomics Studies, Claremont Graduate University,
160 East 10th Street, Claremont, CA 91711-6165. paul.zak@cgu.edu
physiologic mechanisms of empathy are not
well understood.7,9Specifically, little is known
about how observing the aversive states of oth-
ers translates into the subjective experience of
empathy. In addition, the physiologic substrates
causing individuals to experience different em-
pathic states, such as empathic concern or per-
sonal distress when observing aversive states in
others, is unknown. We propose that the neu-
rohormone oxytocin (OT) may be part of the
brain architecture that produces experienced
empathy. OT is associated with attachment be-
haviors in mammals, and we identified OT as
a likely mechanism that causes human beings
to respond to the affective states of others. OT
is a neuroactive hormone that is directly syn-
thesized in the hypothalamus and projects to
brain areas that are associated with emotions
and social behaviors (e.g., amygdala and cingu-
late cortex).10 In socially monogamous mam-
mals, OT mediates prosocial behaviors, such as
partner preference, social recognition, parental
care, and social approach.1114
Values, Empathy, and Fairness across Social Barriers: Ann. N.Y. Acad. Sci. 1167: 182–189 (2009).
doi: 10.1111/j.1749-6632.2009.04504.x c
!2009 New York Academy of Sciences.
182
Barraza & Zak: Empathy and Oxytocin Release
183
Recent studies in humans have revealed that
OT promotes prosocial behaviors, including
trust, reciprocity, and generosity measured us-
ing monetary transfers to strangers.1519 Specif-
ically, OT levels measured in plasma were 41%
higher in subjects after a monetary transfer de-
noting trust was received compared to those
who received a randomly chosen transfer of
the same average amount. In these studies,
OT levels were positively associated with in-
creased monetary reciprocity toward the per-
son who initiated trust.17,18 We discovered
recently that endogenous OT release and self-
sacrificial reciprocity can be magnified by ex-
posing participants to touch prior to making
decisions. Fifteen minutes of moderate pressure
massage increased the change in OT after be-
ing trusted by 16% and increased reciprocity
by 243% compared to controls who rested for
15 min.20
Exogenous OT infusion studies in humans
have demonstrated its causal effect on proso-
cial behaviors. Intranasal infusion of 24 IU of
OT increased monetary transfers to a stranger
(denoting trust) by 17%.15 Further, in a mone-
tary transfer task that involves making an offer
to share a fixed sum of money, known as the
ultimatum game (UG), 40 IU of intranasal OT
increased the generosity of offers by 80% over
placebo.19 These studies show that OT is asso-
ciated with prosocial behaviors but leave open
the question of whether OT is associated with
empathy.
The Current Study
Herein we report a direct test of whether
OT is a proximate mechanism modulating
the subjective experience of empathy. We hy-
pothesized that OT would spike after ex-
posure to an emotional stimulus and would
be associated with the experience of two
empathic states: personal distress and em-
pathic concern. We also tested if elevated OT
would elicit a prosocial behavior—generosity
toward a stranger. Two behavioral tasks were
used to test the empathy–prosociality associ-
ation: offers in the UG and monetary do-
nations to charity. We used the UG, as re-
ported in Zak and colleagues,19 as it requires
perspective taking by participants—a cogni-
tive exercise that has been shown to provoke
empathy.6,21
Materials and Methods
Participants and Procedure
One hundred and forty-five college students
(52% female students, mean age 20.8 years,
SD =3.3) from the University of California,
Los Angeles (UCLA) participated in this study.
Participants were randomly assigned to one of
three groups: emotional video and UG (EU,
n=61), control video and UG (CU, n=56), or
emotional video only (E, n=24). Three partic-
ipants (one from each condition) were excluded
from analyses because of OT levels outside of
the acceptable assay range (>2500 pg/mL) at
baseline, which is 5 SD above the mean.
Participants were recruited by email and
earned $10 for agreeing to be part of the ex-
periment. Total earnings were based on the
decision task as discussed below. After con-
sent, participants were led to a private room
for their first blood draw by a licensed phle-
botomist. Participants were then seated at par-
titioned computer stations and asked to fill out a
survey. Once finished, participants viewed one
of two brief videos and were asked to rate the
degree to which particular emotions were felt.
Participants then played a single round of the
UG sequentially for money (except for the E
group). Survey, video, and UG instructions and
decisions were made via computer. No inter-
personal communication was permitted. Im-
mediately after the decision in the UG, a second
blood draw was performed for those in the EU
and CU groups. The E group had their second
blood draw after viewing the video. After the
second blood draw, participants were privately
informed of their study earnings and presented
184
Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences
with the option to donate to a charity. When
all tasks were completed, participants were pri-
vately paid by a lab administrator who was not
associated with the study. The protocol was ap-
proved by the Institutional Review Boards of
UCLA and Claremont Graduate University.
The study was double blind and no deception
of any kind was used.
Ultimatum Game
Participants played a single round of the UG
to assess generosity toward a stranger.19,22 In
the UG, participants were randomly put into
dyads and in each dyad were randomly as-
signed to the role of decision maker 1 (DM1) or
decision maker 2 (DM2). Both DMs received
extensive and identical instructions for the UG,
including examples. In our version of the UG,
DM1s were endowed with $40 and were asked
to choose an offer of a split of this money to the
DM2 in his or her dyad. DM2s had no endow-
ment. If DM2 accepted the offer from DM1,
both DMs were subsequently paid the money
according to the accepted division. However,
both DMs earned nothing if DM2 rejected the
offer from DM1. The UG task is designed to
have participants consider how the DM2 in the
dyad would react to an offer (perspective tak-
ing) because DM2s can reject offers. A rejection
of the offer from DM1 in the UG allows DM2
to punish DM1 for stinginess but at a cost of the
loss of the money offered. Although most UG
experiments are played with $10,23 a $40 en-
dowment was used in this experiment in order
to compensate participants for two blood draws
as well as to explore whether a parametric re-
lationship existed between DM2 offers and the
change in OT, as has been found for DM2s in a
related monetary decision task called the trust
game.18,20
Blood Draw
After consent, all participants had 20 mL of
blood drawn by a licensed phlebotomist from
an antecubital vein. Two, 8-mL, EDTA, whole-
blood tubes and one serum-separator tube were
drawn while maintaining a sterile field and us-
ing a Vacutainer c
!(BD, Franklin Lakes, NJ,
USA). Those in the EU and CU groups had
a 20-mL second blood draw immediately fol-
lowing their decision in the UG. Participants
were prompted to make their decisions serially
so that the decision and blood draw were tem-
porally close, typically occurring within 2 min
after the decision, as in Zak and colleagues.18
Participants in the E group received a second
20-mL blood draw following viewing and rat-
ing of the emotional video. Blood tubes were
immediately placed on ice after being drawn.
The tubes were then placed in a refrigerated
centrifuge and spun at 1500 rpm for 12 min at
4C. Plasma and serum were removed from
the tubes and placed into 2-mL microtubes
with screw caps. These tubes were immedi-
ately placed on dry ice and then transferred
to a 70C freezer until analysis.
Assays
Five hormones were assayed using either
radioimmunoassay (RIA) or enzyme-linked
immunosorbent assays (ELISA). Andrenocorti-
cotropin hormone (ACTH) (plasma-RIA) sam-
ples were assayed using a kit produced by
DiaSorin, Inc. (Stillwater, MN, USA), corti-
sol (serum-RIA) samples were assayed using
a Diagnostic Systems Laboratories (Webster,
TX, USA) kit, and progesterone (serum-RIA)
and estradiol (serum-RIA) were assayed with
kits from Siemens Healthcare Diagnostics Inc.
(Los Angeles, CA, USA). OT was assayed us-
ing a competitive ELISA assay from Assay De-
signs, Inc. (Ann Arbor, MI, USA). The inter-
and intra-assay coefficients of variations for OT
were 7.8% at 484.68 pg/mL and 10.2% at
494.63 pg/mL (10 replicates), respectively. All
tests were performed by the Endocrine Core
Laboratory of the Yerkes National Primate Re-
search Center at Emory University, Atlanta,
GA.
Barraza & Zak: Empathy and Oxytocin Release
185
Surveys
Participants filled out several survey instru-
ments to examine the effects of personality
factors on OT release and behavior. Instru-
ments included the Interpersonal Reactivity In-
dex,24 the Affect Intensity Measure,25 the Big
Five Inventory,26 Cognitive Hardiness,27 along
with basic demographic questions taken from
Zak and colleagues.18
Video
All participants, using headphones, privately
viewed a 2-min long video in their partitioned
computer stations. Participants in the EU and
E conditions watched a video in which a father
explains his current experiences with his 2-year-
old son who has terminal brain cancer. The
video includes scenes of the child in the hospital
and with his father who narrates the video clip.
Participants in the CU condition watched a
clip similar in length with images of the father
and child. However, the narration was of the
father describing a day at the zoo and has no
mention of the child’s illness or any expression
of concern for the child.
Video Ratings
At the end of the video, participants were
asked to rate the degree to which they expe-
rienced particular emotions while viewing the
video. This list included 12 adjectives previ-
ously used to assess empathy toward others5
(e.g., sympathetic,compassion,moved, tender, warm,
soft-hearted) and personal distress (e.g., anxious,
distressed,sad, annoyed, frightened, disturbed ). Partic-
ipants rated these adjectives from 1 (did not feel
this way at all)to5(felt this way very much). Com-
posite measures were created for both empathy
(α=0.75) and distress (α=0.60).
Donation Task
After the UG and second blood draw, partic-
ipants were informed of their study earnings in
private and presented with the opportunity to
donate any amount of their study earnings to
one of two well-known charities (St. Jude Chil-
dren’s Hospital, or the American Red Cross).
The experimenters informed participants that
there was no obligation to donate and that their
decision to donate was anonymous.
Results
Response to Video
There was no change in OT in those who
viewed the emotional video (EU +E: base-
line OT =474.87 pg/mL, SD =306.75, post-
video OT =448.91 pg/mL, SD =288.72;
one-tailed paired ttest, P=0.21, n=80).
There was a significant decrease in OT in those
who viewed the control video (CU: baseline
OT =464.96 pg/mL, SD =341.90, post-video
OT =377.64 pg/mL, SD =250.95; two-tailed
paired ttest, P=0.03). However, separating
emotional video conditions we found different
results. OT significantly increased among par-
ticipants in the E condition who viewed the
emotional video but did not play the UG (base-
line OT =401.83 pg/mL, SD =230.06, post-
video OT =592.19 pg/mL, SD =225.34;
two-tailed paired ttest, P=0.004). Al-
ternatively, there was a significant decrease
in OT for those who viewed the emotional
video and played the UG (EU: baseline
OT =502.57 pg/mL, SD =328.75, post-
video OT =394.56 pg/mL, SD =293.08;
two-tailed paired ttest, P<0.001). As
Figure 1 shows, the emotional video increased
OT but not when the second blood draw fol-
lowed the UG.
Emotional Ratings
Participants in the E and EU conditions
rated the emotional video as eliciting greater
empathy than those in the CU condition (CU
M=2.88, E M=3.46, P<0.001; EU
M=3.53, P<0.001, both one-tailed ttests)
186
Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences
Figure 1. Change in oxytocin (OT) from baseline to post video across all conditions; UG,
ultimatum game. denotes a significant difference at p <.05.
Figure 2. Participant video ratings of empathy and distress across all conditions.denotes
a significant difference at p <.05.
and distress (CU M=2.74, E M=2.93,
P=0.08; EU M=3.17, P<0.001,
both one-tailed ttests). Participants in the E
and EU condition reported statistically equal
experiences of empathy (P=0.63) and distress
(P=0.12). See Figure 2.
Using simple correlations across all con-
ditions, there was no relationship between
a change in OT and subjective empathy
(r=0.053, P=0.28) or distress (r=0.074,
P=0.21). We discovered, however, a high
correlation between self-reported empathy and
distress (r=0.81, P<0.001). As a result, partial
correlations were examined between OT and
each emotion, controlling for the other one.
Controlling for these cross-effects, a spike in
OT was significantly associated with increased
feelings of empathy (r=0.197, P=0.01) as well
as decreased feelings of distress (r=0.188,
P=0.02). A hierarchical regression analysis
was conducted to test if empathy and distress
predicted a change in OT when controlling
for changes in other hormones (ACTH, corti-
sol). Changes in hormones related to OT and
gender were entered in the first step, followed
by empathy and distress video ratings in the
second step of the equation. This analysis re-
vealed a significant overall regression equation:
Barraza & Zak: Empathy and Oxytocin Release
187
F(5, 118) =3.09, P<0.01. Both empathy (β=
0.294, P<0.05) and distress (β=0.301,
P<0.05) were significant predictors of the
change in OT in different directions. This result
was maintained in separate analyses controlling
for basal levels of progesterone or estradiol in
women.
Emotional Ratings and Other Hormones
Across all conditions, emotional ratings were
not significantly correlated with any of the
hormones (ACTH, cortisol, estradiol, proges-
terone) at baseline or post video. However,
when controlling for one another, empathy and
distress were significantly correlated with the
change in cortisol (empathy r=0.134, P=
0.07; distress r=0.203, P=0.01). Empathy
and distress ratings were marginally correlated
with post-video OT (empathy r=0.121, P=
0.09; distress r=0.118, P=0.09) and post-
video cortisol (empathy r=0.162, P=0.04;
distress r=0.171, P=0.03).
Generosity in UG
Of the participants playing as DM1 (n=56),
35 (62.5%) offered an equal split, 20 (26%)
made unequal offers of $10–$19, and two made
supra-equal offers of $21 and $30. There were
49 participants who participated as DM2s.
Of those, only one person in the EU and
one in the CU groups rejected DM1 offers
of $10; all other offers were accepted. DM2s
whose offers were rejected were removed from
subsequent analyses. There were no differ-
ences in the mean DM1 offers between the
EU (M=$18.18, SD =$3.19) and CU
(M=$17.62, SD =$4.54; one-tailed ttest,
P=0.29) conditions.
Consistent with our hypothesis, DM1 pro-
posals in the UG were positively correlated with
reported empathy after the video (r=0.239,
P=0.05). There was a weak relationship be-
tween DM1 offers and distress levels (r=0.171,
P=0.11). Similar to studies of OT in the trust
game,18 DM1 behavior was uncorrelated with
the change in OT (r=0.150, P=0.14). The
amount offered to DM2s was marginally nega-
tively correlated to the change in DM2 cortisol
(r=0.202, P=0.07) but not to change in
OT (r=0.120, P=0.20). Controlling for
gender and changes in ACTH and cortisol, the
money offered to DM2s did not predict change
in OT (β=0.08, P=0.54).
Charitable Donations
Forty-four participants (32%) made mone-
tary donations (M=$6.09, SD =6.31). Do-
nations were significantly correlated with the
amount sent by DM1s (r=0.356, P=0.004).
Among all participants, donations were pos-
itively related to the change in cortisol (r=
0.146, P=0.05) but were unrelated to the
change in OT (r=0.010, P=0.45) or to
the change in ACTH (r=0.084, P=0.18).
Donations were not associated with emotional
video ratings (empathy r=0.088, P=0.16;
distress r=0.080, P=0.19).
Gender and Personality
Pooling all conditions, we found that emo-
tional ratings (controlling for one another) were
more strongly associated with changes in OT
for women (empathy r=0.245, P=0.03; dis-
tress r=0.258, P=0.02) than for men (em-
pathy r=0.158, P=0.11; distress r=0.134,
P=0.15). Behaviorally, more women made
charitable donations than men (23% of men
versus 41% of women, χ2=4.78, P=0.03) and
gave more in donations than men (M=$2.89
versus M=$1.08; two-tailed ttest, P=0.02).
The average amount sent by DM1s was also
greater for women than men (women $18.85,
men $17.10; one-tailed ttest, P=0.05). The
change in OT was associated with increased
dispositional empathy (r=.187, p=.02) as
measured in the IRI. No other personality vari-
ables were associated with basal OT or the
change in OT.
188
Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences
Discussion
There were three main findings from this
study. First, viewing an emotional video raised
OT by an average of 47% over baseline com-
pared to those who watched an emotionally
neutral video. Second, there was a positive
relationship between the degree of empa-
thy experienced and the change in OT.
Third, an increase in experienced empathy
was associated with greater generosity in the
UG.
Past research has purported that emotional
videos may induce OT release.28 We provide
the first direct evidence for this claim, and
we have demonstrated both a statistically and
quantitatively significant increase in OT after
an emotional stimulus. Even more compelling,
we discovered a positive parametric relation-
ship between the experience of empathy and
the change in OT. The relationship between
empathy and the change in OT was especially
strong for women. Moreover, we found that the
empathic concern subscale of the IRI, a mea-
sure of dispositional empathy (e.g., sympathy,
compassion), to be the only personality vari-
able to predict a spike in OT. The lack of a
relationship between the change in OT when
the emotional video was followed by the UG is
likely a result of the time lag between the video
and the second blood draw, which was required
for instructions and UG decisions. The half-life
of OT is very short, with estimates of between
1–2 min.29
We also reported that the experience of em-
pathy positively influenced prosociality. Partic-
ipants who were empathically engaged by the
video they viewed made more generous offers
in the UG. Those who made more generous of-
fers also donated more money to charity, with
this effect associated with physiologic distress
(a positive change in cortisol). Donations were
highest among women in the sample. At the
same time, the change in OT was strongest
among women. Post-hoc analyses found that
these gender differences were not driven by the
upregulation of OT by estrogen.30
We also found an interesting counteracting
effect of distress on OT release. Empathy
and distress were highly related in our sample
and they appear to work against each other
at a physiologic level. Psychologists have also
distinguished between empathy and distress as
motivators to help others.6,21 Batson’s
empathy–altruism hypothesis6,31 posits that
these affective states lead to divergent moti-
vations to help others. Those who experience
distress are motivated to reduce their own
aversive state, while those who experience em-
pathy are focused on relieving the aversive state
of another.32 Our physiologic data support
the separation of these two effects in relation
to OT. Interestingly, empathy and distress
levels were also associated with changes in
cortisol. In animal studies, cortisol suppresses
OT release.33 In human studies the findings
are less clear; OT administration suppresses
cortisol induced by social stress,34,35 but
cortisol administration increases plasma OT
levels.36,37 Our study showed that cortisol was
elevated in people who reported experiencing
empathy while it declined in those reporting
distress.
This study indicates that OT is a physio-
logic signature for empathy and modulates two
types of prosocial behaviors: generosity in the
UG and charitable donations. These findings
identify a proximate mechanism that explains
why humans help each other—even at a cost to
themselves.
Conflicts of Interest
The authors declare no conflicts of interest.
References
1. Dovidio, J.F. et al . 1991. The arousal: Cost-reward
model and the process of intervention. In Review of
Personality and Social Psychology: Prosocial Behavior, Vol.
2. M.S. Clark, Ed.: 86–118. Sage. Newbury Park,
CA.
2. de Waal, F.B.M. 2008. Putting the altruism back into
altruism: The evolution of empathy. Annu. Rev. Psychol.
59: 279–300.
Barraza & Zak: Empathy and Oxytocin Release
189
3. Preston, S.D. & F.B.M. de Waal. 2002. Empathy: Its
ultimate and proximate bases. Behav. Brain Sci. 25:
1–72.
4. Aristotle. 2000. T he Nicomachean Ethics. Cambridge
University Press. Cambridge, UK.
5. Smith, A. 2006 [1759]. A Theory of Moral Sentiments.
Dover Publications. Mineola, NY.
6. Batson, C.D. 1991. The Altruism Question: Toward a
Social-Psychological Answer. Lawrence Erlbaum. Hills-
dale, NY.
7. Dovidio, J.F. et al . 2006. The Social Psychology of Prosocial
Behavior. Lawrence Erlbaum. Hillsdale, NY.
8. Brooks, A.C. 2006. Who Really Cares. Basic Books.
New York, NY.
9. Eisenberg, N. & P.A. Miller. 1987. The relation of
empathy to prosocial and related behaviors. Psychol.
Bull. 101: 91–119.
10. Sofroniew, M.V. 1983. Vasopressin and oxytocin in
the mammalian brain and spinal cord. Trends. Neurosci.
6: 467–472.
11. Insel, T.R. 1997. A neurobiological basis of social
attachment. Am. J. Psychiatry 154: 726–735.
12. Insel, T.R. & L.J. Young. 2001. The neurobiology of
attachment. Nat. Rev. Neurosci. 2: 129–136.
13. Carter, C. 2003. Developmental consequences of
oxytocin. Physiol. Behav. 79: 383–397.
14. Keverne, E.B. & Curley, J.P. 2004. Vasopressin, oxy-
tocin and social behaviour. Curr. Opin. Neurobiol. 14:
777–783.
15. Kosfeld, M. et al. 2005. Oxytocin increases trust in
humans. Nature 435: 673–676.
16. Zak, P.J. 2005. Trust: A temporary human attach-
ment facilitated by oxytocin. Behav. Brain Sci. 28: 368–
369.
17. Zak, P.J., R. Kurzban & W.T. Matzner. 2004. The
neurobiology of trust. Ann. N. Y. Acad. Sci. 1032: 224–
227.
18. Zak, P.J., R. Kurzban & W.T. Matzner. 2005. Oxy-
tocin is associated with human trustworthiness. Horm.
Behav. 48: 522–527.
19. Zak, P.J., A. Stanton & S. Ahmadi. 2007. Oxytocin
increases generosity in humans. PLoS ONE 2: e1128.
20. Morhenn, V.B. et al. 2008. Monetary sacrifice among
strangers is mediated by endogenous oxytocin release
after physical contact. Evol. Hum. Behav. 29: 375–
383.
21. Davis, M.H. 1996. Empathy: A Social Psychological Ap-
proach. Westview Press. Boulder, CO.
22. G¨
uth, W., R. Schmittberger & B. Schwarze. 1982.
An experimental analysis of ultimatum bargaining.
J. Econ. Behav. Organ. 3: 367–388.
23. Camerer, C. 2003. Behavioral Game Theory: Experi-
ments in Strategic Interaction. Princeton University Press.
Princeton, NJ.
24. Davis, M.H. 1983. Measuring individual differences
in empathy: Evidence for a multidimensional ap-
proach. J. Pers. Soc. Psychol. 44: 113–126.
25. Larsen R.J. & E. Diener. 1987. Affect intensity as an
individual difference characteristic: A review. J. Res.
Pers. 21: 1–39.
26. John, O.P., E.M. Donahue & R.L. Kentle. 1991. The
Big Five Inventory- Versions 4a and 54. University of Cal-
ifornia, Berkeley, Institute of Personality and Social
Research. Berkeley, CA.
27. Nowack, K.M. 1990. Initial development of an in-
ventory to assess stress and health risk. Am. J. Health
Promot. 4: 173–180.
28. Silvers, J.A. & J. Haidt. 2008. Moral elevation can
induce nursing. Emotion 8: 291–295.
29. Meyer, C. et al. 1987. Relationship between oxytocin
release and amplitude of oxytocin cell neurosecretory
bursts during suckling in the rat. J. Endocrinol. 114:
263–270.
30. McCarthy, M.M. 1995. Estrogen modulation of oxy-
tocin and its relation to behavior. In Oxytocin: Cellular
and Molecular Approaches in Medicine and Research: 235–
245.
31. Batson, C.D. & K.C. Oleson. 1991. Current status
of the empathy-altruism hypothesis. In Review of Per-
sonality and Social Psychology: Prosocial Behavior, Vol. 2.
M.S. Clark, Ed.: 62–85. Sage. Newbury Park, CA.
32. Batson, C.D. 1987. Prosocial motivation: Is it ever
truly altruistic? In Advances in Experimental Social Psy-
chology, Vol. 20. L. Berkowitz, Ed.: 65–122.
33. Carter, C.S. 1998. Neuroendocrine perspectives on
social attachment and love. Psychoneuroendocrin 23:
779–818.
34. Ditzen, B. et al. 2008. Intranasal oxytocin increases
positive communication and reduces cortisol levels
during couple conflict. Biol. Psychiatry. in press.
35. Heinrichs, M. et al. 2003. Social support and oxytocin
interact to suppress cortisol and subjective responses
to psychosocial stress. Biol. Psychiatry 54: 1389–
1398.
36. Tops, M., J.M. van Peer & J. Korf. 2007. Indi-
vidual differences in emotional expressivity predict
oxytocin responses to cortisol administration: Rel-
evance to breast cancer? Biol. Psychol. 75: 119–
123.
37. Tops, M. et al. 2007. Anxiety, cortisol, and attach-
ment predict plasma oxytocin. Psychophysiology 44:
444–449.
... At the end, vulnerable children may suffer, especially when empathy shift towards the perpetrators. It is argued that empathy may motivate collective actions or helping behavior which may be costly to society (Barraza & Zak, 2009). It is more likely that victims would be reported if empathy centers on the child victim. ...
... While it is not reductive, it could be argued that some refugees who otherwise would rise against camp offenses will remain silent for the obvious reason of "action will not be taken" even if they opposed. Such attitudes may emanate from the refugees' extreme empathy towards perpetrators (Barraza & Zak, 2009) and their commitment to engage in collective helping practices. For instance, Barraza and Zak (2009) contend that people may engage in costly collective actions due to empathy, and empathy is a key psychological factor that explain individual's participation in costly collective actions (Sautter, Littvay, & Bearnes, 2007). ...
... Such attitudes may emanate from the refugees' extreme empathy towards perpetrators (Barraza & Zak, 2009) and their commitment to engage in collective helping practices. For instance, Barraza and Zak (2009) contend that people may engage in costly collective actions due to empathy, and empathy is a key psychological factor that explain individual's participation in costly collective actions (Sautter, Littvay, & Bearnes, 2007). Also, the refugee's involvement in collective actions to free perpetrators of CSA could be motivated by the normative expectations from their loyalty to kinship values and culture (cf. ...
Article
Background and Purpose Abuse and maltreatment within refugee camps remains a major concern. The situation is exacerbated in low-income countries due to the challenges associated with lack of available expert staff and limited financial resources necessary to safeguard the welfare of children. This study draws on the experiences of practitioners (including social workers, health workers and non-professional caregivers/volunteers) from refugee camps in Ghana, on measures to safeguard the welfare of refugee children. Methods Semi-structured qualitative interviews were conducted with 13 practitioners from three refugee camps in Ghana. Narratives from the practitioners were organized using NVivo, and analyzed following strategies of initial and focused coding from the constructivist grounded theory approach. Results Child sexual abuse (CSA) was identified as the most common maltreatment across the refugee camps and continues to increase due to the increased lawlessness and lack of response from refugees. The following key safeguarding measures emerged from the practitioners’ narratives; community education; gendered-informed interventions; developing child inclusive practices, capability building of staff and tripartite collaborative approach between expert professionals, volunteers and senior community leaders. Conclusion The findings suggest the need to increase the understanding of social workers and professionals in refugee camps on the cultural nuances among refugees and develop collaboration with community leaders to respond to the multicultural needs of refugees.
... Most experiments that use videos to affect participants' emotional states or prompt behaviors require that the entire stimulus be viewed (Barraza and Zak, 2009;Mar et al., 2011;Barraza et al., 2015). This approach, while convenient for the researchers, lacks validity since people do not always completely consume content. ...
... Neurophysiology PPG data were sent via a Bluetooth hub to a commercial neurophysiology platform (Immersion Neuroscience, Henderson, NV). Neurologic Immersion combines signals associated with attention and emotional resonance to a stimulus that was identified in studies of neurochemical and electrical signals that predict social behaviors, including charitable donations (Zak et al., 2007;Barraza and Zak, 2009;Lin et al., 2013;Barraza et al., 2015;Zak, 2020) as well as mood (Merritt et al., 2022). The data were collected at 1 Hz. ...
Article
Full-text available
Streaming services provide people with a seemingly infinite set of entertainment choices. This large set of options makes the decision to view alternative content or stop consuming content altogether compelling. Yet, nearly all experimental studies of the attributes of video content and their ability to influence behavior require that participants view stimuli in their entirety. The present study measured neurophysiologic responses while participants viewed videos with the option to stop viewing without penalty in order to identify signals that capture the neural value of content. A post-video behavioral choice was included to reduce the likelihood that measured neurophysiologic responses were noise rather than signal. We found that a measure derived from neurophysiologic Immersion predicted how long participants would watch a video. Further, the time spent watching a video increased the likelihood that it influenced behavior. The analysis indicates that the neurologic value one receives helps explain why people continue to watch videos and why they are influenced by them.
... OT is known to be released in women during labor and breastfeeding, and by both sexes during sex. Beyond peri-reproductive behaviors, over a decade of research on the behavioral effects of OT have shown that it increases when one is trusted (Zak, et al., 2004;, touched (Morhenn et al., 2008(Morhenn et al., , 2012, watches an emotional movie (Barraza & Zak, 2009), or engages in a variety of group rituals (Zak, 2012). These studies have been confirmed by intranasal OT infus io n studies showing that OT generally increases prosocial or moral behaviors (Zak, 2012;2011;Kosfeld et al., 2005;Barraza & Zak, 2009;Barraza et al., 2011). ...
... Beyond peri-reproductive behaviors, over a decade of research on the behavioral effects of OT have shown that it increases when one is trusted (Zak, et al., 2004;, touched (Morhenn et al., 2008(Morhenn et al., , 2012, watches an emotional movie (Barraza & Zak, 2009), or engages in a variety of group rituals (Zak, 2012). These studies have been confirmed by intranasal OT infus io n studies showing that OT generally increases prosocial or moral behaviors (Zak, 2012;2011;Kosfeld et al., 2005;Barraza & Zak, 2009;Barraza et al., 2011). OT is a rapid and unconscious signal that those around us appear to be safe, familiar, or trustworthy. ...
Article
Although many of us interact daily with animals, we have little understanding of how this affects our interactions with people. This study assessed the physiological effects of human-animal interactions and tested if this affected interpersonaltrust. Participants (N=141) were assigned to play with a friendly but unfamiliar cat or dog for 10 minutes or to rest quietly in a private room. Blood was obtained from human participants before and after animal interactions or rest, and videos of animal interactions were coded for encounter styles. Participants then made interpersonal monetary decisions to quantify trust and trustworthiness toward strangers. Although oxytocin (OT) fell on average after interactions with both dogs and cats, there was a positive and significant correlation between the change in OT after interacting with a dog and lifetime pet exposure. Participants who had lived with four or more dogs in their lifetimes had a positive increase in OT after interacting with an unknown dog. We found a negative correlation between the change in OT after interacting with a cat and cat ownership. Participants who had a reduction in stress hormones after a dog interaction showed increased trust in strangers. Specifically, a one-percentage-point decrease in the stress hormone adrenocorticotropin hormone increased trust in a stranger by 24 percent. Our findings show that the human OT response to animals depends on previous pet exposure.
... It is also believed to be the neurotransmitter of social bonding and the brain's 'morale molecule', which encourages people to behave virtuously (Zak, 2015). Several studies confirmed that oxytocin increases empathy and trust between people and also affects their generosity (Zak, Kurzban, and Matzner, 2004;Barraza and Zak, 2009;Theodoridou et al., 2009;Cardoso et al., 2013;Lane et al., 2013). ...
Book
Full-text available
Reviewed by: Zdena Kráľová, Eva Malá, Eva Škorvagová, Yu Kanazawa ----- This publication presents TEFL from neuropedagogic and psychopedagogic viewpoints. It is an intersection of neuroscience, psychology, and pedagogy – especially the pedagogy of EFL. These viewpoints are integrated and explained with regard to the living components of education – that is, the teacher and the learner. In the process of education, it is impossible to separate one from another – as it is the teacher, who plays the crucial role in managing the classroom atmosphere, and it is the learner, who directly influences the atmosphere. Only in the appropriate atmosphere, the learning happens properly. Therefore, we designed this work in such a way that it allows the reader to understand what affects and conditions people’s learning abilities – both directly and indirectly. Moreover, we present several ideas and conditions under which the best learning takes place. Although this work was designed to serve mostly the future and in-service teachers of EFL, since the processes in the human brain are not conditioned by the school subject, it will definitely enrich and answer the questions of other readers, too. This work is divided into four main chapters, in which we will closely examine: 1. The human brain – its structure, how the signals are transmitted, how learning is done, and how it can be maintained. 2. Factors that influence brain-based learning – such as individual differences of learners, the real-life orientation of content-to-be-learnt, active learning, memory strategies, intervals for learning, repetition and practice, forms of work, and an emotionally safe environment. 3. Emotions as the key aspect of brain-based learning – especially, their types, effects on the human psyche and memory – including the most recent theories, which have already been empirically supported, as well as the importance of emotional hooks in education. 4. Emotional hooks for TEFL – several ideas, which can be used to bring positive emotions to TEFL classes. In the final section of this work, several questionnaires have been included – to help the reader to identify various aspects of their personality, which affect their learning. These can be also used as quick diagnostic tools for learners. For more complex and precise diagnostics, however, consulting a psychologist is suggested.
... Appelée plus couramment la « molécule de la morale », cette toxine produite naturellement par l'organisme affecte nos attitudes, nos croyances et nos comportements. Elle est positivement corrélée au sentiment d'empathie et à la générosité à l'égard d'étrangers(Barraza & Zak, 2009). Ces travaux montrent ainsi que les récits constituent une action qui peut, en retour, inspirer d'autres actions.Dans les organisations, les récits constituent des véhicules pour convoyer des idées, des valeurs, des visions. ...
Thesis
Critiquer est probablement ce qui nous rend le plus humains, dans la mesure cela nous permet d’expérimenter la réalité sous un autre rapport que celui de l’évidence et de la nécessité. Plus que jamais les organisations participent à l’extension du domaine de la critique, caractéristique centrale de la période moderne. Critiquer est devenu un trait constitutif de toute organisation, toujours tissée d’imprévus, d’incertitudes, et de disputes. La critique y apparaît à tantôt menaçante pour leur survie, tantôt nécessaire à leur transformation. Par ailleurs, les organisations peuvent elles-mêmes constituer de puissants instruments critiques de la réalité. Pourtant, on sait encore mal comment les acteurs dans de tels contextes s’extirpent de leur réalité quotidienne pour formuler des critiques. Nous proposons donc dans cette recherche d’étudier la question suivante : comment des critiques émergent, se développent et produisent des transformations dans ou à travers des organisations ?
... These variations are not random but reflect the functionality of neurochemical systems in behavioural regulation (as reviewed earlier in [7,8,[11][12][13][14][15][16][17][18][19]. Moreover, temperaments and symptoms of psychopathology are based on the same neurochemical cycles, and the idea of a continuum between them was supported by neurochemical correlates of several temperament traits:neuroticism [20,21], low endurance [22], rigidity (as low plasticity) [23,24], impulsivity [25][26][27], emotional dispositions [16,28], (low) empathic processing [29,30], compromised probabilistic (thought) processing [31], sensation/risk seeking [32,33], and (low) sustained attention [34,35]. This validates the importance of development of an international project looking into these hidden but crucial neurochemical processes of behavioural regulation ...
Article
Full-text available
This paper reviews the principles identified in analytic neuroscience that could be used in the setup of an international project, “Hippocrates” (H-project), named after the author of the endocrine theory of temperaments. The H-project can aim to summarize the findings in functional neurochemistry of consistent behavioural patterns (CBPs) in health (such as temperament traits) and psychopathology (symptoms of psychiatric disorders); to have systematically structured neurochemical investigations; to have an analysis of CBPs that include all ranges of behavioural histories and to have these modules complemented by regional contrasts related to climate, diets and other bio-environmental factors. The review highlights the benefits of constructivism and illustrates the contrast between constructivism and current approaches in terms of analytic and methodological aspects. (1) “Where” the neurochemical biomarkers should be measured: the review expands the range of needed measurements to out-of-brain systems, including environmental factors, and explores the concept of Specialized Extended Phenotype. (2) “What” should be measured but is missing: the review points to the need for measurement of the “Throw & Catch” neurochemical relays; behavioural and neuronal events contributing to the consistency of the CBPs but not documented in measurements. (3) Structuring the H-project’s setup: the paper briefly describes a proposed earlier neurochemical framework, Functional Ensemble of Temperament that that accommodates the neurochemical continuum between temperament and symptoms of psychiatric disorders. This framework is in line with documented “Throw & Catch” neurochemical relays and can also be used to organize data about the personal and professional history of an individual.
Article
Full-text available
This paper offers an interdisciplinary perspective on the meaning of emotion in politics. Politics will be understood as a people’s ability to live together. The author is a ranging synthesis of social sciences, psychology, biology and neuroscience for better illustration of issues of populism and other forms of social engagement. The paper is in the form of bringing the topics of emotions as a compass of our common human behavioural political make-up. Using the landscape metaphor allows for exploring the complete divergence of human emotions, sunny peaks of empathy, altruism, trust and dark shadowed valleys of fear, anger and distrust. In this manner, some explanation for populist behaviour is given. Collecting various sources of data is offered to experiment with varied forms of narrative and finally to discuss the findings but also to articulate an “emotional” call to collective kindness.
Article
Pain is rarely suffered alone. In contemporary online contexts, publicly shared pain can command the collective attention of hundreds, even millions of people. We sought to explore the possibility that collectively attending to others' pain promotes affiliation among those with whom it is attended online and identify the mechanisms that mediate these effects. Across two experimental studies, utilizing independent group designs, physically dispersed undergraduate students attended to real‐world videos depicting either physical, social, or no‐pain online. In Study 1 (N = 74, 66.22% female, Mage = 25.31 years, SDage = 6.81 years), we found evidence for the phenomenon of pain collectively attended to online, with online videos depicting physical and social pain eliciting stronger perceptions of collective attention than the non‐painful online video. In Study 2 (Time 1: N = 185, 75.14% female, Mage = 22.62 years, SDage = 7.44 years; Time 2: N = 91, 72.53% female, Mage = 23.32, SDage = 8.19), we subsequently found collectively attending to others' physical and social pain online indirectly promoted cohesion, interpersonal closeness, and desire to affiliate among participants through perceived emotional synchrony. This pattern of indirect effects was found immediately after collective attention to painful online content (Time 1) and at 1‐week follow‐up (Time 2). Although preliminary, our findings increase practical understanding of how shared pain can be harnessed to bond physically dispersed individuals together online, the implications of which we discuss in the context of the COVID‐19 pandemic.
Article
Event-related potential (ERP) technology and the dictator game paradigm are used to explore the formation mechanism of upstream indirect reciprocity behaviors. We design a within subject experiment of 3 (social comparison: upward versus parallel versus downward) × 2 (treatment: fair versus unfair) involving 49 subjects. In the first round of allocations, subjects are forced to accept a monetary amount allocated to them by another player. In the second round, subjects assume the role of allocator and divide a monetary amount between themselves and a third party. Our results show the following: 1) Having received fair treatment from someone else, individuals engaged in downward comparison are more inclined to reciprocate the fairness they had received to a third party compared to individuals in parallel and upward comparison conditions. If individuals receive unfair treatment, they tend to repeat this behavior to a third party regardless of which social comparison condition they are in; 2) Under the condition of upward comparison, individuals receiving unfair treatment exhibit greater FRN amplitude and less P300 amplitude, but in parallel and downward comparison conditions, there is no significance in FRN and P300 amplitude between individuals receiving fair and unfair treatment.s
Article
Full-text available
BACKGROUND: The presence of social support has been associated with decreased stress responsiveness. Recent animal studies suggest that the neuropeptide oxytocin is implicated both in prosocial behavior and in the central nervous control of neuroendocrine responses to stress. This study was designed to determine the effects of social support and oxytocin on cortisol, mood, and anxiety responses to psychosocial stress in humans. METHODS: In a placebo-controlled, double-blind study, 37 healthy men were exposed to the Trier Social Stress Test. All participants were randomly assigned to receive intranasal oxytocin (24 IU) or placebo 50 min before stress, and either social support from their best friend during the preparation period or no social support. RESULTS: Salivary free cortisol levels were suppressed by social support in response to stress. Comparisons of pre- and poststress anxiety levels revealed an anxiolytic effect of oxytocin. More importantly, the combination of oxytocin and social support exhibited the lowest cortisol concentrations as well as increased calmness and decreased anxiety during stress. CONCLUSIONS: Oxytocin seems to enhance the buffering effect of social support on stress responsiveness. These results concur with data from animal research suggesting an important role of oxytocin as an underlying biological mechanism for stress-protective effects of positive social interactions.
Book
Game theory, the formalized study of strategy, began in the 1940s by asking how emotionless geniuses should play games, but ignored until recently how average people with emotions and limited foresight actually play games. This book marks the first substantial and authoritative effort to close this gap. Colin Camerer, one of the field's leading figures, uses psychological principles and hundreds of experiments to develop mathematical theories of reciprocity, limited strategizing, and learning, which help predict what real people and companies do in strategic situations. Unifying a wealth of information from ongoing studies in strategic behavior, he takes the experimental science of behavioral economics a major step forward. He does so in lucid, friendly prose. Behavioral game theory has three ingredients that come clearly into focus in this book: mathematical theories of how moral obligation and vengeance affect the way people bargain and trust each other; a theory of how limits in the brain constrain the number of steps of "I think he thinks . . ." reasoning people naturally do; and a theory of how people learn from experience to make better strategic decisions. Strategic interactions that can be explained by behavioral game theory include bargaining, games of bluffing as in sports and poker, strikes, how conventions help coordinate a joint activity, price competition and patent races, and building up reputations for trustworthiness or ruthlessness in business or life.
Book
Empathy has long been a topic of interest to psychologists, but it has been studied in a sometimes bewildering number of ways. In this volume, Mark Davis offers a thorough, evenhanded review of contemporary empathy research, especially work that has been carried out by social and personality psychologists.Davis' approach is explicitly multidimensional. He draws careful distinctions between situational and dispositional “antecedents” of empathy, cognitive and noncognitive “internal processes,” affective and nonaffective “intrapersonal outcomes,” and the “interpersonal behavioral outcomes” that follow. Davis presents a novel organizational model to help classify and interpret previous findings. This book will be of value in advanced undergraduate and graduate courses on altruism, helping, nad moral development.
Article
To facilitate a multidimensional approach to empathy the Interpersonal Reactivity Index (IRI) includes 4 subscales: Perspective-Taking (PT) Fantasy (FS) Empathic Concern (EC) and Personal Distress (PD). The aim of the present study was to establish the convergent and discriminant validity of these 4 subscales. Hypothesized relationships among the IRI subscales between the subscales and measures of other psychological constructs (social functioning self-esteem emotionality and sensitivity to others) and between the subscales and extant empathy measures were examined. Study subjects included 677 male and 667 female students enrolled in undergraduate psychology classes at the University of Texas. The IRI scales not only exhibited the predicted relationships among themselves but also were related in the expected manner to other measures. Higher PT scores were consistently associated with better social functioning and higher self-esteem; in contrast Fantasy scores were unrelated to these 2 characteristics. High EC scores were positively associated with shyness and anxiety but negatively linked to egotism. The most substantial relationships in the study involved the PD scale. PD scores were strongly linked with low self-esteem and poor interpersonal functioning as well as a constellation of vulnerability uncertainty and fearfulness. These findings support a multidimensional approach to empathy by providing evidence that the 4 qualities tapped by the IRI are indeed separate constructs each related in specific ways to other psychological measures.
Article
Humans frequently sacrifice resources to help others—even strangers. The proximate mechanisms inducing such sacrifices are not well understood, and we hypothesized that touch might provoke a sacrifice of money to a stranger. We found that touch significantly elevated circulating oxytocin (OT) levels but only when it was followed by an intentional act of trust. Touch followed by trust increased monetary sacrifice by 243% relative to untouched controls. We also found that women were more susceptible than men to OT release and monetary sacrifice after touch. This suggests that touch draws on physiologic mechanisms that support cooperative behaviors in humans.
Article
Prosocial motivation is egoistic when the ultimate goal is to increase one's own welfare; it is altruistic when the ultimate goal is to increase another's welfare. The view that all prosocial behavior, regardless how noble in appearance, is motivated by some form of self-benefits may seem cynical. But it is the dominant view in contemporary psychology. Most contemporary psychologists who use the term have no intention of challenging the dominant view that all human behavior, including all prosocial behavior, is motivated by self-serving, egoistic desires. Contemporary pseudoaltruistic views can be classified into three types: altruism as prosocial behavior, not motivation, altruism as prosocial behavior seeking internal rewards, and altruism as prosocial behavior to reduce aversive arousal. If altruistic motivation exists, then one has to make some fundamental changes in the conception of human motivation and indeed of human nature. As yet, the evidence is not sufficiently clear to justify such changes. If the conceptual analysis and research outlined in the chapter have merit, then the threshold of an empirical answer to the question why one care for other will be reached.
Article
The application of immunohistochemical and radioimmunoassay techniques to the study of the distribution of the neurohypophyseal peptides vasopressin and oxytocin has revealed the presence of both peptides throughout the mammalian CNS. Other studies have shown that these peptides exert potent effects on specific central neurons and may be involved in a variety of complex central functions. Recent advances in the concepts surrounding the distribution and possible functions of central vasopressin and oxytocin are summarized in this article.