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Mirroring the emotions of others by autonomic system: Intra-species effect in children

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Abstract

Previous research investigated the presence of differential autonomic responses towards the emotions expressed by individuals from ingroup or outgroup contexts. Results found increased affective reactions and typical identification bias that can be explained, according to "the similarity factor", as the tendency to tune stronger with those perceived as more similar. Then, few previous studies explored the presence of such mechanisms in intra and interspecies contexts. However, further investigation is needed to better explore these issues in developmental samples and to different emotionally valenced stimuli. Thus, we asked 30 children to watch emotional pictures involving child-child (CC) and child-animal (CA) interactions with negative, positive, or neutral valence. Autonomic responses were recorded and compared across species and gender. Results showed a higher sensitivity to intraspecies emotional valence (increased heart rate for negative compared to neutral stimuli) which was visible only in the female group, thus confirming the presence of a gender effect.

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... One plausible explanation of this result would be related to the advantage of being able to recognise emotions in other species. Emotions are considered as the causes, mediators, and consequences of our social interactions which are fundamental in our everyday lives [60]. Appropriate recognition of emotions is necessary to adapt in some specific social contexts. ...
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... Emotions appear to be one of the causes, mediators, and consequences of social interactions which are fundamental in the everyday lives of a variety of mammals (Vanutelli et al., 2017). Appropriate recognition of emotions is therefore necessary to display adaptive behaviour in specific situations and to perform appropriate social interaction (Racca et al., 2012). ...
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