Article

Affective and Physiological Responses to the Suffering of Others: Compassion and Vagal Activity

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Abstract

Compassion is an affective response to another's suffering and a catalyst of prosocial behavior. In the present studies, we explore the peripheral physiological changes associated with the experience of compassion. Guided by long-standing theoretical claims, we propose that compassion is associated with activation in the parasympathetic autonomic nervous system through the vagus nerve. Across 4 studies, participants witnessed others suffer while we recorded physiological measures, including heart rate, respiration, skin conductance, and a measure of vagal activity called respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA). Participants exhibited greater RSA during the compassion induction compared with a neutral control (Study 1), another positive emotion (Study 2), and a prosocial emotion lacking appraisals of another person's suffering (Study 3). Greater RSA during the experience of compassion compared with the neutral or control emotion was often accompanied by lower heart rate and respiration but no difference in skin conductance. In Study 4, increases in RSA during compassion positively predicted an established composite of compassion-related words, continuous self-reports of compassion, and nonverbal displays of compassion. Compassion, a core affective component of empathy and prosociality, is associated with heightened parasympathetic activity. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2015 APA, all rights reserved).

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... In contrast to affective empathy, compassion does not involve the sharing of others' negative experiences. Instead, it is characterized by feelings of concern (Klimecki et al., 2012;Kok & Fredrickson, 2010;Kok & Singer, 2017) and regulated autonomic responses, such as heart rate deceleration (Eisenberg et al., 1988(Eisenberg et al., , 1989 and activation of parasympathetic regulatory processes (Borelli et al., 2019;Stellar et al., 2015;Stellar & Keltner, 2017). Compassion is believed to be grounded in the motivation to help others in need (Singer & Klimecki, 2014;. ...
... We, therefore, expected to find significant synchrony at the subjective, experiential level, that is, between the target's distress fluctuations and participants' dynamic ratings of care. On the other hand, compassion, which is characterized by warm tender feelings (Gilbert, 2015;Goetz et al., 2010;Singer & Klimecki, 2014), as well as a regulated autonomic physiology (Eisenberg et al., 1989;Stellar et al., 2015), does not entail emotional and physiological similarity with targets. We, therefore, expected to find attenuated levels of autonomic synchrony with distress in the compassion as compared to affective empathy condition. ...
... Although not hypothesized here, this pattern is consistent with previous results in the empathy literature. Specifically, cardiac deceleration is considered to be a hallmark of empathic experience (Eisenberg et al., 1989;Stellar et al., 2015). Notably, lowering of the heart rate is thought to be driven by an activation of the parasympathetically driven vagal regulatory system (Carter et al., 2017;Stellar & Keltner, 2017) linked with emotion regulation and positive social engagement (Porges, 2007;Thayer & Lane, 2000). ...
Article
Sensitivity to suffering of others is a core factor in social cohesion and evolutionary success. The emergence of such sensitivity may occur via two neuro-functional mechanisms. One is sharing the pain and distress of others, which relies on affective empathy. The other involves a caring concern for others' wellbeing, termed compassion. Both affective empathy and compassion are triggered by cues of pain and distress, exhibited by suffering targets. Yet, the mechanisms underlying distress processing in empathy and compassion are not clear. In the current research, we investigated synchrony with a target's distress, as a putative mechanism for continuous processing of distress cues. Participants viewed a video of a target in distress when given two different instructions: they were asked to continuously rate their distress in the affective empathy condition, or their feelings of care in the compassion condition. We used these dynamic ratings as well as participants' autonomic and facial responses to assess multi-channel synchrony with the target's self-rated distress fluctuations. Dynamic ratings and facial corrugator responses were significantly positively synchronized with the target's distress. For the corrugator responses, synchrony with the target was more pronounced than synchrony with participants' own ratings. Autonomic responses exhibited negative synchrony with the target's distress. Synchrony was higher in the affective empathy than in the compassion condition, across channels. These results point to the key role of subjective and physiological synchrony with the target's distress in empathic sharing of negative experiences. They also highlight the attenuation of embodied resonance with distress in compassionate experiences.
... oriented concern and compassion in response to pictures or videos of people in need (Eisenberg et al., 1989(Eisenberg et al., , 1991Stellar et al., 2015). ...
... Prior research has linked heart rate deceleration in empathy-inducing contexts to feelings of compassion and prosociality (Goetz et al., 2010;Stellar et al., 2015). The present findings build on this work by showing that training-related changes in concern for others are also accompanied by reductions in heart rate to suffering. ...
... Furthermore, increases in blood volume amplitude were strongly associated with reductions in heart rate to suffering. This pattern of peripheral vasodilation coupled with orienting bradycardia is indicative of reciprocal parasympathetic activation of the cardiovascular system (Berntson et al., 1991; see also Campbell et al., 1997), and aligns with emerging theory and data that associate compassion with vagal dominance of autonomic control (Stellar et al., 2015). No significant correlations were found, however, between transit time and heart rate or self-report outcomes. ...
Preprint
Contemplative traditions have long affirmed that compassion and kindness are trainable skills. While research on meditation practice has recently flourished, the mechanisms that might precipitate such changes are still poorly understood. Here, we present a motivational framework to explain why meditation training should increase concern for others and modulate empathic engagement with human suffering over time. Meditation practices are conceived as tools for enacting cognitive and emotion regulatory goals that are conditioned by the underlying ethical motivation of the training—to reduce and alleviate suffering. In support of this account, we present data from a randomized, waitlist-controlled study of intensive meditation. In Study 1, we introduce a novel cardiovascular index of the salience of human suffering. We show that 3 months of meditation training can increase the motivational salience of others’ suffering, as compared to the salience of threats to oneself. We also show that training-related changes in the ability to orient attention to suffering is mediated by the dynamic regulation of distress-related physiological arousal. In Study 2, we demonstrate that meditation training can alter how images of human suffering are encoded in memory and are subsequently recollected 7 years later. Together, our findings suggest that meditation training can strengthen the motivational relevance of others’ suffering, prompting a shift from self-focused to other-focused processing, which can leave lasting imprints on emotional experience. Considering meditation training from a motivational standpoint offers an important perspective for understanding how compassion can be cultivated through intentional practice.
... These differences in integration abilities may render individuals with higher HRV more sensitive to the aversiveness of others' harm than individuals with lower HRV. Individuals with higher HRV are, in fact, more responsive to others' needs and more concerned with others' welfare than individuals with lower HRV (Kogan et al., 2014;Stellar et al., 2015;Lischke et al., 2018a), presumably because individuals with higher HRV are more empathetic and less alexithymic than individuals with lower HRV (Lischke et al., 2017, Lischke et al., 2018b. Due to these differences in aversiveness sensitivity, individuals with higher HRV may be more inclined to follow moral rules than individuals with lower HRV. ...
... HRV was assessed with a resting state measure of high-frequency HRV (HF-HRV). HF-HRV measures the integration of neurophysiological processes that are associated with an empathic reaction to others' harm (Kogan et al., 2014;Stellar et al., 2015;Lischke et al., 2018b), implying that this may also be the case during violations of moral rules that are concerned with others' welfare. Moral rule adherence was assessed with a self-report measure that differentiated between moral idealism and moral relativism (Forsyth, 1980). ...
... The spectral analysis was used to determine the HRV measure of interest: HF-HRV (0.15-0.4 Hz). HF-HRV was the HRV measure of interest because HF-HRV tracks the integration of neurophysiological processes that are associated with an empathic reaction to others' harm (Kogan et al., 2014;Stellar et al., 2015;Lischke et al., 2018b), indicating that HF-HRV reflects aversive reactions to violations of others' welfare (see Supplementary Material 1). The time domain analysis was used for the determination of a HRV measure that tracks similar processes as HF-HRV (Shaffer and Ginsberg, 2017): the root mean square of successive differences between consecutive heart beats (RMSSD). ...
Article
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Moral rules are a cornerstone of many societies. Most moral rules are concerned with the welfare of other individuals, reflecting individuals’ innate aversion against harming other individuals. Harming others is associated with aversive experiences, implying that individuals who are sensitive to the aversiveness of these experiences are more likely to follow moral rules than individuals who are insensitive to the aversiveness of these experiences. Individuals’ sensitivity for aversive experiences depends on individuals’ ability to integrate the underlying neural and physiological processes: Individuals who are more efficient in integrating these processes are more sensitive to the aversiveness that is associated with moral rule violations than individuals who are less efficient in integrating these processes. Individuals who differ in their ability to integrate these processes may, thus, also differ in their inclination to follow moral rules. We tested this assumption in a sample of healthy individuals (67 males) who completed measures of moral rule adherence and integration abilities. Moral rule adherence was assessed with self-report measure and integration abilities were assessed with a resting state measure of heart rate variability (HRV), which reflects prefrontal–(para-)limbic engagement during the integration of physical and neural processes. We found a positive association between individuals’ HRV and individuals’ moral rule adherence, implying that individuals with efficient integration abilities were more inclined to follow moral rules than individuals with inefficient integration abilities. Our findings support the assumption that individuals with different integration abilities also differ in moral rule adherence, presumably because of differences in aversiveness sensitivity.
... Several authors have considered CTO closely related to compassion toward the self (CTS). However, the social nature of CTO implies the activation of mechanisms for helping others Stellar et al., 2015) and does not imply that a person is self-compassionate (Pommier et al., 2020). Unlike CTS, which entails feelings of care and understanding of oneself, CTO involves an extension of one's self to others (Gilbert, 2019;Goetz & Simon-Thomas, 2017). ...
... In this sense, a tendency to experience CTO also seems to protect against the experience of negative affect. Additionally, CTO is a key resource for building long-term interpersonal relationships (Klimecki et al., 2013Stellar et al., 2015Stellar et al., , 2017. Following this perspective, some studies have investigated the relationship between CTO and SWB, but these studies are few (Saarinen et al., 2020). ...
... The results of the mediation model showed that CTO has a prospective direct effect on beneficence and that beneficence has a prospective direct effect on SWB. The first effect (of CTO on benevolence) indicates that individuals' constant experience of CTO makes them feel satisfied when they perceive that they are contributing positively to the lives of other people, which reinforces the idea that compassion is fundamental to understanding social life and cooperation with strangers (Stellar et al., 2015(Stellar et al., , 2017. As mentioned above, the feelings of warmth and care and the perspective-taking generated through compassion promote the activation of help mechanisms without causing malaise (Goetz & Simon-Thomas, 2017;Stellar et al., 2017). ...
Article
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Research on the link between compassion toward others (CTO) and subjective well-being (SWB) has gained increasing attention in recent years. However, studies about the prospective relationship between these two constructs, as well as its underlying psychological process (i.e., mediators), are limited. For this reason, we conducted long-term three-wave longitudinal research, with six months between waves, among a large and representative sample of Chileans (N = 1477) to analyze the longitudinal relationship between CTO and SWB. First, we hypothesized that CTO longitudinally predicts higher SWB (H1). Second, we theorized that beneficence, a sense of having a prosocial impact on others, would mediate the CTO–SWB link (H2). To test the hypotheses, cross-lagged panel models (CLPMs) were conducted. Our hypotheses were supported by the data. The results of Model 1 show that CTO prospectively predicts higher SWB, thus confirming the first hypothesis. Model 2 shows that CTO prospectively predicts higher SWB indirectly through the mediation of beneficence, which supports our second hypothesis. The implications of the findings of this study and suggestions for future research are discussed from an evolutionary perspective.
... According to Neff (2003), self-compassion includes being open to and mindful of personal suffering, being kind towards the self when experiencing suffering, as well as when experiencing suffering as part of human living. Considering the evidence that self-compassion is an effective way to deal with adverse situations (Stellar et al., 2015;Svendsen et al., 2016) and to validate and recognize reappraisal strategy, we believe that this might be considered a strategy for emotional regulation. However, how could we measure self-compassion? ...
... Higher levels of trait self-compassion correlate positively with higher HRV, which indicates that it is associated with a better capacity to regulate emotional responses (Svendsen et al., 2016). Stellar et al. (2015) demonstrated that compassion elicits significant changes in the ANS by increasing activation of the vagus nerve, which might facilitate support-giving and care-taking behaviors. Luo et al. (2018) studied the effects of self-compassion on physiological stress response under experimental conditions and found that self-compassionate individuals showed higher HRV at baseline. ...
Article
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Objectives The aim of this study was to investigate the effects of self-compassionate thinking (SCT) related to stressful autobiographical memories (SAM) on the prefrontal cortex (PFC) activity and heart rate variability (HRV) parameters in healthy subjects. Methods A naturalistic paradigm was built with two conditions, SAM followed by SCT. We used functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) to measure oxy and deoxyhemoglobin concentration changes in 33 healthy adults (men = 10) with a mean age of 33.24 years (SD = 6.85). Two HRV parameters were also measured during both conditions: the standard deviations of the normal-to-normal (SDNN-HRV) and the high-frequency component of heart rate variability (HF-HRV). Results During the SAM condition, the left dorsolateral PFC (DLPFC) and the frontopolar area showed a significantly increased oxyhemoglobin concentration compared with the control condition (corrected-p < 0.01). During the SCT condition, the frontopolar area showed a significantly increased oxyhemoglobin compared with the control condition (corrected-p < 0.001). A significant increase in time-domain SDNN-HRV (p = 0.002) during SCT compared with the SAM condition was also observed. An association between the frontopolar area fNIRS signal and the HF-HRV during SAM condition was found (corrected-p < 0.05). Conclusions Our findings suggested that the SAM condition is associated with activity in the left DLPFC and in the frontopolar area, while the SCF is associated with activity in the frontopolar area. The SCT was related to an increase in SDNN-HRV when compared with the SAM condition, and an association between HF-HRV and PFC activity was seen. Our results also suggested that self-compassionate thinking can be an effective emotional regulation strategy. Trial Registration Clinical Trials NCT03737084.
... that has made compassion a popular subject in scientific research has been an increasing number of studies that have provided evidence regarding its relation to well-being (Barrett-Cheetham, Williams, & Bednail, 2016). In this context, compassion is related to physical (Stellar et al., 2015), mental (Sommers-Spijkerman et al., 2018), and psychosocial health (Cosley et al., 2010). Subsequent studies focused on whether these relationships were short-term or permanent. ...
... Gilbert (2005), on the other hand, evaluated compassion in terms of the emotion regulation system and argued that compassion activates the satisfaction, comfort, and trust system in the brain and that this system is the source of feelings such as well-being, satisfaction, security and feelings of connectedness. It is further suggested that the neuro-biological satisfaction and comfort system is associated with endorphin and oxytocin hormones and that the impulse and excitement system of happiness in areas such as eating, sexuality, search for status, and being competitive is associated with serotonin and dopamine that give a shorter duration of happiness (Gilbert, 2010 (Stellar et al., 2015) which suggests that compassion leads to a physiological state of relaxation and can prepare the body for intimacy and pro-social behavior. ...
Article
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This study aimed to investigate compassion and submissive compassion as predictors of psychological well-being. Participants consisted of 252 people, 150 women and 102 men between 18 and 59 years of age. Correlation and hierarchical regression analyses were performed to examine the relationships between compassion, submissive compassion, and psychological well-being. The study found a positive and significant relationship between compassion and psychological well-being, and a negative and significant one between submissive compassion and psychological well-being. The results indicate, on the other hand, that compassion and submissive compassion were significantly negatively correlated. Based on the gender and age variables, compassion and submissive compassion explain 13% of the variance in psychological well-being. The results are discussed based on the literature.
... Compassion activates brain regions associated with positive emotions, reward and also parental care, such as the ventral tegmental area (VTA), periaqueductal gray (PAG) and the striatum (Marsh, 2019). The myelinated part of the ventral vagus nerve is also part of this care system (Porges, 2003) and is activated when compassion is experienced or imagined, evident in higher heart rate variability or respiratory sinus arrhythmia (e. g., Rockliff et al., 2008;Stellar et al., 2015). These indicate greater self-soothing abilities, as both are indexes of the dynamic interplay between sympathic and vagal activity (Appelhans and Luecken, 2006). ...
... A number of studies already indicate that compassion and prosocial behavior are associated with increases in vagal activity Bornemann et al., 2019;Rockliff et al., 2008;Stellar et al., 2015). The positive regulatory effects of compassion, for example, were also demonstrated in a pilot study with a limited sample size in which physiological changes were observed after imagining to receive compassion (Rockliff et al., 2008): participants showed two distinct patterns during this imagining: in one half of participants, imagining compassion promoted higher heart rate variability consistent with a decreased cortisol response (Rockliff et al., 2008). ...
Article
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Positive emotion regulation, that is, upregulating, maintaining, and savoring positive emotions, also bears the potential to counteract and thus mitigate negative affect. In this narrative review, we report on the social emotion of compassion as a particularly efficient form of positive emotion regulation. Compassion emerges as an affiliative response to the suffering of others. It is characterized by feelings of warmth and kindness and an initiation of prosocial caring behavior towards others. The inherent positivity of compassion is also in line with the related neural correlates. Compassion is associated with activity in the ventral striatum, the (subgenual) anterior cingulate cortex, and the orbitofrontal cortex, brain regions related to strong positive emotions, such as romantic and maternal love. In addition to its long tradition in Eastern philosophy, the practice of compassion has in recent years found its way into interventions in Western psychology, for example, within compassion-focused therapy. Recent findings confirm that affect-related mental training promoting compassion is also linked to functional and structural changes in neural networks associated with positive emotions and emotion regulation. This compassion-related plasticity in the neural systems of positive emotion regulation suggests that incorporating compassion into psychological interventions could prove to be a particularly effective way to support positive emotion regulation.
... According to the social mentality theory (Gilbert, 1989(Gilbert, , 2009, receiving compassion from others (e.g., through secure attachment relationships) may facilitate the development of the soothing system in emotion regulation, which can enable one to calm and comfort the self in difficult times. Some studies have corroborated these views by showing that compassion may have dual positive effects on physiological and psychological well-being (Di Bello et al., 2020;Stellar et al., 2015). Specifically, compassion may suppress sympathetic activity and enhance parasympathetic influence, which can calm potential stress reactions (Stellar et al., 2015). ...
... Some studies have corroborated these views by showing that compassion may have dual positive effects on physiological and psychological well-being (Di Bello et al., 2020;Stellar et al., 2015). Specifically, compassion may suppress sympathetic activity and enhance parasympathetic influence, which can calm potential stress reactions (Stellar et al., 2015). Moreover, compassion may increase vagally mediated heart rate variability, which is related to higher positive affect and lower negative affect (Di Bello et al., 2020). ...
Article
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Objectives Research shows that compassion from others and from the self may enable university students to face, overcome, and bounce back from adversity and generate a greater sense of thriving and meaning in life. However, the underlying processes are largely unknown. The present study aimed to examine the associations of compassion with psychological distress, flourishing, and meaning in life among university students and explore the mechanisms underlying these associations. Methods A total of 536 Hong Kong university students completed questionnaires measuring their experiences of compassion from others, self-compassion, resilience, psychological distress, flourishing, and meaning in life. Results Serial mediation analyses showed that compassion from others was associated positively with self-compassion, which was, in turn, linked to greater resilience and consequently lower levels of psychological distress and higher levels of flourishing and meaning in life. Conclusions Our findings reveal the associations of compassion from others and self-compassion with the well-being and life meaning of university students. The findings highlight the importance of being open and receptive to love and kindness from others. The findings also point to the importance of developing a caring attitude toward oneself.
... After completing the writing task, we asked participants to report their feelings based on the incident that they recalled. As with Study 1, we measured participants' compassion using the three-item scale from Stellar et al. (2015). ...
... As with Studies 1 and 2, we measured employees' compassion using the same three-item scale from Stellar et al. (2015). ...
Article
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Human‐animal work represents a collaboration between humans and animals to achieve work goals, and is common in the domains of healthcare, therapy, entertainment, and education. Although the scopes and types of human‐animal work is diversifying and increasing, organizational scholars have yet to explore its impacts on employees. Drawing from the models of compassion and mind perception theories, we first develop a theoretical model pertaining to the development of compassion as a result of human‐animal work. In a study with zookeepers (Study 1), we find that human‐animal work evokes the emotion of compassion, which in turn is positively associated with employee prosocial behavior and task performance. These mediated effects are moderated by how employees perceive animals – employees are more likely to experience compassion, and in turn become more prosocial and work better when they generally perceive animals to be able to experience emotions and bodily sensations. Furthermore, two follow‐up studies (i.e., Studies 2 and 3) with employees who engage in human‐animal work in Hong Kong and the United States reveal that working with animals evokes awe in addition to compassion, and provides insight into their resultant impact on prosocial behavior and task performance. We end by discussing the theoretical and practical implications of this work. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved
... Studies have demonstrated that those with higher HRV are more successful socioemotionally, such as, in establishing relationships of mutual understanding and engaging in cooperative behaviors (e.g., Beffara et al., 2016;Kok and Fredrickson, 2010;Lischke et al., 2018). Moreover, empathetic like traits and states, such as feeling compassionate towards others, are also more pronounced in those with higher HRV (e.g., Lischke et al., 2018;Stellar et al., 2015). In sum, the flexibility of the PNS (i.e., higher HRV) supports positive socioemotional functioning, such as the ability to understand and be compassionate. ...
... For example, elevated CU traits have previously been associated with reduced HRV at rest in male adolescents with disruptive behavioral problems (De Wied et al., 2012;Mills-Koonce et al., 2015;Thomson and Centifanti, 2018;Wagner and Waller, 2020). In addition, Lischke et al. (2018) found that better socioemotional functioningas indicated by higher levels of empathywas associated with higher HRV at rest in a sample of male students; others have found similar associations (e.g., Miller et al., 2009;Stellar et al., 2015). On the other hand, no relationship between cardiac markers and CU related constructs (e.g., Prätzlich et al., 2019), or even opposite activity patterns (e.g., Gao et al., 2017) have also been found, perhaps due to diverging design choices. ...
Article
Elevated callous-unemotional (CU) traits have been repeatedly identified in a subgroup of offenders that displays severe antisocial behavior; establishing physiological markers may help improve early identification and treatment efforts. This study examines to what extent baseline-resting heart rate (HR) and heart rate variability (HRV) can be used as markers of CU in incarcerated juvenile and adult offenders. CU traits were assessed using the Inventory of Callous-Unemotional traits. Results of the multiple hierarchical regression tests indicated that there was a small yet significant positive association between baseline HR and CU and negative association between HRV and CU in juvenile offenders with medium model effect sizes (R² = 0.115 for HR-CU; R² = 0.126 for HRV-CU). The cardiac markers were unrelated to CU in adult offenders. These findings are important because they demonstrate that impaired cardiac autonomic activity is related to CU traits in juveniles, suggesting that socioemotional processing difficulties should be considered in understanding these deficits. Future research should be conducted in large samples, under reactive and static conditions, while including cardiac covariates, to get more clarity on the interplay between biological systems and behavioral expression.
... In addition, recent studies have been showing a connection between HRV and the emotional state of compassion, self-compassion, feelings of perceived safeness and warmth and greater ability to selfsoothe when stressed (e.g. Petrocchi et al., 2016;Porges, 2007;Stellar et al., 2015;Svendsen et al., 2016). ...
Article
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Objectives The current study aimed to examine the mechanisms of change that mediate the impact of a compassionate mind training (CMT) intervention, in particular, whether changes in compassion, fears of compassion and heart rate variability (HRV) would mediate the effects of a brief CMT intervention on psychological vulnerability factors, mental health indicators and positive affect. Methods Using a longitudinal design, general population participants were randomly assigned to one of the two conditions: compassionate mind training (n = 56) and wait list control (n = 37). Participants in the CMT condition attended a psychoeducation session and practiced a set of core CMT exercises for 2 weeks. Self-report measures of compassion, fears of compassion, self-criticism, shame, depression, stress and positive affect were completed, and HRV was assessed at pre- and post-intervention. Results Mediation analyses revealed that increases in compassion for self and from others and reductions in fears of compassion for self, for others and from others mediated the effects of CMT on self-criticism and shame. In depression and stress, compassion for the self and from others and fears of compassion for the self emerged as significant mediators. Compassion for the self and from others and fears of compassion for self and from others significantly mediated the effect of CMT in safe affect. Compassion for the self, fears of compassion for self and for others and HRV mediated changes in relaxed affect. Conclusions Cultivating a compassionate mind/self-identity through the core components of CMT may stimulate vagal regulatory activity and positively impact one’s ability to experience and be open to compassion, and thus promote emotion regulation, well-being and mental health.
... Compassion is driven by an innate motivation to help others, the act of which is associated with the release of oxytocin, dopamine, and serotonin, evoking feelings of happiness (Esch & Stefano, 2011). Compassion provides individuals with a utility framework to evaluate pros and cons concerning climate change action, but it also promotes evolutionarily beneficial behaviors such as reciprocity and altruism (Keltner, 2010;Stellar et al., 2015). Goetz et al. (2010, p. 1) argue that compassion's "primary function is to facilitate cooperation and protection of the weak and those who suffer," and is particularly strong when suffering is perceived as undeserved. ...
Article
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The first trigger to any form of personal and collective change begins with emotions. They influence whether and how our attention is drawn to stimuli, how we reflect upon those stimuli, and how we choose courses of action. Emotions are thus at the center of social responses to climate change. We offer a selective, interdisciplinary review of emotions research to inform the development of a hypothetical emotion–cognition model of climate change response, followed by exploration of the emotional precedents supporting three prevailing behavioral responses which support inaction: apathy, denial, and withdrawal. We then review research that can inform emotion triggers to pro‐climate adaptive and mitigative action. We conclude with a discussion of two key research needs: intersectionality and interdisciplinarity. Addressing these needs will enhance our ability to respond to the climate emergency. This article is categorized under: Perceptions, Behavior, and Communication of Climate Change > Behavior Change and Responses
... wskaźniki psychofizjologicznej reakcji współczucia (por. Stellar, Cohen, Oveis, Keltner, 2015). ...
... Un studiu a urmărit aceste modificări într-o abordare comparativă, punând față în față programele de antrenament orientate către cultivarea compasiunii și cele destinate empatiei. Cultivarea compasiunii a evidențiat efecte benefice în rândul practicanților, cum ar fi ameliorarea activității cerebrale (downregulated) în regiuni care corespund cognițiilor sociale și în procesele de reglare emoțională (cortexul parietal inferior -iPC, cortexul prefrontal dorsolateral -dlPFC, și conexiunea dlPFC cu nucleul accumbens -NA) [114]. ...
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The incidence of the fatigue caused by medical care brings to attention the emotional reactions to suffering and their possible effects on caregivers. In this study, we shall discuss empathy and compassion. Linguistic analyses and psychological evaluations fail to differentiate between empathy and compassion. We shall therefore make an inventory of the contribution of neuroscientific studies that we consider important. We shall present some research and clinical studies that support the discrimination between compassion and empathy, at the psycho-behavioral level, in terms of vagal and cerebral patterns and in terms of the effects that these emotional states have at the psycho-emotional level. Unlike the interventions aimed at empathic training, cultivating compassion among caregivers produces beneficial effects, decreasing fatigue and increasing resilience. We believe that the differences found between compassion and empathy support the replacement of the phrase “compassion fatigue”, widely used today, with “empathic distress”. We consider the prophylactic and therapeutic capitalization of compassion in health care, by developing training programs to cultivate compassion for specialized staff for patients, to avoid fatigue (empathic distress) and to improve the emotional, humanistic dimension of the doctor-patient relationship, both urgent and necessary.
... Empathic concern for the other emerges from physiological mechanisms (neural and neuro-hormonal) that have been selected over the course of evolution to motivate and maintain parental care behaviors (Bell, 2001;Goetz et al., 2010). The desire to alleviate the suffering of others also engages the vagus nerve (measured by sinus respiratory arrhythmia), which is a branch of the parasympathetic autonomic nervous system, ancient in mammalian evolution and involved in social engagement and caregiving (Stellar et al., 2015). The hypothalamus, and the reward ...
Article
Empathy reflects the ability to perceive and be sensitive to the emotional states of others, often eliciting a motivation to care for their well-being. It plays a central role in prosocial behavior and inhibition of aggression. While the development of empathy has traditionally been examined with behavioral and observational methods, a growing body of work in neuroscience using eye-tracking, functional MRI, electroencephalography, electromyography and near-infrared spectroscopy, casts new light on the neurobiological mechanisms involved in the capacity to connect with one another and share their subjective states. This article selectively reviews and critically examines the current knowledge on the developmental neuroscience of empathy in early childhood. Deconstructing empathy into functional components such as sensitivity to signals of distress, emotion sharing, perspective taking, and caring for others within the framework of natural sciences, in conjunction with examining their developmental trajectory in early childhood is beneficial to research and theory with implication for psychopathology. This developmental neuroscience perspective advances our understanding of empathy, its underlying mechanisms, and functions.
... wskaźniki psychofizjologicznej reakcji współczucia (por. Stellar, Cohen, Oveis, Keltner, 2015). ...
... Importantly, the nature of these reactions may vary across people and reflect different types of empathic responses (Decety, 2011;Decety & Meyer, 2008). While some forms of emotional empathy can increase self-focused attention (Batson, Fultz, & Schoenrade, 1987;Eisenberg et al., 1994), feelings of distress (Decety, 2010;Decety & Cowell, 2014), and sympathetic nervous system activity (El-Sheikh, Cummings, & Goetsch, 1989;Liew et al., 2011), other forms of emotional empathy foster other-oriented attention, feelings of compassion, and parasympathetic nervous system activity Decety & Lamm, 2011;Hastings & Miller, 2014;Levenson & Ruef, 1992;Miller et al., 2015;Oveis, Horberg, & Keltner, 2010;Stellar, Cohen, Oveis, & Keltner, 2015). As parasympathetic nervous system activity is associated with attention, empathy, and social sensitivity, we expected that, if resting RSA is elevated in dyslexia, it would relate to differences in autonomic and behavioral responses to others' emotions in the film clips. ...
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Reading difficulties are the hallmark feature of dyslexia, but less is known about other areas of functioning. Previously, we found children with dyslexia exhibited heightened emotional reactivity, which correlated with better social skills. Whether emotional differences in dyslexia extend to the parasympathetic nervous system—an autonomic branch critical for attention, social engagement, and empathy—is unknown. Here, we measured autonomic nervous system activity in 24 children with dyslexia and 24 children without dyslexia, aged 7 – 12, at rest and during a film-based empathy task. At rest, children with dyslexia had higher respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA) than those without dyslexia. Cardiac deceleration during the empathy task was greater in dyslexia and correlated with higher resting RSA across the sample. Children with dyslexia produced more facial expressions of concentration during film-viewing, suggesting greater engagement. These results suggest elevated resting parasympathetic activity and accentuated autonomic and behavioral responding to others’ emotions in dyslexia.
... wskaźniki psychofizjologicznej reakcji współczucia (por. Stellar, Cohen, Oveis, Keltner, 2015). ...
... Thus, health implies a state of interconnectedness [11]. Interestingly, experiencing interconnectedness and compassion has been linked to the activation of the vagus [12] as well as to an increased respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA) [13] that, according to the polyvagal theory, reflects the activation of the VVC. ...
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Baseline respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA) has been proposed as a transdiagnostic biomarker of stress vulnerability across psychopathologies, and a reliable association between PTSD, OCD and lower resting RSA was found. Contemplative practices have been linked to the activation of the vagus as well as to an increased RSA that, according to the polyvagal theory, reflects the activation of the ventral vagal complex (VVC) and may promote PTSD and OCD recovery. PubMed and Scopus databases were selected to conduct a search following the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Review and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) 2020 guidelines, and A MeaSurement Tool to Assess systematic Reviews-2 (AMSTAR-2) was used to appraise the methodological quality for this systematic review. Six articles met the inclusion criteria (one cross-sectional study, one study with pre-post measurements, two cohort studies and two RCT studies). Mindfulness-related interventions promoted parasympathetic activity, an increased vagal tone and improvements in PTSD and OCD symptoms. According to the polyvagal theory, mindfulness-related and compassion-related meditations would be conceptualized as neural exercises expanding the capacity of the ventral vagal complex to regulate the present state and to promote resilience. Clinical and methodological issues are discussed.
... wskaźniki psychofizjologicznej reakcji współczucia (por. Stellar, Cohen, Oveis, Keltner, 2015). ...
... Ce souci de l'autre émerge de mécanismes physiologiques (neuronaux et neuro-hormonaux) qui ont été sélectionnés au cours de l'évolution pour motiver et maintenir les comportements de soins parentaux (Bell, 2001 ;Goetz et al., 2010). Le désir d'alléger la souffrance d'autrui engage à la fois le nerf vague (mesuré par arythmie respiratoire sinusale), qui est une branche du système nerveux autonome parasympathique, ancienne dans l'évolution des mammifères et impliquée dans l'engagement social et la prestation de soins (Stellar et al., 2015), l'hypothalamus et le circuit de la récompense qui inclut l'aire tegmentale ventrale, le striatum et le cortex préfrontal ventromédian (Decety, 2020a). Confondre l'empathie émotionnelle et le souci de l'autre est une erreur L'année psychologique/Topics in Cognitive Psychology, 2021, 121, 239-273 largement répandue (Decety, 2020b ;Jeffrey, 2016) alors que les explications ultimes et les mécanismes proximaux sont distincts. ...
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Empathy reflects the ability to perceive and be sensitive to the emotional states of others, often associated with a motivation to care for their well-being. Empathy plays a pivotal role in motivating prosocial behavior. While the development of empathy has traditionally been examined with behavioral methods and observations, a growing body of work in developmental social neuroscience casts new light on the neurobiological mechanisms involved in interpersonal sensitivity. This article critically examines the current knowledge in developmental neuroscience in very young children. Breaking down empathy into functional components such as affect sharing, perspective-taking, caring for others and emotional regulation, in conjunction with examining their developmental trajectory is beneficial to research and theories in affective and developmental neuroscience.
... Existe un cuerpo de evidencias importante que, en adultos, ha vinculado un mayor tono vagal a una expresión más saludable de variables psicológicas como la regulación de la emocionalidad negativa (11) y flexibilidad de la expresión emocional (12) , y una modulación vagal pobre a mayores niveles de ansiedad social, de defensividad y una menor activación conductual (13) y psicopatología (9) . Particularmente en el ámbito emocional, el tono vagal ha sido relacionado con una mejor capacidad para modular los estados emocionales negativos favoreciendo el desempeño cognitivo (14) y a una mayor expresión 9 de la emocionalidad positiva como la extraversión, la agradabilidad (15) , y la compasión (16). ...
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El presente trabajo tiene como principal objetivo presentar la teoría polivagal como un modelo bio-comportamental del comportamiento emocional e interpersonal, con la finalidad de identificar ámbitos de contribución de la teoría al estudio de la psicoterapia en torno al estatus clínico de los consultantes, el proceso terapéutico y el cambio. La revisión del modelo neurofisiológico muestra una reconceptualización las relaciones recíprocas entre sistema nervioso autónomo y la emocionalidad en el contexto interpersonal, lo cual permite distinguir condiciones de activación normal y patológica de las estrategias comportamentales defensivas (lucha/huida e inmovilización), así como su inhibición a través del sistema de enganche prosocial. Las investigaciones revisadas muestran evidencia a favor de las hipótesis derivadas del modelo tanto en población normal como clínica. De particular interés clínico resulta el sistema de enganche prosocial, pues habilita la emergencia del comportamiento interpersonal confiable, lo cual resulta ser un elemento pivotal para la psicoterapia por su potencial valor diagnóstico, así como sus efectos sobre el desarrollo y consolidación de la relación terapéutica y los resultados benéficos en el consultante. Finalmente, es posible identificar un cuerpo emergente de estudios de psicoterapia que evalúan la actividad del sistema de engache prosocial mediante la variabilidad de la frecuencia cardiaca de alta frecuencia, vinculándolo tanto al proceso (p. ej., alianza de trabajo) como al resultado (p. ej., nivel de síntomas), evidenciando el valor de profundizar en esta línea interdisciplinaria de investigación y, eventualmente, incorporar estas mediciones al arsenal clínico de evaluación.
... wskaźniki psychofizjologicznej reakcji współczucia (por. Stellar, Cohen, Oveis, Keltner, 2015). ...
... RSA reflects the extent of the parasympathetic control that the vagus nerve has over heart rate, and further exerts influence upon the prefrontal cortex, insula, and superior temporal gyrus, which relate to inhibition, body awareness, and social awareness, respectively [6]. Low RSA has been identified as a contributor to affect disinhibition [46] and social behavior [45]. ...
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Background Borderline Personality Disorder involves strong interpersonal disruptions, often associated with early maltreatment. However, the individual capacities which alter BPD-related interpersonal problems are unclear. Here, we examine two contributors to interpersonal functioning: interoceptive accuracy and parasympathetic activity. Interoceptive accuracy is the ability to correctly perceive body states, such as how quickly one’s heart is beating, and has been associated with emotional experience and various crucial social capacities. Similarly, parasympathetic activity is related to social processing and inhibition of impulses. As such, both may contribute to BPD interpersonal symptoms, albeit different types of interpersonal problems. Method Sixty-five individuals completed the Inventory of Interpersonal Problems and the Millon Clinical Multiaxial Inventory followed by a task to assess interoceptive accuracy, the heart rate monitoring task, in which participants counted their heartbeats while concurrent physiological data was recorded; and an assessment of vagal tone, used as an index of regulatory flexibility. Results Participants who reported poor interpersonal boundaries, consistent with borderline personality disorder styles, had worse interoception, whereas those high in aggression had lower vagal tone. Borderline personality symptoms overall were related to IA and significantly to vagal tone. Conclusions These findings suggest that interoceptive accuracy is associated with interpersonal problems, where people are overly influenced or enmeshed with others, possibly to compensate for the absence of their physical and emotional awareness.
... wskaźniki psychofizjologicznej reakcji współczucia (por. Stellar, Cohen, Oveis, Keltner, 2015). ...
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Jedna z najczęściej pojawiających się w literaturze definicji inteligencji opisuje ją jako zdolność, która ułatwia człowiekowi przystosowanie do środowiska. Badania psychologiczne prowadzone już od drugiej połowy XIX w. (m.in. przez Francisa Galtona) zdają się potwierdzać adaptacyjny charakter inteligencji. Od samego początku badacze łączyli sprawność intelektualną z funkcjonowaniem szkolnym. W kontekście badania uczniów szkoły średniej zrodziła się koncepcja czynnika inteligencji ogólnej zaproponowana przez Charlesa Spearmana. Nowo powstałe testy inteligencji u progu XX w., początkowo stworzone dla celów edukacyjnych przez Alfreda Bineta, szybko wzbudziły zainteresowanie pracodawców, ponieważ stanowiły efektywne narzędzie wyboru najlepszych kandydatów do pracy. Proces rozpowszechniania się testów inteligencji przyspieszyła I wojna światowa i potrzeba szybkiej selekcji kandydatów do służby wojskowej na różnych stanowiskach. Szkoła i praca, niewątpliwie ważne obszary aktywności człowieka, nie wyczerpują jednak dziedzin, w których inteligencja okazała się ważna. Późniejsze badania, prowadzone m.in. przez zespół szkockiego badacza Iana Deary’ego, pokazały znaczenie inteligencji dla zdrowia i długości życia. Inteligencja jest ogólną zdolnością, która przesądza o sprawności funkcjonowania poznawczego człowieka. Praktycznie każda aktywność ludzka angażuje w jakimś stopniu procesy poznawcze. Nie dziwi zatem fakt, że inteligencja ma znaczenie w niemal każdej sferze życia, od samoregulacji, osobowości, przekonań o świecie, kontroli niepożądanych zachowań i emocji, po aktywność fizyczną, preferencje dobowe i funkcjonowanie w związkach. W niniejszym zbiorze przyglądamy się niektórym z tych obszarów, wskazując na różnorodność wątków związanych z inteligencją. (...) W pierwszej części książki znalazły się rozdziały odwołujące się bezpośrednio do adaptacyjnego charakteru inteligencji oraz związanymi z nią funkcjami poznawczymi. Pierwszy rozdział autorstwa Marcina Zajenkowskiego stanowi wprowadzenie do całego zbioru i przedstawia rys historyczny dociekań nad inteligencją, jej definicję oraz przegląd badań nad znaczeniem inteligencji dla osiągnięć szkolnych, funkcjonowania w pracy oraz zdrowia i długości życia. Następne trzy rozdziały opisują rolę zdolności poznawczych dla adaptacyjnego zachowania w zakresie samoregulacji (Jan Jędrzejczyk), agresywnego zachowania (Marta Bodecka) oraz uzależnień (Iwona Nowakowska, Karolina Lewandowska, Karol Lewczuk). Druga część zbioru obejmuje teksty, w których przedyskutowano związki inteligencji i zdolności poznawczych z przekonaniami i emocjami. Marcin Zajenkowski i Oliwia Maciantowicz wskazują na wagę przekonań o własnej inteligencji dla różnych obszarów życia. Kinga Szymaniak przedstawia badania nad związkami gniew–poznanie, wskazując na najnowsze teorie z zakresu psychologii emocji. Paweł Łowicki omawia powiązania inteligencji i zdolności emocjonalno-społecznych z przekonaniami religijnymi. Maria Ledzińska prezentuje obszerny przegląd badań nad metapoznaniem, a więc wiedzą na temat własnych procesów poznawczych, jej związkami z inteligencją i codziennym funkcjonowaniem. W trzeciej części zbioru przedstawiono rozdziały opisujące rolę inteligencji w specyficznych obszarach życia. Wojciech Waleriańczyk i Maciej Stolarski zebrali informacje na temat roli inteligencji w sporcie. Konrad Jankowski przedstawia badania nad związkami zdolności poznawczych z chronotypem, cechą opisującą preferencje pory dnia dla aktywności człowieka. W ostatnim rozdziale Maria Leniarska i Marcin Zajenkowski dokonują przeglądu badań nad inteligencją ogólną oraz inteligencją emocjonalną i funkcjonowaniem osób w bliskich związkach.
... Empathic concern refers to a series of feelings including sympathy, compassion, and being moved by others' suffering (Stocks et al., 2011). According to these definitions, affective sharing of the negative emotions exhibited by others is a form of self-focused empathic or personal distress (Eisenberg et al., 1989;Lamm et al., 2011;Pérez-Manrique & Gomila, 2018), whereas empathic concern is relatively positive other-oriented emotion related to warmth and caring (Klimecki et al., 2014;Stellar et al., 2015). Cognitive empathy, similar to perspective taking or theory of mind, refers to a series of other-oriented cognitive processes used to infer the beliefs, intentions, and feelings of others (Decety & Yoder, 2016). ...
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Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are characterized by reduced pain empathy—a process that is grounded in first-hand pain perception. Because autistic traits are continuously distributed in the general population, we hypothesized that first-hand pain sensitivity would mediate the link between autistic traits and pain empathy. After controlling for alexithymia, higher autistic traits were associated with lower cognitive and emotional empathy in response to others’ pain, as well as lower sensitivity to cold and heat pain (higher cold pain tolerance and lower laser heat pain-intensity ratings). Importantly, pain sensitivity fully mediated the link between autistic traits and pain empathy. These findings highlight the role of atypical first-hand pain sensitivity in the lack of pain empathy observed in people with high autistic traits or ASD.
... wskaźniki psychofizjologicznej reakcji współczucia (por. Stellar, Cohen, Oveis, Keltner, 2015). ...
... Under resting conditions, the myelinated vagus fire a continuous signal that slows the heart. This "cardiac vagal tone" is commonly assessed by examining heart rate variability (HRV) at rest, and studies found that higher resting HRV is associated with increased emotion-related self-regulation, cognitive control, engagement coping, and prosocial tendencies (e.g., Geisler, Kubiak, Siewert, & Weber, 2013;Stellar, Cohen, Oveis, & Keltner, 2015;Thayer & Lane, 2007). ...
Thesis
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Dans ce travail, nous avons souhaité explorer la dimension émotionnelle du conditionnement évaluatif. Nous postulons que celui-ci provient d’un processus de double évaluation, d’une part émotionnelle et d’autre part cognitive. Nous nous sommes focalisés sur l’étude des processus émotionnels à travers la régulation émotionnelle. Pour cela nous avons réalisé trois séries d’études. Dans la première, nous avons mis en évidence que la dérégulation émotionnelle diminuait le conditionnement positif. Dans deux autres études visant à explorer les stratégies de régulation, nous avons observé qu’un mésusage des stratégies engendrait un conditionnement négatif plus fort et un conditionnement positif plus faible. Ces premiers résultats sont appuyés par deux études utilisant la variabilité de la fréquence cardiaque comme indicateur des capacités d’autorégulation. Le conditionnement évaluatif paraît associé à la dérégulation émotionnelle à travers des difficultés d’adaptation durant le stress et de récupération post-stress. Enfin, deux études ont essayé d’observer les effets d’un prédicteur de la régulation émotionnelle : la pleine conscience. Dans aucune des deux études nous n’avons trouvé de lien entre la pleine conscience et le conditionnement évaluatif. Nous avons donc pu observer à travers différentes méthodes un lien entre le conditionnement évaluatif et la régulation émotionnelle. Celui-ci est discuté et des pistes de recherches sont envisagées.
... The two most prominent theories of cardiac vagal control, namely the polyvagal theory [25,26] and the model of neurovisceral integration [27,28] suggest, that measures of vmHRV index the capacity for effective emotion recognition and regulation, important perquisites of the ability to empathize and connect with others. Empirical studies have further revealed significant associations between prosocial behaviour and enhanced basal vagal tone [29][30][31][32], as well as task-related vmHRV as a state marker [33][34][35]. In addition, higher basal and task-related vmHRV were found to promote similar constructs including social connectedness and social sensitivity [36][37][38]. ...
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Background The study aimed to investigate the link between burnout symptoms and prosocial behaviour, as well as the role of acute stress and vagally-mediated heart rate variability (vmHRV) on this association. Methods Seventy men were randomly assigned to either the stress or the control condition of the Trier Social Stress Test for Groups (TSST-G). Prosocial behaviour was assessed via a social decision-making paradigm during the respective TSST-G condition. Results Correlation analyses revealed negative correlations between prosocial behaviour and burnout symptoms. Acute stress was also associated with reduced prosocial behaviour, whereas no interaction effects with burnout symptoms could be revealed. Exploratory analyses showed that vmHRV was negatively correlated with burnout symptoms during the social decision-making paradigm but did not mediate the link between burnout and prosocial behaviour. Conclusion In conclusion, we report first experimental evidence that burnout symptoms are negatively associated with prosocial behaviour. Further studies are needed to explore the causal relations.
... It is important to note that physiological responses often demonstrate complex or nonlinear relationships with outcomes of emotional experience and behavior. For example, while higher levels of cardiac vagal activity-an indirect measure of parasympathetic nervous system activity (see Porges, S.W., Chapter 15 in this volume)-are associated with positive affect and have been shown to predict higher levels of self-reported compassion (Stellar, 2013;Stellar, Cohen, Oveis, & Keltner, 2015), cardiac vagal activity has also been demonstrated to show an 14 inverted U-shaped relationship with prosociality, suggesting that very high levels of vagal activity may be associated with reduced prosocial responding (Kogan et al., 2014). As another example, post-training increases in functional connectivity between the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and the nucleus accumbens have been linked to increases in altruistic behavior in participants who underwent compassion training, but to decreases in altruistic behavior in participants who underwent reappraisal training (Weng et al., 2013). ...
Thesis
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Humans have a remarkable capacity to feel and enact care for others. But this capacity is not universally expressed: decades of research have elucidated the contextual, social, cognitive-affective, and relational factors that limit the tendency to experience empathy and engage in prosocial action. Buddhist contemplative traditions have long been concerned with the alleviation of suffering and expanding the boundaries of those who we hold in our circle of care. Recent years have seen a growth of interest in contemplative approaches to cultivating compassionate responses to suffering. This dissertation explores contemplative approaches to training compassion, focusing on the question of whether we can, with volitional training, expand the boundaries of our circle of care. Chapter 1 draws on contemporary research from cognitive, affective, and social psychology to provide an integrative review of empirical studies of compassion training. I consider what constitutes compassion training and offer a summary of current meditation-based approaches. I then provide an overview of the empirical evidence for a relationship between compassion training and changes in socioemotional processes, prosocial behavior, and physiological stress responses to the perception of others’ suffering. I further address challenges in interpreting data from these studies, considering training-related mechanisms of change and how compassion-relevant processes might develop over time. I conclude by outlining key theoretical challenges for future research. Chapters 2 and 3 empirically investigate two key issues in contemplative approaches to training compassion: the generalization of training effects, and the volitional expansion of the circle of care. Leveraging EEG data collected as part of the Shamatha Project—a multimethod study of the psychobiological effects of intensive meditation retreat training—these chapters work to contribute to the understanding of the neurocognitive consequences of intensive contemplative training. Establishing whether effects instantiated through meditation training generalize to other, non-meditative states is an essential link in understanding how contemplative training may influence behavior—including responses to suffering—outside of the meditative context. In Chapter 2, I examine retreat-related changes in the resting brain. I show that rest is not a static baseline but rather indexes behaviorally meaningful effects of retreat training. Notably, the training-related changes in the resting brain observed in Chapter 2 closely mirror patterns of change observed in these same participants when they actively practiced mindfulness of breathing meditation. This offers support for the idea that changes instantiated during meditation practice may generalize to other, non-meditative contexts, providing key evidence for the generalization of meditation-related change. In Chapter 3, I explore whether brain activity recorded during compassion meditation provides evidence that contemplative training can extend the circle of care. Using microstate analysis, I first show that the general patterns of retreat-related change observed during compassion meditation are similar to those of the resting brain. This finding establishes global shifts in brain dynamics as a core consequence of intensive meditation training. I next use sequence analysis to compare temporal patterns of brain activity during compassion meditation when a close other, a difficult other, and all others are taken as the object of compassion. I hypothesize that the mental representations of these various others—reflected in the ongoing activity of the brain—should become more similar with training. I find consistent differences in microstate sequences as a function of the target of compassion. I do not, however, find any evidence that these sequences become more similar with training. Thus Chapter 3 establishes microstate sequence analysis as a viable method for distinguishing target-based differences in brain activity during compassion meditation, but does not offer evidence for the extension of the circle of care. As a whole, this dissertation grapples with how we can understand and measure the consequences of contemplative practice. The empirical studies offer two small contributions to the greater project of understanding if and how we can collectively expand our circles of care. https://escholarship.org/uc/item/6g60k1bg
... Research on complementary emotional reactions is comparatively sparse, but their occurrence has been documented in a variety of studies involving verbal and nonverbal emotional expressions as well as physiological and self-report data. Expressions of sadness and distress can elicit sympathy (Eisenberg 2000) and compassion (Stellar et al. 2015, expressions of anger can elicit fear (Dimberg & Öhman 1996), expressions of disappointment can elicit guilt (Lelieveld et al. 2013), and expressions of pride can elicit envy (Lange & Crusius 2015). ...
Article
We review the burgeoning literature on the social effects of emotions, documenting the impact of emotional expressions on observers’ affect, cognition, and behavior. We find convergent evidence that emotional expressions influence observers’ affective reactions, inferential processes, and behaviors across various domains, including close relationships, group decision making, customer service, negotiation, and leadership. Affective reactions and inferential processes mediate the effects of emotional expressions on observers’ behaviors, and the relative potency of these mediators depends on the observers’ information processing and the perceived appropriateness of the emotional expressions. The social effects of emotions are similar across expressive modalities (face, voice, body, text, symbols). We discuss the findings in relation to emotional contagion, emotional intelligence, emotion regulation, emotions as social information (EASI) theory, and the functionality of emotions in engendering social influence. Finally, we identify gaps in our current understanding of the topic and call for interdisciplinary collaboration and methodological diversification. Expected final online publication date for the Annual Review of Psychology, Volume 73 is January 2022. Please see http://www.annualreviews.org/page/journal/pubdates for revised estimates.
... The IMAC model hypothesizes that the TPJ may contribute to formation of social interoceptive predictions, e.g. visceral or physiological response in social relations [213]. The hippocampus may contribute to acquisition of declarative and episodic interoceptive predictions [214]. ...
Article
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In the brain, the insular cortex receives a vast amount of interoceptive information, ascending through deep brain structures, from multiple visceral organs. The unique hierarchical and modular architecture of the insula suggests specialization for processing interoceptive afferents. Yet, the biological significance of the insula's neuroanatomical architecture, in relation to deep brain structures, remains obscure. In this opinion piece, we propose the Insula Hierarchical Modular Adaptive Interoception Control (IMAC) model to suggest that insula modules (granular, dysgranular and agranular), forming parallel networks with the prefrontal cortex and striatum, are specialized to form higher order interoceptive representations. These interoceptive representations are recruited in a context-dependent manner to support habitual, model-based and exploratory control of visceral organs and physiological processes. We discuss how insula interoceptive representations may give rise to conscious feelings that best explain lower order deep brain interoceptive representations, and how the insula may serve to defend the body and mind against pathological depression.
... In addition, regarding the physiology findings of Study 2, we chose to use a neutral standing posture as our comparison condition instead of a passive resting baseline. This comparison choice has the advantage of engaging similar muscles and attentional activity as the other conditions but prevents us from claiming that expansive and upward postures increase RSA since all postures may have decreased RSA compared to a resting baseline, with less decrease when in an expansive and upward posture (for similar design and limitation see, Stellar et al., 2015). We therefore consider the present results as preliminary. ...
Article
Most emotion theories recognise the importance of the body in expressing and constructing emotions. Focusing beyond the face, the present research adds needed empirical data on the effect of static full body postures on positive/negative affect. In Studies 1 (N = 110) and 2 (N = 79), using a bodily feedback paradigm, we manipulated postures to test causal effects on affective and physiological responses to emotionally ambiguous music. Across both studies among U.S. participants, we find the strongest support for an effect of bodily postures that are expansive and oriented upward on positive affect. In addition, an expansive and upward pose also led to greater cardiac vagal reactivity but these changes in parasympathetic activity were not related to affective changes (Study 2). In line with embodied theories, these results provide additional support for the role of postural input in constructing affect. Discussion highlights the relevance of these findings for the study of religious practices during which the postures studied are often adopted.
Thesis
The therapeutic relationship is one of the important variables that may attribute to optimal therapeutic outcomes in the context of early intensive behavior analytic interventions. Despite the fact that contribution of empathy and compassion to the establishment of a therapeutic relationship has been studied extensively within the field of psychotherapy, there are very few studies that address its impact in the context of applied behavior analytic interventions. Those studies emphasize elements of the therapist-child relationship that may be developed prior to a therapeutic session rather than during a session. The purpose of the study was to investigate the therapeutic relationship between ABA therapists and children with ASD in the context of a therapeutic session and in relation to the level of clinical expertise of the therapists. Specifically, several variables were identified and analyzed systematically in terms of their contribution to the enhancement of a therapeutic relationship, such as compassion and physical proximity of the therapist to the child, contingent delivery of social reinforcement, and imitative responding. Other than the analysis of direct primary data of the dependent measures, descriptive and inferential statistics were used to assess the differences among therapists with several years of experience and minimal clinical experience. To assess the reliability of the data, interobserver agreement measures were obtained throughout the study. The results of the study suggest that experienced therapists demonstrated higher rates of all the above skills, with the exception of the therapists' response to the positive emotions of children with ASD, a condition under which the inexperienced therapists responded with higher rates of compassion. Nonetheless, a statistically significant difference between the two groups of therapists was obtained only in terms of demonstrating compassion on the part of the therapist, therapists’ reaction to negative emotions, the demonstration of physical proximity with engagement, the description and positive and negative emotions of children with ASD. The findings of this study demonstrate that the clinical experience of therapists may play an important role in developing and in promoting the establishment of a therapeutic relationship between children with ASD and their therapists. The difference between the two groups of therapists may be attributed to several characteristics of experienced therapists, such as their ability to demonstrate compassion and their use of appropriate interpersonal skills.
Article
Compassion is closely associated with prosocial behavior. Although there is growing interest in developing strategies that cultivate compassion, most available strategies rely on effortful reflective processes. Furthermore, few studies have investigated neurocognitive mechanisms underlying compassion-dependent improvement of prosocial responses. We devised a novel implicit compassion promotion task that operates based on association learning and examined its prosocial effects in two independent experiments. In Experiment 1, healthy adults were assigned to either the compassion or control group. For the intervention task, the compassion group completed word fragments that were consistently related to compassionate responses toward others; in contrast, the control group completed word fragments related to emotionally neutral responses toward others. Following the intervention task, we measured attentional biases to fearful, sad, and happy faces. Prosocial responses were assessed using two measures of helping: the pen-drop test and the helping intentions rating test. In Experiment 2, independent groups of healthy adults completed the same intervention tasks used in Experiment 1. Inside a functional MRI scanner, participants rated empathic care and distress based on either distressful or neutral video clips. Outside the scanner, we assessed the degree of helping intentions toward the victims depicted in the distressful clips. The results of Experiment 1 showed that the compassion promotion task reduced attentional vigilance to fearful faces, which in turn mediated a compassion promotion task-dependent increase in helping intentions. In Experiment 2, relative to the control group, the compassion group showed reduced empathic distress and increased activity in the medial orbitofrontal cortex in response to others' suffering. Furthermore, increased functional connectivity of the medial orbitofrontal and inferior parietal cortex, predicted by reduced empathic distress, explained the increase in helping intentions. These results suggest the potential of implicit compassion promotion intervention to modulate compassion-related and prosocial responses as well as highlight the brain activation and connectivity related to these responses, contributing to our understanding of the neurocognitive mechanisms underlying compassion-dependent prosocial improvement.
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The functioning of social collectives hinges on the willingness of their members to cooperate with one another and to help those who are in need. Here we consider how such prosocial behavior is shaped by emotions. We offer an integrative review of theoretical arguments and empirical findings concerning how the experience of emotions influences people’s own prosocial behavior (intrapersonal effects) and how the expression of emotions influences others’ prosocial behavior (interpersonal effects). We identified research on five broad clusters of emotions associated with opportunity and affiliation (happiness, contentment, hope), appreciation and self-transcendence (gratitude, awe, elevation, compassion), distress and supplication (sadness, disappointment, fear, anxiety), dominance and status assertion (anger, disgust, contempt, envy, pride), and appeasement and social repair (guilt, regret, shame, embarrassment). Our review reveals notable differences between emotion clusters and between intrapersonal and interpersonal effects. Although some emotions promote prosocial behavior in the self and others, most emotions promote prosocial behavior either in the self (via their intrapersonal effects) or in others (via their interpersonal effects), suggesting trade-offs between the functionality of emotional experience and emotional expression. Moreover, interpersonal effects are modulated by the cooperative versus competitive nature of the situation. We discuss the emerging patterns from a social-functional perspective and conclude that understanding the role of emotion in prosociality requires joint attention to intrapersonal and interpersonal effects.
Article
Psychological Inflexibility (PI) is a key component of the Unified Flexibility and Mindfulness Model. Higher levels of psychological Inflexibility have been associated with poorer wellbeing. High Frequency Heart Rate Variability (HF-HRV) is a reliable and valid index of vagal activation and wellbeing. The association between Psychological Inflexibility and HF-HRV has been examined in the context of laboratory-induced stressors that evoke different patterns of cardiovascular activation. The present sample included 81 US undergraduate students comprised of 44 females and 37 males (4 did not identify their gender) with a mean age of 19.9 (SD = 2.79) Participants were assigned to view a 3-min video that elicited an orienting response and complete a 3-min math task that elicited a defensive response. The order of stimulus exposure was counterbalanced. Psychological Inflexibility was measured using subscales from the Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire using the Unified Flexibility and Mindfulness Model as a guide for scoring. Higher Psychological Inflexibility participants, relative to lower Psychological Inflexibility participants, had a significantly smaller increase in HF-HRV during the orienting stressor indicating less vagal activation. Higher Psychological Inflexibility participants also had a larger decrease in HF-HRV in response to the defensive stressor indicating greater vagal withdrawal. These results shed light on the interactions between Psychological Inflexibility, HF-HRV reactivity to laboratory stressors.
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Individuals regularly face stress, and the manner in which they cope with that stress is a crucial component in predicting stress recovery. While many engage in self-rewarding behaviors to feel better, these behaviors can come with a cost. The current study tested the effect of engaging in a different behavior after experiencing stress-prosocial behavior. Given the health benefits associated with giving to others, it is plausible that engaging in prosocial behavior is more successful in reducing the psychological and physiological responses to stress. To test this, participants underwent the Trier Social Stress Test and then either sent a gift card to a person of their choosing, received a gift card for themselves, or selected the more aesthetically pleasing gift card. Measures of self-reported mood, heart rate, blood pressure, salivary alpha-amylase, and cortisol were collected throughout the session. While the manipulation did not elicit differences in psychological or hormonal measures, the giving group showed a significantly greater downregulation of their heart rate, diastolic blood pressure, and mean arterial pressure while recovering from the stressor. Additionally, those in the giving group who evidenced greater prosocial sentiment showed a larger reduction in diastolic blood pressure and mean arterial pressure. A follow-up study suggested that these behaviors may be engaging different reward components, as those who gave a gift card reported greater "liking" while those who received a gift card reported greater "wanting". Overall, the findings show that engaging in prosocial behavior following a stressor can help to downregulate physiological stress responses.
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Como motivação pró-social, a compaixão tende a promover maior envolvimento em mentalidades de cuidado e ações de senso coletivo, capacidades prejudicadas pelos medos da compaixão. O estudo objetivou investigar o papel dos medos da compaixão em fatores envolvidos no engajamento às medidas de distanciamento social. 284 adultos (idade média = 36,47) responderam as Escalas de Medos da Compaixão, Escala de Dificuldades de Regulação Emocional e um questionário sobre engajamento aos protocolos contra a COVID-19. Um modelo de path analysis explicou 32% da variância na adesão aos protocolos por duas vias: o medo de ser compassivo por outros diminui o engajamento por motivações pró-sociais; enquanto os medos de expressar compaixão por si e outros predizem maiores dificuldades de regulação emocional, diminuindo a aderência por exaustão emocional. Oportunizar o desenvolvimento da compaixão pode contribuir para um enfrentamento mais saudável às dificuldades emocionais suscitadas pela pandemia e no envolvimento em ações coletivas.
Chapter
Individuals demonstrate a wide range of responses when they encounter individuals or groups that appear in some way to be different from who they are. Chapter 1 focused on how and why individuals categorize themselves and others; this chapter focuses on how individuals respond as individuals to others who they perceive to be different.KeywordsAltruismBiasCompassionDiscriminationEmpathyMicroaggressionsRacism
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Autonomic nervous system (ANS) activity is a fundamental component of emotional responding. It is not clear, however, whether positive emotional states are associated with differential ANS reactivity. To address this issue, we conducted a meta-analytic review of 120 articles (686 effect sizes, total N = 6,546), measuring ANS activity during 11 elicited positive emotions, namely amusement, attachment love, awe, contentment, craving, excitement, gratitude, joy, nurturant love, pride, and sexual desire. We identified a widely dispersed collection of studies. Univariate results indicated that positive emotions produce no or weak and highly variable increases in ANS reactivity. However, the limitations of work to date – which we discuss – mean that our conclusions should be treated as empirically grounded hypotheses that future research should validate.
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Objectives Schools are experiencing an unprecedented mental health crisis, with teachers reporting high levels of stress and burnout, which has adverse consequences to their mental and physical health. Addressing mental and physical health problems and promoting wellbeing in educational settings is thus a global priority. This study investigated the feasibility and effectiveness of an 8-week Compassionate Mind Training program for Teachers (CMT-T) on indicators of psychological and physiological wellbeing. Methods A pragmatic randomized controlled study with a stepped-wedge design was conducted in a sample of 155 public school teachers, who were randomized to CMT-T ( n = 80) or a waitlist control group (WLC; n = 75). Participants completed self-report measures of psychological distress, burnout, overall and professional wellbeing, compassion and self-criticism at baseline, post-intervention, and 3-months follow-up. In a sub-sample (CMT-T, n = 51; WLC n = 36) resting heart-rate variability (HRV) was measured at baseline and post-intervention. Results CMT-T was feasible and effective. Compared to the WLC, the CMT-T group showed improvements in self-compassion, compassion to others, positive affect, and HRV as well as reductions in fears of compassion, anxiety and depression. WLC participants who received CMT-T revealed additional improvements in compassion for others and from others, and satisfaction with professional life, along with decreases in burnout and stress. Teachers scoring higher in self-criticism at baseline revealed greater improvements post CMT-T. At 3-month follow-up improvements were retained. Conclusions CMT-T shows promise as a compassion-focused intervention for enhancing compassion, wellbeing and reducing psychophysiological distress in teachers, contributing to nurturing compassionate, prosocial and resilient educational environments. Given its favourable and sustainable effects on wellbeing and psychophysiological distress, and low cost to deliver, broader implementation and dissemination of CMT-T is encouraged.
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The growing population of adults with congenital heart disease (CHD) often have lifelong experience of dealing with potentially traumatic health crises and medical uncertainty whilst facing increased vulnerability to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The COVID-19 pandemic presents additional challenges for this population including increased risk of health complications, shielding and strict social distancing, changes to medical care provision and social stigma. Despite such challenges, adults with CHD have the potential to also experience positive changes, yet little is known as to what helps cultivate positive adaptation and post-traumatic growth (PTG) within this context. The current study comprised a cross-sectional, anonymous, online study exploring psychosocial measures of traumatic experiences as well as protective factors that mitigate the risks to the mental health of adults with CHD (n=236) during the pandemic. Closed and open-ended questions and a series of standardised psychosocial measures of traumatic experiences, coping mechanisms, emotional regulation and PTG were used. Findings suggest the CHD population are at increased risk of PTSD which may be exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. However, positive adaptation may promote post traumatic growth. In particular, emotional regulation is associated with post-traumatic growth. We recommend a growth-focused, psychologically and trauma-informed approach to medicine and public health, recognising the importance of supporting mental health and promoting living well with CHD during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. These findings are likely generalisable to other lifelong health conditions and shielding populations. Experience Framework This article is associated with the Quality & Clinical Excellence lens of The Beryl Institute Experience Framework (https://www.theberylinstitute.org/ExperienceFramework). Access other PXJ articles related to this lens. Access other resources related to this lens.
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When women experience sexism, it may at first be subtle and difficult to label only becoming clearer over time. Sexism is often ambiguous in nature and experienced over an extended period; therefore, studying sexism as it occurs in daily life is crucial to extending our understanding of how women cope with discrimination. Past research has shown that women may experience maladaptive physiological responses when exposed to various forms of sexism. The current study investigated women’s cardiovascular reactivity and recovery responses to prolonged, increasingly obvious sexism. Women evaluated resumes in a mock search committee meeting with two male confederates whose statements about the female candidate increased in the clarity of sexism throughout the discussion period. Heart Rate (HR) and Respiratory Sinus Arrhythmia (RSA) reactivity, recovery, self-reported anger and anxiety, group identification, and perceived sexism were measured in the study. Results demonstrated that women’s physiological reactivity changed throughout the discussion period in response to the increasingly clarity of sexism. When exposed to sexism, women’s heart rate reactivity systematically increased and respiratory sinus arrhythmia reactivity systematically decreased (RSA suppression) as sexism increased from not expressed, to ambiguous, to clear. In contrast, women in the comparison condition (i.e., not exposed to the sexist committee members) did not display increasing physiological reactivity as the clarity of sexism increased. These patterns of physiological reactivity and their correlations with anger, anxiety, gender identification, and perceived sexism are discussed and provide insight into potential motivational and emotional states of participants throughout the study. Results supported the approach of examining physiological reactivity over time and provided strong justification for further investigation into other cardiovascular markers (e.g., cardiac output, total peripheral resistance).
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The present work presents the polivagal theory as a bio-behavioral model of emotional and interpersonal behavior, aiming to identify its theoretical contributions to the study of psychotherapy regarding client's clinical status, therapeutic process as well as change. A review of the model shows a reconceptualization of interactions among autononomic nervous system and emotionality within interpersonal context, allowing for identifying normal and pathological activation of defensive behavioral strategies (figh-or-flight and immobilization), as well as their inhibition through the social engagement system. Empirical research shows evidence in favor of hypotheses derived from the model in normal and clinical populations. In clinical contexts, the social engagement system is of particular interest as it allows the emergence of interpersonal trustworthy behavior, being a cornerstone in psychotherapy due to its potential diagnostic value for clients, the development of the therapeutic relationships, as well as beneficial outcomes. Lastly, a nascent body of psychotherapy studies assessing the social engagement system (through high frequency heart rate variability-) and its relation with the therapeutic process (i.e. working alliance) and outcomes (i.e. symptom level) are identified. The evidence supports the value of further developing this interdisciplinary line of research and, eventually, incorporating these measurements into the clinical assessment arsenal.
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Self‐transcendent emotions are positive emotions that arise out of other‐focused appraisals. These emotions shift attention from the self to the needs and concerns of others. Limited work, however, focuses on self‐transcendent emotions and the underlying cognitive and behavioural mechanisms by which they benefit organizations. We review the disparate streams of research on self‐transcendent emotions and detail the thought‐action repertoires of four self‐transcendent emotions (compassion, gratitude, inspiration, and awe), explaining how each contributes to effective organizational functioning. Central to achieving this aim is the broaden‐and‐build theory. We show how the four self‐transcendent emotions broaden cognitive processes and build the necessary resources leading to specific positive organizational outcomes. We conclude our review with four themes: (a) the importance of delineating levels of analysis in self‐transcendent emotion research, (b) acknowledging contextual and cross‐cultural differences shaping the experience of self‐transcendent emotions, (c) addressing measurement concerns, and (d) the examination of other self‐transcendent emotions. In effect, we synthesize the positive psychology and organizational behaviour literature, generating a framework that prompts theoretical and practical considerations for the role of self‐transcendent emotions in organizations.
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Aspects of the social environment have been linked to the physiological mechanisms underlying behavioral self-regulation. Play, a behavior connected to regulatory behaviors such as delay of gratification and regulation of emotions, might be an aspect of social environments that is supportive of healthy physiological adaptation. We examined whether opportunities for social free play with peers, as reported by mothers, would predict children's autonomic regulation (via respiratory sinus arrhythmia; RSA) in a sample of 78 five-year-old children. As a proxy for play experience generally, frequency of social free play in the past week predicted higher levels of RSA functioning across both baseline and stress conditions, but did not account for physiological rate of change between conditions. Thus, frequent social free play opportunities might be a general positive influence on children's autonomic regulation by supporting increased parasympathetic activation but not a significant influence on children's response to stress in the moment. Attention to the role of play in autonomic regulation is critical, as children's free play opportunities might be declining.
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This research explores vagal flexibility—dynamic modulation of cardiac vagal control—as an individual-level physiological index of social sensitivity. In four studies, we test the hypothesis that individuals with greater cardiac vagal flexibility, operationalized as higher cardiac vagal tone at rest and greater cardiac vagal withdrawal (indexed by a decrease in RSA) during cognitive or attentional demand, perceive social-emotional information more accurately and show greater sensitivity to their social context. Study 1 sets the foundation for this investigation by establishing that vagal flexibility can be elicited consistently in the laboratory and reliably over time. Study 2 demonstrates that vagal flexibility has different associations with psychological characteristics than vagal tone, and that these characteristics are primarily social in nature. Study 3 links individual differences in vagal flexibility with accurate detection of social and emotional cues depicted in still facial images. Study 4 demonstrates that individuals with greater vagal flexibility respond to dynamic social feedback in a more context-sensitive manner than do individuals with less vagal flexibility. Specifically, compared to their less flexible counterparts, individuals with greater vagal flexibility, when assigned to receive negative social feedback, report more shame, show more pronounced stress responses, and display less sociable behavior, but when receiving positive social feedback display more sociable behavior. Taken together, these findings suggest that vagal flexibility is a useful individual difference physiological predictor of social sensitivity, which may have implications for clinical, developmental, and health psychologists.
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Recently, investigators have challenged long‐standing assumptions that facial expressions of emotion follow specific emotion‐eliciting events and relate to other emotion‐specific responses. We address these challenges by comparing spontaneous facial expressions of anger, sadness, laughter, and smiling with concurrent, “on‐line” appraisal themes from narrative data, and by examining whether coherence between facial and appraisal components were associated with increased experience of emotion. Consistent with claims that emotion systems are loosely coupled, facial expressions of anger and sadness co‐occurred to a moderate degree with the expected appraisal themes, and when this happened, the experience of emotion was stronger. The results for the positive emotions were more complex, but lend credence to the hypothesis that laughter and smiling are distinct. Smiling co‐occurred with appraisals of pride, but never occurred with appraisals of anger. In contrast, laughter occurred more often with appraisals of anger, a finding consistent with recent evidence linking laughter to the dissociation or undoing of negative emotion.
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What accounts for variation in empathy felt for strangers in need? Currently, one of the most popular explanations among personality and social psychologists is perceived similarity: We feel sympathy and compassion for others to the degree that we perceive them to be like us. Two experiments designed to test the perceived similarity explanation more directly than previous research failed to find support. Results of the second experiment instead supported a classical, but currently less popular, explanation of empathy felt for strangers: nurturant tendencies based on the impulse to care for and protect offspring. We noted distinct theoretical and practical implications of the similarity and nurturance explanations. In addition, we encourage increased attention to nurturance as a possible source of empathy.
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The mechanisms underlying the association between positive emotions and physical health remain a mystery. We hypothesize that an upward-spiral dynamic continually reinforces the tie between positive emotions and physical health and that this spiral is mediated by people's perceptions of their positive social connections. We tested this overarching hypothesis in a longitudinal field experiment in which participants were randomly assigned to an intervention group that self-generated positive emotions via loving-kindness meditation or to a waiting-list control group. Participants in the intervention group increased in positive emotions relative to those in the control group, an effect moderated by baseline vagal tone, a proxy index of physical health. Increased positive emotions, in turn, produced increases in vagal tone, an effect mediated by increased perceptions of social connections. This experimental evidence identifies one mechanism-perceptions of social connections-through which positive emotions build physical health, indexed as vagal tone. Results suggest that positive emotions, positive social connections, and physical health influence one another in a self-sustaining upward-spiral dynamic.
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The purposes of this study were threefold: (a) to determine whether physiological (heart rate), facial, and self-report indices could be used to differentiate between different vicariously induced negative emotional states (i.e., those related conceptually to the study of empathy), (b) to examine developmental differences in the degree of differentiation in the aforementioned indices of emotional response, and (c) to assess the pattern of interrelations among heart rate (HR), facial, and self-report indices of response to emotion-eliciting stimuli. Preschoolers and second graders viewed three films that portrayed situations related to others' emotions of anxiety or apprehension, empathic sadness, and cognitively induced sympathy. Children's HR accelerated during the anxiety film and decelerated during the cognitive-sympathy and sad films. Children's nonphysiological reactions also were highly consistent with the film content. The interrelations among modes of responses were generally consistent with the view that the various indices were positively rather than inversely related. There were also some positive relations between the indices of emotion and a questionnaire measure of empathy. The results are discussed in terms of current work concerning empathy and other emotional responses. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
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Examined the behavioral and physiological correlates of children's reactions to others in distress and the relation of these to dispositional helpfulness. 37 3rd graders and 29 6th graders watched a film about a distressed child. Facial expressions, heart rate variability (HRV), and skin conductance (SC) were recorded during the film. An index of dispositional helpfulness was obtained from children's mothers. High HRV was predictive of children's sympathetic rather than distressed reactions. For boys, sympathetic responsiveness positively predicted dispositional helpfulness; for girls, SC was inversely related to dispositional helpfulness. It was concluded that children who are able to regulate their vicariously induced emotional responsiveness are relatively likely to experience sympathy and relatively unlikely to experience personal distress. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
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A model is presented to account for the natural selection of what is termed reciprocally altruistic behavior. The model shows how selection can operate against the cheater (non-reciprocator) in the system. Three instances of altruistic behavior are discussed, the evolution of which the model can explain: (1) behavior involved in cleaning symbioses; (2) warning cries in birds; and (3) human reciprocal altruism. Regarding human reciprocal altruism, it is shown that the details of the psychological system that regulates this altruism can be explained by the model. Specifically, friendship, dislike, moralistic aggression, gratitude, sympathy, trust, suspicion, trustworthiness, aspects of guilt, and some forms of dishonesty and hypocrisy can be explained as important adaptations to regulate the altruistic system. Each individual human is seen as possessing altruistic and cheating tendencies, the expression of which is sensitive to developmental variables that were selected to set the tendencies at a balance ap...
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This study measured heart-rate variability and cortisol to explore whether Compassion-Focused Imagery (CFI) could stimulate a soothing affect system. We also explored individual differences (self-reported self-criticism, attachment style and psychopathology) to CFI. Participants were given a relaxation, compassion-focused and control imagery task. While some individuals showed an increase in heart rate variability during CFI, others had a decrease. There was some indication that this was related to peoples self-reports of self-criticism, and attachment style. Those with an increase in heart rate variability also showed a significant cortisol decrease. Hence, CFI can stimulate a soothing affect system and attenuate hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis activity in some individuals but those who are more self-critical, with an insecure attachment style may require therapeutic interventions to benefit from CFI.
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ABSTRACT—Developmental research on emotion regulation is increasingly advancing toward a systems view that integrates behavioral and biological constituents of emotional self-control. However, this view poses fundamental challenges to prevailing conceptualizations of emotion regulation. In portraying emotion regulation as a network of multilevel processes characterized by feedback and interaction between higher and lower systems, it becomes increasingly apparent that emotion regulation is a component of (rather than a response to) emotional activation, that it derives from the mutual influence of multiple emotion-related systems (rather than the maturation of higher control processes alone), and that it sometimes contributes to maladaptive behavioral outcomes, especially in conditions of environmental adversity. The implications of this perspective for the developmental study of emotion regulation are discussed.
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Neural circuits regulate cytokine production to prevent potentially damaging inflammation. A prototypical vagus nerve circuit, the inflammatory reflex, inhibits tumor necrosis factor–α production in spleen by a mechanism requiring acetylcholine signaling through the α7 nicotinic acetylcholine receptor expressed on cytokine-producing macrophages. Nerve fibers in spleen lack the enzymatic machinery necessary for acetylcholine production; therefore, how does this neural circuit terminate in cholinergic signaling? We identified an acetylcholine-producing, memory phenotype T cell population in mice that is integral to the inflammatory reflex. These acetylcholine-producing T cells are required for inhibition of cytokine production by vagus nerve stimulation. Thus, action potentials originating in the vagus nerve regulate T cells, which in turn produce the neurotransmitter, acetylcholine, required to control innate immune responses.
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This study examined neural activation during the experience of compassion, an emotion that orients people toward vulnerable others and prompts caregiving, and pride, a self-focused emotion that signals individual strength and heightened status. Functional magnetic resonance images (fMRI) were acquired as participants viewed 55 s continuous sequences of slides to induce either compassion or pride, presented in alternation with sequences of neutral slides. Emotion self-report data were collected after each slide condition within the fMRI scanner. Compassion induction was associated with activation in the midbrain periaqueductal gray (PAG), a region that is activated during pain and the perception of others' pain, and that has been implicated in parental nurturance behaviors. Pride induction engaged the posterior medial cortex, a region that has been associated with self-referent processing. Self-reports of compassion experience were correlated with increased activation in a region near the PAG, and in the right inferior frontal gyrus (IFG). Self-reports of pride experience, in contrast, were correlated with reduced activation in the IFG and the anterior insula. These results provide preliminary evidence towards understanding the neural correlates of important interpersonal dimensions of compassion and pride. Caring (compassion) and self-focus (pride) may represent core appraisals that differentiate the response profiles of many emotions.
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Although evidence has suggested that synchronized movement can foster cooperation, the ability of synchrony to increase costly altruism and to operate as a function of emotional mechanisms remains unexplored. We predicted that synchrony, due to an ability to elicit low-level appraisals of similarity, would enhance a basic compassionate response toward victims of moral transgressions and thereby increase subsequent costly helping behavior on their behalf. Using a manipulation of rhythmic synchrony, we show that synchronous others are not only perceived to be more similar to oneself but also evoke more compassion and altruistic behavior than asynchronous others experiencing the same plight. These findings both support the view that a primary function of synchrony is to mark others as similar to the self and provide the first empirical demonstration that synchrony-induced affiliation modulates emotional responding and altruism.
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Vagal tone (VT), an index of autonomic flexibility, is linked to social and psychological well-being. We posit that the association between VT and well-being reflects an "upward spiral" in which autonomic flexibility, represented by VT, facilitates capitalizing on social and emotional opportunities and the resulting opportunistic gains, in turn, lead to higher VT. Community-dwelling adults were asked to monitor and report their positive emotions and the degree to which they felt socially connected each day for 9 weeks. VT was measured at the beginning and end of the 9-week period. Adults who possessed higher initial levels of VT increased in connectedness and positive emotions more rapidly than others. Furthermore, increases in connectedness and positive emotions predicted increases in VT, independent of initial VT level. This evidence is consistent with an "upward spiral" relationship of reciprocal causality, in which VT and psychosocial well-being reciprocally and prospectively predict one another.
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What is compassion? And how did it evolve? In this review, we integrate 3 evolutionary arguments that converge on the hypothesis that compassion evolved as a distinct affective experience whose primary function is to facilitate cooperation and protection of the weak and those who suffer. Our empirical review reveals compassion to have distinct appraisal processes attuned to undeserved suffering; distinct signaling behavior related to caregiving patterns of touch, posture, and vocalization; and a phenomenological experience and physiological response that orients the individual to social approach. This response profile of compassion differs from those of distress, sadness, and love, suggesting that compassion is indeed a distinct emotion. We conclude by considering how compassion shapes moral judgment and action, how it varies across different cultures, and how it may engage specific patterns of neural activation, as well as emerging directions of research.
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Studies of emotion signaling inform claims about the taxonomic structure, evolutionary origins, and physiological correlates of emotions. Emotion vocalization research has tended to focus on a limited set of emotions: anger, disgust, fear, sadness, surprise, happiness, and for the voice, also tenderness. Here, we examine how well brief vocal bursts can communicate 22 different emotions: 9 negative (Study 1) and 13 positive (Study 2), and whether prototypical vocal bursts convey emotions more reliably than heterogeneous vocal bursts (Study 3). Results show that vocal bursts communicate emotions like anger, fear, and sadness, as well as seldom-studied states like awe, compassion, interest, and embarrassment. Ancillary analyses reveal family-wise patterns of vocal burst expression. Errors in classification were more common within emotion families (e.g., 'self-conscious,' 'pro-social') than between emotion families. The three studies reported highlight the voice as a rich modality for emotion display that can inform fundamental constructs about emotion.
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Resting respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSAREST) indexes important aspects of individual differences in emotionality. In the present investigation, the authors address whether RSAREST is associated with tonic positive or negative emotionality, and whether RSAREST relates to phasic emotional responding to discrete positive emotion-eliciting stimuli. Across an 8-month, multiassessment study of first-year university students (n = 80), individual differences in RSAREST were associated with positive but not negative tonic emotionality, assessed at the level of personality traits, long-term moods, the disposition toward optimism, and baseline reports of current emotional states. RSAREST was not related to increased positive emotion, or stimulus-specific emotion, in response to compassion-, awe-, or pride-inducing stimuli. These findings suggest that resting RSA indexes aspects of a person's tonic positive emotionality.
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Assessed sympathy and personal distress with facial and physiological indexes (heart rate) as well as self-report indexes and examined the relations of these various indexes to prosocial behavior for children and adults in an easy escape condition. Heart rate deceleration during exposure to the needy others was associated with increased willingness to help. In addition, adults' reports of sympathy, as well as facial sadness and concerned attention, were positively related to their intention to assist. For children, there was some indication that report of positive affect and facial distress were negatively related to prosocial intentions and behavior, whereas facial concern was positively related to the indexes of prosocial behavior. These findings are interpreted as providing additional, convergent support for the notion that sympathy and personal distress are differentially related to prosocial behavior. Over the years, numerous philosophers (e.g., Blum, 1980) and psychologists (e.g., Barnett, 1987; Feshbach, 1978; Hoffman, 1984; Staub, 1978) have argued that empathy and sympathy, denned primarily in affective terms, are important motivators of altruistic behavior. In general, it has been asserted that people who experience emotional reactions consistent with the state of another and who feel other-oriented concern for the other are relatively likely to be motivated to alleviate the other's need or distress.
Chapter
1What is an Emotion?2Universals and Cultural Variations in Emotion3Emotion and Reason4Social Construction of Emotion5Emotion and Happiness6Summary
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In the present paper, we introduce the Quadratic Vagal Activity-Prosociality Hypothesis, a theoretical framework for understanding the vagus nerve’s involvement in prosociality. We argue that vagus nerve activity supports prosocial behavior by regulating physiological systems that enable emotional expression, empathy for others’ mental and emotional states, the regulation of one’s own distress, and the experience of positive emotions. However, we contend that extremely high levels of vagal activity can be detrimental to prosociality. This paper presents three studies providing support for our model, finding consistent evidence of a quadratic relationship between respiratory sinus arrhythmia—the degree to which the vagus nerve modulates the heart rate—and prosociality. Individual differences in vagal activity were quadratically related to prosocial traits (Study 1), prosocial emotions (Study 2), and outside ratings of prosociality by complete strangers (Study 3). Thus, too much or too little vagal activity appears to be detrimental to prosociality. The present paper provides the first theoretical and empirical account of the non-linear relationship between vagal activity and prosociality.
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We tested associations among empathic responsiveness, attachment style, and vagal tone (a physiologic index of emotion regulation) in 103 mother–adolescent dyads. Dyads discussed positive and negative topics and then separately reviewed a videotape of the interaction and rated their own and the other person's affect at one‐minute intervals. We used multilevel modeling to analyze the association between one's rating of the other person's affect and the other person's affect (empathic sensitivity), and the association between one's rating of the other person's affect and one's own affect (perceived concordance). Adolescents’ empathic responsiveness was predicted by attachment style, vagal tone, and interactions between them. Adolescents with the greatest empathic responsiveness had low levels of attachment insecurity and high levels of vagal tone.
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Although a common and occasionally troubling reaction, social blushing has received little systematic attention from either medical or behavioral researchers. This article reviews what is known of the physiological and psychological processes that mediate social blushing, and speculates regarding the role of central mechanisms in the phenomenon. Blushing is characterized by the unusual combination of cutaneous vasodilatation of the face, neck, and ears, accompanied by activation of the sympathetic nervous system. Psychologically, blushing appears to occur when people receive undesired social attention from others and may be analogous to the appeasement displays observed in non-human primates. Although poorly understood, the central mechanisms that mediate blushing obviously involve both involuntary autonomic effector systems and higher areas that involve self-reflective thought. Questions for future research are suggested.
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The study of prosocial behavior-altruism, cooperation, trust, and the related moral emotions-has matured enough to produce general scholarly consensus that prosociality is widespread, intuitive, and rooted deeply within our biological makeup. Several evolutionary frameworks model the conditions under which prosocial behavior is evolutionarily viable, yet no unifying treatment exists of the psychological decision-making processes that result in prosociality. Here, we provide such a perspective in the form of the sociocultural appraisals, values, and emotions (SAVE) framework of prosociality. We review evidence for the components of our framework at four levels of analysis: intrapsychic, dyadic, group, and cultural. Within these levels, we consider how phenomena such as altruistic punishment, prosocial contagion, self-other similarity, and numerous others give rise to prosocial behavior. We then extend our reasoning to chart the biological underpinnings of prosociality and apply our framework to understand the role of social class in prosociality.
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Theoretically, people who have the benefits of secure social attachments should find it easier to perceive and respond to other people's suffering, compared with those who have insecure attachments. This is because compassionate reactions are products of what has been called the caregiving behavioral system, the optimal functioning of which depends on its not being inhibited by attachment insecurity (the failure of the attachment behavioral system to attain its own goal, safety and security provided by a caring attachment figure). In a series of recent studies, we have found that compassionate feelings and values, as well as responsive, altruistic behaviors, are promoted by both dispositional and experimentally induced attachment security. These studies and the theoretical ideas that generated them provide guidelines for enhancing compassion and altruism in the real world.
Article
Two experiments tested the idea that empathy-induced helping is due to self–other merging. To manipulate empathy, half of the participants in each experiment received instructions to remain objective while hearing about a young woman in need (low-empathy condition), and half received instructions to imagine her feelings (high-empathy condition). To check generality of the empathy–helping relationship, half in each empathy condition learned that the young woman was a student at their university (shared group membership), and half learned that she was a student at a rival university (unshared group membership). Self-reported empathy for and willingness to help the young woman were assessed, and 3 measures of self–other merging were taken. In each experiment, an empathy–helping relationship was found, unqualified by group membership, that could not be accounted for by any of the merging measures. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
Article
Mindfulness meditation has beneficial effects on brain and body, yet the impact of Vipassana, a type of mindfulness meditation, on heart rate variability (HRV) - a psychophysiological marker of mental and physical health - is unknown. We hypothesised increases in measures of well-being and HRV, and decreases in ill-being after training in Vipassana compared to before (time effects), during the meditation task compared to resting baseline (task effects), and a time by task interaction with more pronounced differences between tasks after Vipassana training. HRV (5-minute resting baseline vs. 5-minute meditation) was collected from 36 participants before and after they completed a 10-day intensive Vipassana retreat. Changes in three frequency-domain measures of HRV were analysed using 2 (Time; pre- vs. post- Vipassana) x 2 (Task; resting baseline vs. meditation) within subjects ANOVA . These measures were: normalised high-frequency power (HF n.u.), a widely used biomarker of parasympathetic activity; log-transformed high frequency power (ln HF), a measure of RSA and required to interpret normalised HF; and Traube-Hering-Mayer waves (THM), a component of the low frequency spectrum linked to baroreflex outflow. As expected, participants showed significantly increased well-being, and decreased ill-being. ln HF increased overall during meditation compared to resting baseline, while there was a time*task interaction for THM. Further testing revealed that pre-Vipassana only ln HF increased during meditation (vs. resting baseline), consistent with a change in respiration. Post-Vipassana, the meditation task increased HF n.u. and decreased THM compared to resting baseline, suggesting post-Vipassana task-related changes are characterised by a decrease in absolute LF power, not parasympathetic-mediated increases in HF power. Such baroreflex changes are classically associated with attentional load, and our results are interpreted in light of the concept of 'flow' - a state of positive and full immersion in an activity. These results are also consistent with changes in normalised HRV reported in other meditation studies.
Article
The Polyvagal Theory (Porges, 2007) represents a biobehavioral model that relates autonomic functioning to self-regulation and social engagement. The aim of the two presented studies was to test the proposed association of cardiac vagal tone (CVT), assessed via resting high-frequency heart rate variability (respiratory sinus arrhythmia, RSA), with coping, emotion-regulation, and social engagement in young adults. In Study 1 (retrospective self-report), RSA was positively associated with engagement coping (situation control, response control, positive self-instructions, social-support seeking) and aspects of social well-being. In Study 2 (ecological momentary assessment), for 28 days following the initial assessment, RSA predicted less use of disengagement strategies (acceptance and avoidance) for regulating negative emotions and more use of socially adaptive emotion-regulation strategies (i.e., social-support seeking as a reaction to sadness and making a concession as a reaction to anger caused by others). Furthermore, RSA was higher in participants who reported no anger episodes compared to those who reported at least one anger episode and was positively associated with reported episodes of negative emotions. Results support the association proposed by the PVT between CVT and self-regulatory behavior, which promotes social bonds.
Article
This study examined mothers' physiological reactivity in response to infant distress during the Still-Face Paradigm. We aimed to explore normative regulatory profiles and associated physiological and behavioral processes in order to further our understanding of what constitutes regulation in this dyadic context. We examined physiological patterns-vagal tone, indexed by respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA)-while mothers maintained a neutral expression over the course of the still face episode, as well as differential reactivity patterns in mothers with depression symptoms compared to non-depressed mothers. Behavioral and physiological data were collected from mothers of 5-month-old infants during the emotion suppression phase of the Still-Face Paradigm. We used Hierarchical Linear Modeling to examine changes in mothers' RSA during infant distress and explored maternal depression as a predictor of physiological profiles. Mothers were generally able to maintain a neutral expression and simultaneously demonstrated a mean-level increase in RSA during the still face episode compared to baseline, indicating an active regulatory response overall. A more detailed time-course examination of RSA trajectories revealed that an initial RSA increase was typically followed by a decrease in response to peak infant distress, suggesting a physiological mobilization response. However, this was not true of mothers with elevated depressive symptoms, who showed no change in RSA during infant distress. These distinct patterns of infant distress-related physiological activation may help to explain differences in maternal sensitivity and adaptive parenting.
Article
How accurately can people remember how they felt in the past? Although some investigators hold that emotional memories are resistant to change, we review evidence that current emotions, appraisals, and coping efforts, as well as personality traits, are all associated with bias in recalling past emotions. Bias occurs as memories of emotional states are updated in light of subsequent experience and goals. Biased memories in turn influence future plans and emotions, and may contribute to the formation of enduring personality traits. People's memories for emotions provide highly condensed and accessible summaries of the relevance of past experiences to current goals.
Article
Background: The induction of one particular emotion - sadness - has shown two different profiles of autonomic nervous system (ANS) response that are characterized by activation, or withdrawal in cardiac parasympathetic activation. We tested whether individual differences in emotion expression predict cardiac vagal reactivity from baseline to autobiographical sadness induction. Methods: Respiration sinus arrhythmia (RSA(c)) was measured in 56 adults (28 men) asked to relive an episode of sadness. Participants completed an emotional intelligence (EI) test, and a measure of trait affect intensity. Results: Sadness resulted in cardiac vagal activation with concomitant increase in HR suggestive of parasympathetic and sympathetic co-activation. Individual differences were observed in autonomic reactivity during sadness. Higher scores on the affect intensity measure and the emotional intelligence test predicted greater change in RSA(c) during sadness and recovery. Conclusion: The tendency to experience affect intensely and the ability to perceive emotions predict adaptive physiological regulation during sadness.
Article
This chapter presents an overview of the major facts about the functional neuroanatomy of positive affect in humans. It sketches a model of differentiation between two types of positive affect that is based on a consideration of underlying neural circuitry. Data on the functional neuroanatomy of this circuitry are reviewed with an emphasis on evidence accrued from brain-imaging studies. The data provide a foundation for a consideration of individual differences in components of this circuitry. The chapter then focuses on the nomological network of associations that define one form of positive affective style. The consequences of this style for a broad range of phenomena, including immune function, neuroendocrine function, and cognitive processing, are considered. The chapter also addresses the question of plasticity and considers some of the implications of these data for varied interrelated issues, including self-efficacy and mastery, physical health, resilience and illness, and invulnerability to psychopathology. It explicitly considers what bearing these data might have on understanding the biological bases of compassion. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
Article
Little work on the psychophysiology of blushing has been done since Darwin's 1872 observations. Facial vascular and temperature changes have been largely ignored in psychophysiology. We had 16 female and 16 male undergraduate volunteers watch a videotape intended to produce blushing (the individual's singing recorded the previous day), and a videotape not intended to produce blushing, but elicit physiological responses for comparison (a segment from Hitchcock's movie Psycho). Four people were present as a subject watched these video segments. Cheek and ear coloration, measured photoplethysmographically, cheek temperature, and finger skin conductance responses were significantly greater during stimulation intended to elicit blushing than during comparison stimulation. Gender interacted statistically with kind of stimulation only in cheek temperature. Only video segments of the subject's face that coincided with maximal cheek coloration during stimulation intended to produce blushing were judged reliably as blushing, and then more often in females than in males.