Article

Social Cognition in Social Anxiety: First Evidence for Increased Empathic Abilities

Authors:
To read the full-text of this research, you can request a copy directly from the authors.

Abstract

Individuals with social phobia (SP) show sensitivity and attentiveness to other peoples states of mind. Although cognitive processes in SP have been extensively studied, these individuals social cognition characteristics have never been examined before. We hypothesized that high socially anxious individuals (HSA) may exhibit elevated mentalizing and empathic abilities. Empathy was assessed using self-rating scales in HSA individuals (n=21) and low socially anxious (LSA) individuals (n=22), based on their score on the Liebowitz social anxiety scale. A computerized task was used to assess the ability to judge first and second order affective vs. cognitive mental state attributions. HSA individuals exhibited elevated affective empathy tendencies. However, controlling for the general anxiety variable revealed that social anxiety was related to cognitive empathy measures, rather than affective empathy. In addition, compared with LSA participants, HSA participants exhibited higher accuracy levels on the affective mental state attribution conditions, but were less accurate than LSA individuals on the parallel cognitive mental state attribution conditions. Additional research with larger samples and clinically diagnosed individuals is required. Results support the hypothesis that high socially anxious individuals may demonstrate a unique social-cognitive abilities profile with elevated cognitive empathy tendencies and high accuracy in affective mental state attributions.

No full-text available

Request Full-text Paper PDF

To read the full-text of this research,
you can request a copy directly from the authors.

... 8-10). However, the brain basis and correlates of TKS still remain unclear (11,12). As the fear of being negatively evaluated by others is the hallmark of social anxiety (9,13), studying TKS as an exemplar of other-oriented anxiety might add crucial insights into the mechanisms underlying subjective experiences of social anxiety (14). ...
... Our results provide both behavioral and brain-level support for the idea that other-oriented social anxiety is associated with enhanced affEMP and reduced cogEMP (5,12,36,37). The negative correlation of the overall network strength with the TKS scores during cogEMP supports decreased cognitive processing in embarrassing situations, likely obstructing flexible inference of others' perspectives and attention-shifting or augmenting maladaptive feelings of embarrassment. ...
... This view is counterintuitive because people with social anxiety are often argued to be hypersensitive to other's feelings, especially to others' negative emotions (3,9). However, our view aligns with the growing body of literature implying that declined social cognition can coincide with high social sensitivity in people with social anxiety (12). In other words, whereas the socially anxious people may be highly focused on others' mental states via noticing and sharing emotions of others (affEMP skills), their inferences of the social situations or perspective of others (cogEMP skills) may be highly inaccurate (12). ...
Article
Full-text available
Social-anxiety disorder involves a fear of embarrassing oneself in the presence of others. Taijin-kyofusho (TKS), a subtype common in East Asia, additionally includes a fear of embarrassing others. TKS individuals are hypersensitive to others’ feelings and worry that their physical or behavioral defects humiliate others. To explore the underlying neurocognitive mechanisms, we compared TKS ratings with questionnaire-based empathic disposition, cognitive flexibility (set-shifting), and empathy-associated brain activity in 23 Japanese adults. During 3-tesla functional MRI, subjects watched video clips of badly singing people who expressed either authentic embarrassment (EMBAR) or hubristic pride (PRIDE). We expected the EMBAR singers to embarrass the viewers via emotion-sharing involving affective empathy (affEMP), and the PRIDE singers to embarrass via perspective-taking involving cognitive empathy (cogEMP). During affEMP (EMBAR > PRIDE), TKS scores correlated positively with dispositional affEMP (personal-distress dimension) and with amygdala activity. During cogEMP (EMBAR < PRIDE), TKS scores correlated negatively with cognitive flexibility and with activity of the posterior superior temporal sulcus/temporoparietal junction (pSTS/TPJ). Intersubject correlation analysis implied stronger involvement of the anterior insula, inferior frontal gyrus, and premotor cortex during affEMP than cogEMP and stronger involvement of the medial prefrontal cortex, posterior cingulate cortex, and pSTS/TPJ during cogEMP than affEMP. During cogEMP, the whole-brain functional connectivity was weaker the higher the TKS scores. The observed imbalance between affEMP and cogEMP, and the disruption of functional brain connectivity, likely deteriorate cognitive processing during embarrassing situations in persons who suffer from other-oriented social anxiety dominated by empathic embarrassment.
... This might be related to their heightened concern of being negatively evaluated by others and a more general oversensitivity for social situations. Perceptual and attentional biases to social situations may result in heightened sensitivity to social situations, including the expressions of other's emotions and cognitions (Alden & Taylor, 2004;Tibi-Elhanany & Shamay-Tsoory, 2011). Socially anxious individuals' central concern to be evaluated by others increases the likelihood to adopt the perspective of others (i.e., CE) and the tendency to experience feelings of empathic concern (i.e., AE; Tibi-Elhanany & Shamay-Tsoory, 2011). ...
... The latter is also referred to as hypermentalizingexcessively attributing mental states such as beliefs and intentions to others without objective evidence to support these attributions (Abu-Akel, 2003;Sharp & Vanwoerden, 2014). Some authors have argued that interpersonal difficulties in social anxiety arise from excessive alertness to social situations and a tendency to over-attribute mental states to others (i.e., Tibi-Elhanany & Shamay-Tsoory, 2011). In support for this explanation, their results suggested higher CE and self-rated AE for socially anxious individuals compared to healthy controls (Tibi-Elhanany & Shamay-Tsoory, 2011). ...
... social anxiety and empathy. Prior lines of research had argued for both lower (e.g.,Dijk et al., 2018;Dimberg, 1997;O'Toole et al., 2013) and higher empathy (e.g.,Alden & Taylor, 2004;Morrison et al., 2016;Tibi-Elhanany & Shamay-Tsoory, 2011) in socially anxious individuals. The present results indicate a positive association between social anxiety and AE, ...
Article
Full-text available
Objective This systematic review and meta-analysis aimed to clarify the association between social anxiety and affective (AE) and cognitive empathy (CE). Methods 1442 studies from PsycINFO, Medline, and EMBASE (inception-January 2020) were systematically reviewed. Included studies (N = 48) either predicted variance in empathy using social anxiety scores or compared empathy scores between socially anxious individuals and a control group. Results Social anxiety and AE were statistically significantly positively associated, k = 14, r = .103 (95%CI [.003, .203]), z = 2.03, p = .043. Sex (QM (2) = 18.79, p < .0001), and type of measures (QM (1 = 7.34, p = .007) moderated the association. Correlations were significant for male samples (rmale = .316, (95%CI [.200, .432])) and studies using self-report measures (rself-report = .162 (95%CI [.070, .254])). Overall, social anxiety and CE were not significantly associated, k = 52, r =-.021 (95%CI [-.075, .034]), z= -0.74, p = .459. Sample type moderated the association (QM (1) = 5.03, p < .0001). For clinical samples the association was negative (rclinical= -.112, (95%CI [-.201, -.017]). Conclusion There was evidence for a positive association between social anxiety and AE, but future studies are needed to verify the moderating roles of sex and type of measure. Besides, low CE might only hold for patients with SAD.
... Despite this, among the relatively small number of studies analyzing social cognition in SA, most of them are focused on how social cognition contributes to SA [47][48][49][50][51][52][53][54], but very few of them analyze how SA impacts social cognition development. This is important because if SA and social cognition feed each other in some way, maybe clinical levels of SA in adolescence or adulthood depend to some extent upon this interaction. ...
... Most of the studies about social cognition in SA are based on adult samples with clinical levels of SA [47][48][49][50][51][52]. In contrast, there are relatively few studies focused on how non-clinical forms of SA in early stages of development [i.e., temperamental shyness or behavioral inhibition (BI); [46, [55][56][57] impact the development of social cognition. ...
... In turn, impoverished social cognition may contribute to further declines in social understanding and therefore more social avoidance [107], thus suggesting that the relationship between SA and social cognition may be bi-directional. This apparent reciprocal influence, already suggested by previous research [45], may be an important point to explain the stability of both SA and social cognition deficit, and allows to combine the current findings with those supporting that problems in MZ may play a role in the development of SA (e.g., [47][48][49][50][51][52]). ...
Article
Full-text available
Recent advances suggest that impairment in social cognition (SC) may play a role in the development of social anxiety (SA). However, very few studies have analyzed whether SA fosters poorer social-cognitive development as it leads to social avoidance. This study aimed to analyze whether retrospectively assessed behavioral inhibition (BI) (i.e., an early form of SA) in childhood is associated with a deficit in social cognition operationalized as impairment of mentalizing (MZ) in adolescence. A sample of 256 adolescents (range: 12–18 years; mean age: 14.7 years; SD = 1.7) from general population were assessed for MZ capacities and retrospective BI through self-report and interview measures. Results comparing three groups of adolescents with different levels of childhood BI (low, moderate or high) and controlling for concurrent SA and depression reveal that the higher the level of BI, the lower the level of MZ. These results were consistent for almost all mentalization measures, including when both extreme (i.e., high vs. low BI) and non-extreme (i.e., high vs. moderate BI) were compared in both self-report and interview measures and in both dimensions of MZ (i.e., MZ referred to others’ and to own mental states). These findings support that childhood forms of SA are associated to deficit in SC in adolescence. A possible bi-directional relationship between SA and SC, and the role that it may play in the pathway to clinical SA are discussed.
... Empathy and ToM skills could impact appraisal of the risk of contracting the infection as well as the acceptance of public health warnings (Sharot, 2011). Equally, empathy skills can enhance our social sensitivity, triggering major personal distress and an overestimation of social information in the time of a pandemic (Tibi-Elhanany and Shamay-Tsoory, 2011;Zainal and Newman, 2018). ...
... Second, we assessed the acceptance of quarantine which is considered to be one of the most demanding public health requirements as quarantine involves, isolation, uncertainty, and negative effects on individuals' mental and physical health (Brooks et al., 2020;Wang et al., 2021). Previous studies showed that individuals with enhanced affective sharing and deontological judgments overestimate social signals and generate worries and apprehensive expectative to social cues (Tibi-Elhanany and Shamay-Tsoory, 2011;Zainal and Newman, 2018). Based on these considerations, we hypothesized that individuals with higher scores in social cognition and deontologically oriented judgments would show increased risk perception, higher estimation of consequences of SARS-CoV-2, and at the same time, greater acceptance of quarantine. ...
... Notably, individuals with a higher capacity to share affective experiences of others tend to exhibit more significant stress in socially challenging scenarios (Cristea et al., 2014). Our results also align with studies showing that personal distress and empathic concern can trigger fear and arousal symptoms generating worries, apprehensive expectations, and aversive behaviors to social information (Ferrer and Klein, 2015;Tibi-Elhanany and Shamay-Tsoory, 2011;Zainal and Newman, 2018). Thus, effective empathic components may act as amplifying lenses of common good threats by expanding the shared emotional experience to others. ...
Article
Full-text available
The SARS-CoV-2 pandemic has imposed widespread negative impacts (economically, psychologically, neurologically, and societally), and has changed daily behaviors on a global scale. Such impacts are more significant and pervasive in countries with higher levels of inequality and reduced Government capacity and responsiveness, such as those in the Global South (e.g., Colombia). Differences in social and moral cognitive skills may significantly impact individual attitudes and responses to the pandemic. Here, we aimed to assess the extent to which factors associated with prosociality (including empathy, theory of mind (ToM), and moral judgments) predict the perception of SARS-CoV-2 impacts and responses. Participants (N = 413) from Colombia answered factors associated with prosociality measures and judgments about SARS-CoV-2 risk, impact, and acceptance of quarantine guidelines. Results revealed that affective empathy (personal distress and empathic concern) and moral tendencies (deontological trends) predicted greater acceptance of quarantine but in turn yielded an increased perception of risks and individual impacts of SARS-CoV-2. Moreover, age (older) and gender (female) also increased the risk perception and impact estimation. These results underscore the role of prosocial-related predispositions informing individual responses to the pandemic and provide an opportunity to exploit this knowledge to inform successful interventions favoring behavioral change.
... One theory, which we refer to as the sociocognitive deficit theory, holds that poor mindreading ability may lead to a lack of or inaccurate beliefs about others, which can make social situations unpredictable and uncomfortable, resulting in fear and social anxiety (Hezel & McNally, 2014;O'Toole et al., 2013). Another theory, which we refer to as the advanced sociocognitive ability theory, holds that although advanced mindreading ability is typically advantageous in social settings, it may also lead to heightened self-consciousness in social situations (Bechtoldt & Schneider, 2016), which, in turn, leads to more evaluative concerns and social anxiety (Hope & Heimberg, 1988;Tibi-Elhanany & Shamay-Tsoory, 2011). This study aims to integrate these two theories and put them to the test in the critical age of preadolescence. ...
... This may give rise to heightened self-consciousness and fear of negative evaluation-the core of social anxiety (Sutterby, Bedwell, Passler, Deptula, & Mesa, 2012). Thus, another theory of the role of sociocognitive abilities in social anxiety holds that advanced sociocognitive abilities may be related to social anxiety (Sutterby et al., 2012;Tibi-Elhanany & Shamay-Tsoory, 2011). According to this theory, individuals with advanced sociocognitive abilities, such as mindreading, spend more time observing others in social situations (Moore, Bosacki, & Macgillivray, 2011) and are more attuned to social cues from others (Baron-Cohen et al., 2001). ...
... We found higher levels of mindreading to be related to greater social anxiety in children. This finding is in line with one past study that found advanced mindreading in highly socially anxious undergraduate female students (Sutterby et al., 2012) and with another study that found advanced emotion understanding in adults with social anxiety disorder (Tibi-Elhanany & Shamay-Tsoory, 2011). The finding is also in line with studies showing a positive relation between other sociocognitive skills and anxiety in children and adolescents (Cutting & Dunn, 2002;van den Bos et al., 2016). ...
Article
Full-text available
Why are some children more socially anxious than others? One theory holds that socially anxious children are poor mindreaders, which hampers their social interactions; another that socially anxious children are advanced min-dreaders leading to heightened self-consciousness in social situations. To test these theories simultaneously, this study (N = 105, ages 8-12) assessed children's mindreading (accuracy in detecting mental states from the eye region), self-consciousness (indexed as physiological blushing during public performance), and social anxiety levels. Results support both theories, showing a quadratic relation between mindreading and social anxiety. Low mindreading was related to clinical levels of social anxiety. High mindreading was related to subclinical levels of social anxiety through blushing. Our findings suggest two social-cognitive pathways to heightened social anxiety.
... However, there are findings in the literature concerning the associations between SA and social relationship dimensions such as empathic abilities, aggressive and delinquent behavior, psychopathic traits and callous-unemotional traits that point out in different directions. For instance, the Fear of Negative Evaluation (a component of SA) has been positively associated with empathetic concern in youths and adults [16,17]. Additionally, negative or neutral associations between SA and anxiety levels with aggressive and delinquent behaviors have been described in children and adolescents [18,19]. ...
... The mostly positive moderate correlations of the SAS-A with empathy (BES) were consistent with a previous study by Tibi-Elhanany and Shamay-Tsoory [17] that found positive associations between the two constructs among adult participants. The same pattern of relations was now demonstrated among youths, supporting the hypothesis that individuals with high SA exhibit elevated empathic abilities. ...
Article
Full-text available
Over the last decades there has been an increased interest in assessing social anxiety in adolescents. This study aims to validate the Social Anxiety Scale for Adolescents (SAS-A) to Portuguese youth, and to examine its invariance across gender as well as its psychometric properties. The participants were 782 Portuguese youths (371 males, 411 females), with an average age of 15.87 years (SD = 1.72). The results support the original three-factor structure of the SAS-A, with measurement invariance being found across gender, with females scoring higher than males on two subscales. High levels of internal consistency were found. Positive associations with empathy demonstrated that high socially anxious adolescentshave elevated empathy tendencies. Mostly null or low negative associations were found with measures of psychopathic traits, callous-unemotional traits and aggression. Study findings provide evidence that the SAS-A is a psychometrically sound instrument that shows measurement invariance between genders, good reliability and positive correlations with empathy.
... Although SAD has been linked to poorer social functioning (e.g., Keller, 2006), there are intriguing findings in the literature that point in opposite directions, suggesting that socially anxious youths may have increased empathy levels (Tibi-Elhanany & Shamay-Tsoory, 2011) and be less prone to exhibit aggressive and delinquent behaviours (DeWall, Buckner, Lambert, Cohen, & Fincham, 2010). ...
... Concerning convergent validity, the SAS-A-SF subscales were, as expected, significantly related to the original SAS-A, which indicates that this short form may be a useful tool to measure SA in situations where time constraints require using more efficient instruments. Moreover, the SAS-A-SF was overall significantly associated with the BES, showing low to moderate correlations with the total score and the affective dimension (Pechorro et al., 2016;Tibi-Elhanany & Shamay-Tsoory, 2011 it is possible that heightened levels of SA predispose adolescents to be more aware and sensitive towards other people's feelings, but do not affect the cognitive component of empathy. Nonetheless, the link between empathy and SA should be further elucidated in future research. ...
Article
Full-text available
Background/Objective: Social anxiety is a common issue arising in adolescence that can cause significant impairment and have detrimental consequences for development in the absence of treatment. In this study we examined the factor structure and the psycho-metric properties of a 12-item short form of the Portuguese-Language Social Anxiety Scale for Adolescents (SAS-A-SF). Method: A community adolescent sample (N = 835) and a young offender sample (N = 244) completed the SAS-A, the Basic Empathy Scale and the Reactive-Proactive Aggression Questionnaire. Confirmatory factor analysis, internal consistency, cross gender and cross sample invariance, convergent and discriminant validity of the SAS-A-SF were analyzed. Results: The confirmatory factor analysis revealed that the 3-factor second-order model obtained the best fit.The results provided evidence that the SAS-A-SF is a psychometrically sound instrument that shows measurement invariance across genders and across samples,good reliability and positive correlations with empathy. Conclusions: The Portuguese version of SAS-A-SF is a useful, time-efficient tool for both researchers and practitioners who need to assess social anxiety, a relevant construct in adolescent psychopathology.
... In comparison, cognitive empathy is related to perspective-taking, or the ability to adopt another's psychological point-of-view, also referred to as mentalizing (I understand what you feel; Davis et al., 1994). While affective empathy is believed to be more innate, fostering care and concern for others, cognitive empathy involves a deliberate understanding of another person's viewpoint and is particularly important for social competence and reasoning (Decety et al., 2015), as the inability to understand another person's beliefs and actions may interfere with appropriate social responses (Ickes, 1997;Shamay-Tsoory et al., 2003;Tibi-Elhanany and Shamay-Tsoory, 2011). ...
... Conversely, increased anxiety may translate into increased worry and concern for others, or concern for how one's actions might affect others, and therefore may be linked to increased empathy. Gaining insight from clinical anxiety, individuals with social anxiety disorder tend to be hyperself-aware and extremely attentive to social signals due to their intense fear of being negatively evaluated by peers (Tibi-Elhanany and Shamay-Tsoory, 2011). This understanding may help explain why anxious individuals have a propensity to over-interpret the implied threat in others' facial expressions (Horley et al., 2004), but moreover, these internal and external attentional biases found in anxiety may also be related to enhanced socioemotional processing abilities (Tibi-Elhanany and Shamay-Tsoory, 2011). ...
Article
Full-text available
Empathy is characterized by the ability to understand and share an emotional experience with another person and is closely tied to compassion and concern for others. Consequently, this increased emotional awareness and sensitivity may also be related to increased anxiety. Taken from another perspective, higher general anxiety may translate into increased concern for others, or concern for how one’s actions might affect others, and therefore may be linked to increased empathy. Furthermore, self-reflection is positively related to perspective-taking and empathic concern, while rumination is closely tied to anxiety, thus providing an additional connecting point between empathy and anxiety through enhanced internally generated thought. While previous literature suggests a relationship between empathy and anxiety, this has yet to be empirically studied using neuroimaging tools aimed at investigating the underlying neural correlates that may support these convergent responses. We therefore conducted an functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study (N = 49) in which participants viewed fearful and neutral human faces and rated how the faces made them feel, to promote introspection. Participants also completed questionnaires assessing empathy Toronto Empathy Questionnaire (TEQ), trait anxiety State Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI), worry Penn State Worry Questionnaire (PSWQ) and rumination Ruminative Responses Scale (RRS). Behaviorally, empathy positively correlated with worry, worry and rumination positively correlated with anxiety, and significant indirect relationships were found between empathy and anxiety through worry and rumination. Using the neuroimaging face processing task as a backdrop on which the neurobiological mechanisms of empathy and anxiety may interact, regressions of questionnaires with brain activations revealed that empathy related to activation in the temporoparietal junction (TPJ), anxiety related to bilateral insula activation, and worry related to medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) activation, while rumination showed increased engagement of all three aforementioned regions. Functional connectivity (FC) analyses showed increased communication between the left amygdala and insula related to higher empathy, worry and rumination. Finally, whole-brain analysis using median split groups from questionnaires revealed that the lower halves of anxiety, worry and rumination exhibited increased activation in top-down attentional networks. In sum, empathy, worry and rumination related to enhanced bottom-up processing, while worry, rumination and anxiety exhibited decreased top-down attentional control, suggesting an indirect relationship between empathy and anxiety through the ruminative tendencies of worry.
... In the present study, there was a marginally significant positive correlation between social anxiety and social working memory accuracy among participants in the placebo condition. Although many studies have shown social cognitive impairments in socially anxious individuals, some studies have shown the opposite (i.e., enhanced social cognitive ability in individuals with social anxiety; Tibi-Elhanany & Shamay-Tsoory, 2011). Results from these studies suggest that impairments in social cognition associated with social anxiety (Hezel & McNally, 2014; O'Toole et al., 2013; Plana et al., 2014) are not the result of processing deficits (Sutterby et al., 2012), or lack of attention or motivation as in autism spectrum disorders (Chevallier et al., 2012). ...
Article
Full-text available
Individuals with social anxiety are characterized by a high degree of social sensitivity, which can coincide with impairments in social cognitive functioning (e.g., theory of mind). Oxytocin and vasopressin have been shown to improve social cognition, and oxytocin has been theorized as a potential therapeutic agent for individuals with social anxiety disorder. However, no study has investigated whether these neuropeptides improve social cognitive ability among socially anxious individuals. In a randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled, between-subjects design we investigated whether social anxiety moderated the effects of oxytocin or vasopressin (vs. placebo) on social working memory (i.e., working memory that involves manipulating social information) and non-social working memory. Oxytocin vs. placebo impaired social working memory accuracy in participants with higher levels of social anxiety. No differences were found for non-social working memory or for vasopressin vs. placebo. Results suggest that oxytocin administration in individuals with higher levels of social anxiety may impair social cognitive functioning. Randomized controlled trial registration: NCT01680718.
... Another possible explanation is that social anxiety can be better predicted by more general aspects of social understanding such as understanding of emotions and the ability to pretend (ToM1), than by more cognitive-related understanding such as the understanding of beliefs and false-beliefs (ToM2). Hence, fear during social situation can be more related to the inability to understand our own ambivalent feelings and not overestimating others' expectations than to the incapacity to appreciate others' thoughts (Kalbe et al. 2010;Tibi-Elhanany and Shamay-Tsoory 2011). ...
Article
Full-text available
Children’s early onset of social anxiety may be associated with their social understanding, and their ability to express emotions adaptively. We examined whether social anxiety in 48-month-old children (N = 110; 54 boys) was related to: a) a lower level of theory of mind (ToM); b) a lower proclivity to express shyness in a positive way (adaptive); and c) a higher tendency to express shyness in a negative way (non-adaptive). In addition, we investigated to what extent children’s level of social anxiety was predicted by the interaction between ToM and expressions of shyness. Children’s positive and negative expressions of shyness were observed during a performance task. ToM was measured with a validated battery, and social anxiety was assessed using both parents’ reports on questionnaires. Socially anxious children had a lower level of ToM, and displayed more negative and less positive shy expressions. However, children with a lower level of ToM who expressed more positive shyness were less socially anxious. Additional results show that children who displayed shyness only in a negative manner were more socially anxious than children who expressed shyness only in a positive way and children who did not display any shyness. Moreover, children who displayed both positive and negative expressions of shyness were more socially anxious than children who displayed shyness only in a positive way. These findings highlight the importance of ToM development and socio-emotional strategies, and their interaction, on the early development of social anxiety.
... Empathy refers to the propensity to reflexively emulate and synchronize postures, expressions, or vocalizations, and thus, connect emotionally and viscerally with others' experiences ( Hatfield et al., 1993). Elevated empathy could signify heightened affective-reasoning ToM accuracy (Tibi-Elhanany and Shamay-Tsoory, 2011). Affectivereasoning ToM may thus be stronger in individuals with GAD than controls (Shamay- Tsoory et al., 2009). ...
Article
Full-text available
Background: Theory-of-mind (ToM) is the ability to accurately infer others' thoughts and feelings. In generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), cognitive and emotion regulation theories allude to the plausibility that ToM is conditional on the degree of individuals' state worry, a hallmark symptom. GAD and state worry may interact to predict ToM constructs. However, no experiments have directly tested such interactional hypotheses, and used ToM as a framework to advance understanding of social cognition in GAD. This study therefore aimed to address this gap. Methods: 171 participants (69 GAD, 102 Controls) were randomly assigned to either a Worry or Relaxation induction and completed well-validated ToM decoding (Reading the Mind in the Eyes Test) and reasoning (Movie for the Assessment of Social Cognition) tasks. Results: GAD status significantly interacted with state worry to predict accuracy of overall reasoning, cognitive-reasoning, positive-reasoning, and negative-reasoning ToM. Worry, as opposed to relaxation, led sufferers of GAD to display more accurate overall reasoning and cognitive-reasoning ToM than controls, especially for negative signals. Participants with GAD who worried, but not relaxed, were also significantly better than the norm at interpreting negative signals. These findings remained after controlling for gender, executive function, social anxiety, and depressive symptoms. For other ToM abilities, mean scores of persons with and without GAD who either worried or relaxed were normative. Limitations: The ToM reasoning measure lacked self-reference, and these preliminary findings warrant replication. Conclusions: Theoretical implications, such as the state worry-contingent nature of ToM in GAD, and clinical implications are discussed.
... A reasonable question concerning our results is whether it was simply the stress and/or anx- iety produced by the "presenting in front of a class" exercise that caused the change in empathy that we observe [60][61], especially when one considers the results that our main finding is sta- tistically significant in a model with all controls besides the PANAS score, but then falls below significance when the PANAS score is included. We don't believe this is the case for a couple of reasons. ...
Article
Full-text available
Previous research shows that virtual reality perspective-taking experiences (VRPT) can increase prosocial behavior toward others. We extend this research by exploring whether this effect of VRPT is driven by increased empathy and whether the effect extends to ostensibly real-stakes behavioral games. In a pre-registered laboratory experiment (N = 180), participants interacted with an ostensible partner (a student from the same university as them) on a series of real-stakes economic games after (a) taking the perspective of the partner in a virtual reality, “day-in-the-life” simulation, (b) taking the perspective of a different person in a “day-in-the-life” simulation, or (c) doing a neutral activity in a virtual environment. The VRPT experience successfully increased participants’ subsequent propensity to take the perspective of their partner (a facet of empathy), but only if the partner was the same person whose perspective participants assumed in the virtual reality simulation. Further, this effect of VRPT on perspective-taking was moderated by participants’ reported feeling of immersion in the virtual environment. However, we found no effects of VRPT experience on behavior in the economic games.
... The positive relationships between negative emotionality and empathy in both studies indicated that higher levels of empathy were associated with an elevated level of negative emotions, suggesting symptoms of negative emotionality may serve to increase empathic concern (De Wall, 2009). This may be accounted for by the rumination associated with negative emotionality, leading to individuals with higher levels of negative emotions focusing to a greater extent on understanding others' thoughts (De Wall, 2009;Gilbert & Trower, 2001;Hutto et al., 2011;Tibi-Elhanany & Shamay-Tsoory, 2011). ...
Thesis
Full-text available
Psychopathic personality traits have been identified in research on criminal and noncriminal samples (Hare, 2003; Babiak, Hare, & Neumann, 2010). A large body of research exists on criminal psychopathy; however, limited empirical understanding has emerged for noncriminal psychopathy. It is unknown whether the empirical knowledge on criminal psychopathy is generalisable to psychopathic personality in the broader community (Gao & Raine, 2010). The current thesis sought to address the lack of research on psychopathy outside of the correctional setting (Hall & Benning, 2006; Skeem, Polaschek, Patrick, & Lilienfeld, 2011). The present research aimed to develop a greater understanding of psychopathic traits across specific populations, incorporating three samples. These were a noncriminal community based sample (n = 115), criminal sample of community based probation and parole offenders (n = 44) and business sample consisting of working professionals and students completing a Master of Business Administration Degree (n = 60). Available at: https://pure.bond.edu.au/ws/portalfiles/portal/17512266/understanding_the_manifestation_of_psychopathic_personality_characteristics.pdf
... Research on negative empathy and social anxiety in adults suggests that a high level of negative empathy makes individuals more likely to be overwhelmed by other people's distress and further enhances personal distress, which might motivate withdrawal from social situations and foster social anxiety (Tone & Tully, 2014;Zaki & Jamil 2014). Most clinical and nonclinical adult studies have also found that high negative empathy increases the risk of social anxiety (Pittelkow et al., 2021;Tibi-Elhanany & Shamay-Tsoory, 2010). As an important construct of empathy, research on the association between positive empathy and social anxiety is scarce. ...
Article
Full-text available
Empathy may play a role in the development and maintenance of social anxiety, but the relationship between empathy and social anxiety in children remains unclear. The present study investigated the relationships between the three constructs of empathy (i.e., cognitive empathy, positive empathy, and negative empathy) and social anxiety in childhood, examined the moderating role of mother-child conflict and peer rejection and explored gender differences in the moderating effects. The participants were 670 children aged 9 and 12 years and their mothers. Children completed self-reports of empathy and social anxiety, mothers reported mother-child conflict, and peer rejection was measured using peer nomination. Cognitive empathy and positive empathy were negatively associated with social anxiety, and negative empathy was positively associated with social anxiety. The positive effects of high positive empathy on social anxiety existed only in children with low mother-child conflict and low peer rejection. The positive effects of high cognitive empathy on social anxiety were found only in girls with low peer rejection. The results of this study indicate that different constructs of empathy may increase or decrease the risk of social anxiety in children, and a negative interpersonal environment may offset the positive effects of empathy on social anxiety.
... Recent studies have demonstrated indeed a dissociation between the two forms of empathy in social anxiety (Gambin and Sharp 2018;Tibi-Elhanany 2011): Socially anxious adolescents have high affective empathy-measured as the disposition to feel the others' feelings-but at the same time they scored low on cognitive empathy, resulting in a maladaptive functioning in which these individuals perceive the others' emotion, but fail in understanding and contextualizing it. As suggested by Tone and Tully (2014), socially anxious individuals may be highly sensitive to others' emotions, but this emotional contact is likely to be distressing and overwhelming, if not supported by a cognitive understanding of the emotional states concerned. ...
Article
Full-text available
Background Social anxiety is negatively related to peer communication quality during adolescence, with detrimental consequences for social functioning. However, the research about the factors that may moderate this relationship is still limited, and no studies have yet explored the possible interaction role of empathy systems.Objective The study investigated the effects of social anxiety and empathy dimensions on peer communication quality in adolescent boys and girls. A three-way interaction between social avoidance, empathic concern and perspective taking was hypothesized.Method Participants were 372 Italian adolescents (Mage = 16.4; SDage = 1.56; age range 15–20; 189 boys and 183 girls). Self-report questionnaires administered at school assessed: fear of negative evaluations, general social avoidance, avoidance of new social situations, empathic concern, perspective taking and peer communication quality.ResultsFor girls, empathic concern and general social avoidance were significantly related to peer communication quality. Conversely for boys, we found significant associations for perspective taking, general social avoidance and avoidance of new situations, and a three-way interaction involving general social avoidance, empathic concern and perspective taking. In presence of low perspective taking and high empathic concern, social avoidance was negatively related to peer communication quality in boys. Conversely, for high levels of perspective taking and high versus low empathic concern, the same relationship was not significant.ConclusionsA specific dysfunctional pattern of empathy—low perspective taking and high empathic concern—significantly enhanced the negative relationship between social avoidance and peer communication quality in boys, suggesting that these adolescents are at risk in social functioning.
... The present findings also build upon Sutterby et al.'s (2012) work by showing that use of a path analysis model that accounted for general anxiety severity and interrelationships between all variables of interest resulted in the same primary finding. In addition, results are consistent with those from two other studies that also found positive relationships between performance on cognitive empathy measures and social anxiety severity in nonpsychiatric samples (Auyeung & Alden, 2016;Tibi-Elhanany and Shamay-Tsoory, 2011). ...
Article
Findings regarding relationships between social anxiety and subtypes of empathy have been mixed, and one study suggested that this may be due to moderation by biological sex. The present study examined whether accounting for general anxiety and biological sex clarifies these relationships. Undergraduates ( N = 701, 76% female) completed online self-report measures of cognitive and affective empathy, social and general anxiety severity, and a behavioral measure of cognitive empathy (Reading the Mind in the Eyes Task; MIE). Path analysis examined relationships among social and general anxiety severity and affective and cognitive empathy. Model modification indices showed a significant influence of sex on the path from social anxiety severity to MIE accuracy. When the model was re-estimated with this path freed, more socially anxious women, but not men, showed greater MIE accuracy. Across both sexes, general anxiety severity related negatively to self-reported and behavioral (MIE) cognitive empathy. Affective empathy did not relate to either type of anxiety. The use of path analysis to simultaneously account for overlapping variance among measures of anxiety and empathy helps clarify earlier mixed findings on relationships between social anxiety and empathy subtypes.
... Affective empathy has been described as an automatic and innate process of vicariously experiencing the emotional state of another person (i.e., bottom-up process), whereas cognitive empathy has been linked to perspective-taking, i.e., the ability to understand deliberately another's feelings and point-of-view (i.e., top-down process) (Davis et al. 1994;Dimaggio et al. 2008;Fonagy 1991;Knight et al. 2019). Both appear to be particularly important for social competence, since the inability to feel and understand another person's emotions, beliefs, and actions may interfere with appropriate social responses (Dadds et al 2009;Decety et al. 2015;Knight et al. 2019;Tibi-Elhanany and Shamay-Tsoory 2011). ...
Article
Full-text available
Empathy is the ability to perceive and understand others' emotional states generating a similar mental state in the self. Previous behavioural studies have shown that self-reflection can enhance the empathic process. The present event-related poten-tials' study aims to investigate whether self-reflection, elicited by an introspective self-narrative task, modulates the neuronal response to eye expressions and improves the accuracy of empathic process. The 29 participants included in the final sample were divided into two groups: an introspection group (IG) (n = 15), who received an introspective writing task, and a control group (CG) (n = 14), who completed a not-introspective writing task. For both groups, the electroencephalographic and behavioural responses to images depicting eye expressions taken from the "Reading the Mind in the Eyes" Theory of Mind test were recorded pre-(T0) and post-(T1) 7 days of writing. The main result showed that only the IG presented a different P300 amplitude in response to eye expressions at T1 compared to T0 on the left centre-frontal montage. No significant results on accuracy at T1 compared to T0 were found. These findings seem to suggest that the introspective writing task modulates attention and implicit evaluation of the socio-emotional stimuli. Results are discussed with reference to the hypothesis that such neuronal modulation is linked to an increase in the embodied simulation process underlying affective empathy.
... Indeed, similar associations between emotional empathy and mental health have been found in research for individuals with depression, anxiety, and other forms of psychopathology. For example, individuals with more severe psychopathology symptoms have been shown to have greater emotional empathy (O'Connor et al., 2002;Thoma et al., 2015;Tibi-Elhanany & Shamay-Tsoory, 2011) and have trouble effectively regulating their emotional states (Sheppes et al., 2015;Thompson et al., 2019). Future research using longitudinal and experimental designs would be critical for understanding the directional influences between caregiver emotional empathy and caregiver mental health. ...
Article
Full-text available
Caregiving for a person with dementia or neurodegenerative disease is associated with increased rates of depression and anxiety. As the population ages and dementia prevalence increases worldwide, mental health problems related to dementia caregiving will become an even more pressing public health concern. In the present study, we assessed emotional empathy (physiological, behavioral, and self-reported emotional responses to a film depicting others suffering) and two measures of cognitive empathy (identifying the primary emotion experienced by another person and providing continuous ratings of the valence of another person’s changing emotions) in relation to mental health (standard questionnaires) in 78 caregivers of people with dementia or neurodegenerative disease. Greater emotional empathy (self-reported emotional responses) was associated with worse mental health even after accounting for known risk factors. Neither measure of cognitive empathy was associated with mental health. A relationship between high levels of emotional empathy and poor mental health in caregivers suggests possible risk indicators and intervention targets.
... These two opposite effects may occur due to different external and internal processes. The positive indirect effect may arise due to an internal process whereby highly anxious individuals have a fear of being negatively evaluated by peers, and so tend to be more attentive to others' signals (Tibi-Elhanany & Shamay-Tsoory, 2011). On the other hand, the negative direct effect from social difficulties may arise due to an external process whereby individuals with these social difficulties are less likely to engage in social activities (Chevallier et al., 2012), and so have less exposure to and practice in affective empathy. ...
Article
Full-text available
People on the autism spectrum may have difficulty inferring others’ emotions (cognitive empathy), but may share another’s emotions (affective empathy) and exhibit heightened personal distress. The present study examined independent autistic trait dimensions (social difficulties and restricted/repetitive behaviours) and the roles alexithymia and trait anxiety have in explaining this profile of empathy. Results from the general population (n=301) revealed that pronounced social difficulties and not restricted/repetitive behaviours related to reduced cognitive and affective empathy, and heightened personal distress. However, both dimensions, through alexithymia and anxiety, indirectly influenced empathy. Surprisingly, while the dimensions indirectly improved affective empathy, pronounced social difficulties directly reduced affective empathy. This study motivates a nuanced model of empathy by including autistic trait dimensions, anxiety, and alexithymia.
... For example, individuals with anxiety may be highly selfconscious, very sensitive to others' opinions of them and have greater evaluative concerns [36]. These tendencies are associated with an excessive alertness to social signals and, in turn, advanced ToM and cognitive empathy [37,38]. Supporting this perspective, one study conducted in 8-to 12-year-old children found that subclinical levels of social anxiety were related to greater accuracy in detecting mental states indirectly, through heightened self-consciousness [36]. ...
Article
Full-text available
Many children with anxiety disorders exhibit significant and persistent impairments in their social and interpersonal functioning. Two components essential for successful social interaction are empathy and theory of mind (ToM). Both constructs develop rapidly in childhood, but no study has simultaneously examined these skills in young children with emerging mental health problems, including those with symptoms of anxiety. This study investigated empathy and ToM in children with anxiety symptomatology and examined their relationship with anxiety severity. A cross-sectional study was carried out with 174 children aged 4–8 years with emerging mental health difficulties who were referred by school teachers for an assessment because of emotional, cognitive, or behavioural problems at school. Participants completed empathy and ToM tasks. Parents were interviewed and rated children’s emotional and behavioural problems. Correlational analyses indicated that elevated anxiety was associated with better cognitive ToM and worse affective empathy; there were no associations between anxiety and either cognitive empathy or affective ToM. Subsequent regression analyses demonstrated that whilst enhanced cognitive ToM was explained by age and verbal IQ, anxiety symptoms uniquely predicted impaired affective empathy. These results indicate that children with symptoms of anxiety have difficulty in sharing in other people’s emotions. As a result, they may find it difficult to behave in socially adequate ways in interactions with others that involve affective sharing. These findings encourage the use of early and targeted interventions that improve affective empathy development in children with anxiety symptoms.
... Although definitions of empathy are inconsistent, empathy is generally conceptualized as a multi-faceted construct composed of cognitive and affective components. Cognitive empathy involves taking the perspective of others by attempting to understand and mentally visualize another's point of view and affective states (Davis, 1983;de Waal, 2008;Tibi-Elhanany and Shamay-Tsoory, 2011). Another aspect of cognitive empathy is called empathic accuracy and is the ability to intuit the feelings of others based on their actions and affects (Ickes et al., 1990). ...
Article
Full-text available
While empathy is considered a critical determinant of the quality of medical care, growing evidence suggests it may be associated with both one’s own positive and negative moods among healthcare professionals. Meanwhile, sense of coherence (SOC) plays an essential role in the improvement of both psychological and physical health. Reportedly, individual SOC reaches full stability after around age 30. The aim of this study was first to evaluate the mediatory role of SOC on the association between empathy and individual moods among 114 healthcare professionals in a general hospital, and then to examine the moderating effect of age on this association. Participants completed a range of self-report demographic questionnaires, Empathy Process Scale (EPS), the 13-item Antonovsky’s SOC, and Profile of Mood States (POMS). Findings showed that SOC mediated the relations between empathy (EPS) and both POMS-Vigor (POMS-V: self-vigor mood) and POMS-Depression (POMS-D: self-depression mood). Notably, moderated mediation analysis revealed that there was a significant interaction (age × SOC) on self-vigor mood (POMS-V) in healthcare professionals. The indirect effect of empathy (EPS) on self-vigor mood (POMS-V) through SOC was significant at over mean age “32.83.” Although there was no significant interaction with age regarding the indirect effect of empathy (EPS) on self-depression mood (POMS-D), in the sub-category level analysis of empathy (EPS), we found a significant interaction item [age × empathy for other’s negative affect (EPS-N)] on SOC. This indirect effect was also significant at over mean age “32.83.” Taken, together, the current study highlighted the significant mediator of SOC on that empathy amplifies self-vigor mood and attenuates self-depression mood as a protective factor among the Japanese healthcare professionals. Some components of these processes may depend on the moderating role of age, indicating that we may need to consider the SOC development with age for more effective empathy performance interventions among healthcare professionals.
... In addition, aggressive behaviour is often compounded with family, school and social contextual factors, and this relationship should be explored further. The questionnaire should also be used to analyze population groups with special characteristics, such as adolescents suffering from anxiety or autism, which present a different profile in terms of social cognitions, both implicit and explicit [52,57,58]. ...
Article
Full-text available
Aggressive beliefs and attitudes are increasingly present in adolescents, and it can be argued that they are a prevalent feature of adolescence. Michel, Pace, Edun, Sawhney, and Thomas’s (2014) original thirty-item scale was later shortened to a more parsimonious eight-item scale (ABA-SF). This study addresses the adaptation and validation of the brief Aggressive Beliefs and Attitudes Scale to Spanish adolescents. The sample comprised a group of Spanish adolescents (N = 771, M age = 14.01 years). A total of two studies were undertaken: (1) the scale was translated into Spanish and its internal consistency, factorial structure and convergent validity were established; and (2) factorial analysis was undertaken to confirm the questionnaire. The results yielded high scores for internal consistency, reliability (α = 0.82; Ω = 0.83) and convergent validity. The examination of the underlying nomological network revealed links with positive and negative feelings, anxiety and aggression. According to the Exploratory Factorial Analysis (EFA), the aggregate variance of the factors in the scale was 65.814%, indicating that they can explain variations in aggression levels in adolescents. For its part, the Factorial Confirmatory Analysis (FCA) confirmed the match between the translation and the model, leading to a sustainable model composed by the three factors identified and eight items: χ2 (17) = 30.693; p < 0.001; χ2/gL = 1.805; CFI = 0.968; NFI = 0.837; TLI = 0.944; RMSEA = 0.060, IC del 95% (0.048–0.072). The short scale is easy to understand and quick to complete and is thus considered a useful instrument to assess aggression levels in adolescents.
... Concerning internalizing behaviors, the literature shows that extremely high levels of empathy lead to higher levels of internalizing behaviors (Tibi-Elhanany, 2011;Pechorro et al., 2015), but Tone and Tully (2014) state that this relation exists when other factors are combined. For example, Tully and Donohue (2017) compared the link between affective and cognitive empathy and internalizing behaviors in children of depressed and non-depressed mothers. ...
Article
Full-text available
Preschoolers face new challenges in their social life: the development of social and emotional abilities in order to have positive relationships with peers and adults. Empathy, the ability to share and understand the emotions of others, contributes to this socio-emotional adjustment. This exploratory study examines mothers and fathers' perceptions of their child's empathy and individual factors, such as age, gender, and personality, which are related to cognitive and affective empathy in 63 typically developing preschoolers. Links between children's individual characteristics (empathy and personality) and their social adjustment on the one hand and risk of developing internalized vs. externalized behaviors on the other were also investigated. Parents completed four questionnaires about their child's empathy, personality, and social (mal)adjustment. The results showed that mothers and fathers perceived their children's cognitive and affective empathy, attention to others' feelings, and social actions (such as helping), in the same way, except for emotion contagion. Gender differences appeared specifically for some components of empathy: girls were said to pay more attention to others' emotions while boys had better cognitive empathy. Moreover, children's empathy as perceived by mothers or fathers was positively linked with their age, and with personality factors (extraversion, emotional stability, agreeableness, and openness to experience). Cognitive empathy and personality were found to be partly related to higher social skills and lower externalized and internalized behaviors. The results nuanced specific links between cognitive and affective empathy and social adjustment as well as behavior problems at preschool age. These results may have some implications for future research and prevention in childhood.
... The separate and potentially different relationships between social anxiety and depression with empathy deserve closer comparison and examination to more clearly elucidate these patterns. Based on prior research, greater emotional empathy was expected for the HSA group compared to the LSA group, but differences in cognitive empathy were not as clearly predictable (Auyeung & Alden, 2016Gambin & Sharp, 2018;Öztürk et al., 2020;Tibi-elhanany & Shamay-tsoory, 2011). Results did not support these differences. ...
Article
Full-text available
Background Evidence about empathy in people high in social anxiety has produced mixed outcomes. The current study aimed to compare cognitive and emotional forms of empathy among university women who were high or low in social anxiety. Methods Empathy was assessed using both self-report and a directly observable social interaction task. Sixty adult women with either high or low levels of social anxiety completed a self-report measure of empathy and also engaged with a female confederate online. The interpersonal exchange included disclosure of a recent stressful experience by the confederate and participants’ responses were coded for indicators of cognitive and emotional empathy. Results were analysed with depression both controlled and not controlled. Results When depression was statistically controlled, participants who were high in social anxiety demonstrated more robust indicators of empathy on both self-report and the interpersonal exchange for both cognitive and emotional measures of empathy. Results were very similar when depression was not statistically controlled, however the groups no longer differed significantly on the self-report measure of cognitive empathy. Conclusions The implications for these findings on the interpersonal functioning of socially anxious individuals are discussed.
... That is, they over-interpreted the mental states of the characters in the film clips. Hezel and McNally (2014) suggest from this latter finding that individuals with SAD may show "cognitive empathy" towards others, which could explain their tendency to "over-mentalize" others' perspectives (see also Tibi-Elhanany & Shamay-Tsoory, 2011). However, this interpretation is inconsistent with results showing that individuals with SAD performed more poorly than controls on the Eyes task, which also requires respondents to put themselves into the minds of others (see Harkness, Sabbagh, Jacobson, Chowdrey, & Chen, 2005). ...
Article
Full-text available
Social anxiety disorder is characterized by marked interpersonal impairment, particularly when presenting with comorbid major depression. However, the foundational social-cognitive skills that underlie interpersonal impairment in comorbid and non-comorbid manifestations of SAD has to date received very little empirical investigation. In a sample of 119 young adults, the current study examined differences in theory of mind (ToM), defined as the ability to decode and reason about others' mental states, across four groups: (a) non-comorbid SAD; (b) non-comorbid Lifetime MDD; (c) comorbid SAD and Lifetime MDD; and (d) healthy control. The non-comorbid SAD group was significantly less accurate at decoding mental states than the non-comorbid MDD and control groups. Further, both the comorbid and non-comorbid SAD groups made significantly more 'excessive' ToM reasoning errors than the non-comorbid MDD group, suggesting a pattern of over-mentalizing. Findings are discussed in terms of their implications for understanding the social cognitive foundations of social anxiety.
Article
We conducted two studies to examine the relationship between social anxiety ( n = 134) and social anxiety disorder (SAD; n = 126), social exclusion, and empathic accuracy. Participants were randomly assigned to either a control or an exclusion condition and then observed four videos of targets discussing high school experiences in which they were socially excluded. Participants’ ratings of targets’ emotions while discussing those experiences were compared with targets’ self-ratings. Results of both studies indicated that individuals with social anxiety and SAD displayed greater empathic accuracy than control subjects and that exclusion did not affect that relationship. State measures of participants’ emotional and cognitive reactions to targets mediated the association between SAD and accuracy. When asked to provide advice to targets, SAD participants provided fewer responses overall and fewer suggestions that promoted relationship repair. Thus, they were less able to translate their empathic responses for social pain into prosocial action.
Article
Full-text available
Individual differences in empathy can have positive and negative psychological outcomes. Yet, individual differences in the processing and regulation of empathy-induced emotion have not been fully explored within this dynamic. This study was designed to explore whether individual differences in emotion regulation strategies moderated the effects of empathy on common forms of affective distress. Eight hundred and forty four participants completed survey measures of trait empathy, emotion regulation strategies, and symptoms of depression, anxiety, and stress. Affective empathy typically predicted greater affective distress, but the effects on depression and anxiety were offset when people were effective at reappraising their emotions. Cognitive empathy predicted lower distress on average, but this beneficial effect on anxiety and stress was absent in those who typically suppressed their emotions. Finally, suppression unexpectedly reduced the depression and stress reported for people high in affective empathy. Individual differences in emotion regulation are an important moderator between empathy and psychological health, and thus a useful target for intervention. Electronic supplementary material The online version of this article (10.1007/s11031-018-9684-4) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
Article
Previous research has shown a weak association between self-reported empathy and performance on behavioral assessments of social cognition. However, previous studies have often overlooked important distinctions within these multifaceted constructs (e.g., differences among the subcomponents of self-reported empathy, distinctions in tasks assessing lower- vs. high-level social cognition, and potential covariates that represent competing predictors). Using data from three separate studies (total N = 2,376), we tested whether the tendency to take the perspective of others (i.e., perspective-taking), and the tendency to catch the emotions of others (i.e., emotional contagion for positive and negative emotions), were associated with performance on tasks assessing lower- to higher-level social-cognitive ability (i.e., emotion recognition, theory of mind, and empathic accuracy) and affect sharing. Results showed little evidence of an association between any of the self-reported empathy measures and either social-cognitive ability or affect sharing. Using several large samples, our findings add additional evidence to previous work showing that self-report measures of empathy are not valid proxies of behaviorally assessed social cognition. Moreover, we find that the ease with which individuals recognize and understand their own emotions (i.e., alexithymia) is more related to social-cognitive abilities and affect sharing, than their tendency to take the perspective of others, or to vicariously experience the emotions of others. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2022 APA, all rights reserved).
Article
Objective: Stress, affective distress (e.g., anxiety & depression symptoms) and burnout, which are commonly experienced by health sciences students and clinicians, are reported to impair empathy. However, few prior studies have examined them in regards to empathy despite its importance to clinical practice. Thus, we examined the relationship between stress, affective distress (i.e., anxiety, depression), components of burnout (i.e., emotional exhaustion, cynicism, low professional efficacy), and empathy in medical and psychology students and compared empathy and its predictors in the two student groups. Further, the putative mechanism underpinning empathy – interoceptive sensibility (IS; i.e., extent of awareness of bodily sensations) – was also examined in regards to empathy. Methods: Medical (N = 80) and psychology (N = 213) students, including 206 females (70.3%) and 85 males, completed an online questionnaire that asked about empathy, stress, affective distress, burnout and IS. Multiple regression analyses identified which factors were related to global empathy (GE, i.e., total score), emotional empathy (EE), and cognitive empathy (CE). Results: As a whole, the students reported average empathy levels as follows: EE (M = 13.49, SD = 3.92), CE (M = 16.32, SD = 5.11), and GE total score (M = 44.95, SD = 11.5). In the full sample, after controlling for gender, degree type and Autism Spectrum Quotient score, low GE and CE were associated with low professional efficacy, and low EE was related to high cynicism and low emotional exhaustion. A similar profile of results was obtained in psychology students except that low GE was also associated with low anxiety and high autonomic nervous system (ANS)-reactivity, low EE was related to low professional efficacy (but unrelated to emotional-exhaustion and low CE was related to low anxiety. No difference in GE, EE and CE were detected between psychology and medical students. Conclusion: Results suggest that the qualities which reduce the potential for good quality communication (i.e., cynicism, autistic traits) may compromise empathy. However, hyper-arousal states (e.g., anxiety, emotional-exhaustion) may not necessarily impair empathy unless a person excessively focuses on their autonomic arousal sensations. KEY POINTS What is already known about this topic: (1) Psychological distress is reported to impair empathy in clinicians and medical students, but few studies have examined the premise despite the importance of empathy in clinical practice. (2) Prior studies have shown that empathy is inconsistently related to emotional state measures including the components of affective distress (e.g., anxiety) and burnout (e.g., emotional-exhaustion), and no studies have examined interoceptive awareness in this regard. (3) Most prior studies have shown that low empathy was related to greater affective distress and burnout, but several reported that it was related to low affective distress and burnout. What this topic adds: (1) Our results showed that low empathy was related to low anxiety, emotional-exhaustion and professional efficacy, but greater cynicism, autistic traits and awareness of ANS sensations. (2) No differences in global, emotional or cognitive empathy was detected between medical students and psychology students. (3) Results suggest that empathy may be impaired by experiences that can hamper communication (e.g., cynicism, autistic traits) whereas hyper-arousal states (i.e., anxiety, emotional-exhaustion) may not necessarily impair empathy, except when there is heightened awareness of ANS sensations.
Article
Background Social anxiety is highly prevalent and has increased in young adults during the COVID-19 pandemic. Since social anxiety negatively impacts interpersonal functioning, identifying aspects of social cognition that may be impaired can increase our understanding of the development and maintenance of social anxiety disorder. However, to date, studies examining associations between social anxiety and social cognition have resulted in mixed findings. Methods The aim of this systematic review was to summarize the literature on the association between social anxiety and social cognition, while also considering several potential moderators and covariates that may influence findings. Results A systematic search identified 48 studies. Results showed mixed evidence for the association between social anxiety and lower-level social cognitive processes (emotion recognition and affect sharing) and a trend for a negative association with higher-level social cognitive processes (theory of mind and empathic accuracy). Most studies examining valence-specific effects found a significant negative association for positive and neutral stimuli. Limitations. Not all aspects of social cognition were included (e.g., attributional bias) and we focused on adults and not children, limiting the scope of the review. Conclusions Future studies would benefit from the inclusion of relevant moderators and covariates, multiple well-validated measures within the same domain of social cognition, and assessments of interpersonal functioning outside of the laboratory. Additional research examining the moderating role of attention or interpretation biases on social cognitive performance, and the potential benefit of social cognitive skills training for social anxiety could inform and improve existing cognitive behavioral interventions.
Article
Objective: The current study examined the efficacy of a virtual reality (VR) education system that simulates the experience of the positive symptomology associated with schizophrenic spectrum and other psychotic disorders. Method: The sample comprised of 50 participants from the general public and various psychology undergraduate programs. Participants completed pre-test measures exploring knowledge of diagnosis, attitudes, and empathetic understanding, before being exposed to an immersive VR simulation of a psychotic episode. Participants then completed the original measures with the addition of a user-experience scale, which explored sub-factors understood to share a relationship with VR effectiveness (i.e., fidelity, immersion, presence, and user buy-in). Results: Participants’ scores were significantly enhanced at post-test across each outcome measure, with significant correlations found between a number of the gain and user-experience scores. Conclusions: The findings suggest that VRbased simulations of psychopathology may offer a promising platform for delivering a constructionist approach to psychology education.
Article
Full-text available
Based on evolutionary theory, a recent model in affective neuroscience delineated six emotional brain systems at the core of human personality: SEEKING, CARING, PLAYFULNESS, FEAR, ANGER, SADNESS. The Affective Neuroscience Personality Scales (ANPS) assess their functioning. Using a person-centred approach of the ANPS, this study: (i) examined the existence of latent personality profiles, (ii) studied their gender invariance, (iii) assessed their longitudinal (4 years) stability, and (iv) explored how they relate to several intrapersonal, interpersonal, and emotion regulation skills. Latent Profile Analysis in 2 samples (Canadian, longitudinal, N = 520; French, cross-sectional, N = 830) found that, qualitatively, 3 profiles characterized both populations and genders, with one distinction for the second profile where the French women endorsed slightly higher and lower scores for, respectively, the negative and positive emotions. Whilst not being quantitatively similar across genders, the personality profiles remained consistent across time in the longitudinal sample. Associations between profiles and intrapersonal (e.g. depression), interpersonal (e.g. empathy), and emotion regulation skills measures (e.g. emotional intelligence) offered concurrent validity evidence. This person centred approach to ANPS offers a holistic and parsimonious way to study affective personality dimensions. It opens promising avenues for future studies on the predictive value of ANPS profiles, and for personality-targeted interventions.
Article
Full-text available
Contemporary mental health practice primarily centers around the neurobiological and psychological processes at the individual level. However, a more careful consideration of interpersonal and other group-level attributes (e.g., interpersonal relationship, mutual trust/hostility, interdependence, and cooperation) and a better grasp of their pathology can add a crucial dimension to our understanding of mental health problems. A few recent studies have delved into the interpersonal behavioral processes in the context of different psychiatric abnormalities. Neuroimaging can supplement these approaches by providing insight into the neurobiology of interpersonal functioning. Keeping this view in mind, we discuss a recently developed approach in functional neuroimaging that calls for a shift from a focus on neural information contained within brain space to a multi-brain framework exploring degree of similarity/dissimilarity of neural signals between multiple interacting brains. We hypothesize novel applications of quantitative neuroimaging markers like inter-subject correlation that might be able to evaluate the role of interpersonal attributes affecting an individual or a group. Empirical evidences of the usage of these markers in understanding the neurobiology of social interactions are provided to argue for their application in future mental health research.
Article
The relation between the understanding of the mind as being constructive, anxiety, and parental factors is not fully elucidated. Interpretive diversity understanding represents an understanding that people can have a different interpretation of the same situation due to differences in beliefs, attitudes, and knowledge. We aim to bring together two approaches to this concept: the interpretive theory of mind (ToMi), and the constructivist theory of mind (ToMc) and relate them to anxiety symptoms and parental practices during middle childhood (8-12 years). In two studies, we used a restricted view paradigm to assess ToMi, a questionnaire to assess ToMc (the Constructivist Theory of Mind Interview, short written version in Study 1, and extended interview in Study 2) and parental and child reports of parental practices, as well as children’s anxiety symptoms. Results revealed that the two interpretive diversity understanding tasks were positively associated (Study 2). Overall, warm parental practices were positively associated with ToM tasks and a significant predictor for the ToMc interview answers. On the other hand, parental rejection and overprotection were negatively associated with performance on the ToMi task, with the ToMc score and positively with anxiety symptoms. Understanding the relationship between ToM, anxiety, and parental practices is essential for preventing early social and emotional difficulties during middle childhood.
Article
Full-text available
Anxious individuals are known to process socially-relevant stimuli in an aberrant way, in both higher cognitive level and low level perceptual processing. While the majority of previous studies have investigated the influence of anxiety on processing of nonverbal social cues using face stimuli, we employed point-light biological motion (BM) as main stimulus, noting that processing of bodily movements is also important. Through two different tasks, detection from noise and emotion recognition, the current study examined whether the level of trait anxiety has an influence on BM detection, whether emotional valence (anger, happiness, and neutral) of the stimuli could modulate the anxiety effect, and whether accuracy pattern for explicit emotion recognition from BM is consistent with the influence of implicit emotion processing in the detection task. The results showed that the detection performances of high-anxiety group were poorer than those of low-anxiety group when the stimuli were emotionally neutral. In contrast, the performances of the two groups were comparable for emotional stimuli in both detection and emotion recognition tasks. The results imply that high level of trait anxiety is associated with decreased ability to process BM, which can be compensated if the stimuli convey emotional information.
Article
Full-text available
Empathy is a multidimensional construct generally defined as the ability to understand and share another's emotional state. The main aim of the present study was to translate and validate the Basic Empathy Scale adapted short version (BES-A) among a school sample (N = 543; M = 15.65 years; SD = 1.84 years; range = 12 – 20 years) of male and female Portuguese youths. The scale demonstrated good psychometric properties, namely in terms of its two-factor structure, internal consistency, discriminant validity with measures of psychopathic traits and aggression, and associations with a measure of social anxiety. Associations with a measure of social anxiety were also examined, revealing positive statistically significant correlations with the affective dimension of empathy. The psychometric properties of the BES-A justify its use among Portuguese adolescents.
Article
Background The cognitive and emotional vulnerability of individuals with social anxiety disorder (SAD) and their response to repeated experiences of social rejection and social acceptance are important factors for the emergence and maintenance of symptoms of the disorder. Functional neuroimaging studies of SAD reveal hyperactivity in regions involved in the fear circuit such as amygdala, insula, anterior cingulate, and prefrontal cortices (PFC) in response to human faces with negative emotions. Observation of brain activity, however, involving studies of responses to standardized human interaction of social acceptance and social rejection have been lacking. Methods We compared a group of index subjects with SAD (N = 22, mean age:26.3 ± 5.4, female/male: 7/15) (SADG) with a group of healthy controls (CG) (N = 21, mean age:28.7 ± 4.5, female/male: 14/7) in measures of cortical activity during standardized experiences of human interaction involving social acceptance (SA) and social rejection (SR) video-simulated handshaking tasks performed by real actors. In a third, control condition (CC), the subjects were expected to press a switch button in an equivalent space. Subjects with a concurrent mood episode were excluded and the severity of subclinical depressive symptoms was controlled. 52-channel functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) was used to measure cortical activity. Results Activity was higher in the SAD subjects compared to healthy controls, in particular in channels that project to middle and superior temporal gyri (STG), frontal eye fields (FEF) and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) in terms of both SA and SR conditions. Cortical activity during the CC was not different between the groups. Only in the SAD-group, activity in the pre-motor and supplementary motor cortices, inferior and middle temporal gyri and fronto-polar area was higher during the rejection condition than the other two conditions. Anxiety scores were correlated with activity in STG, DLPFC, FEF and premotor cortex, while avoidance scores were correlated with activity in STG and FEF. Conclusions SA and SR are represented differently in terms of cortical activity in SAD subjects compared to healthy controls. Higher activity in both social conditions in SAD subjects compared to controls may imply biological sensitivity to these experiences and may underscore the importance of increased cortical activity during social interaction experiences as a putative mediator of vulnerability to SAD. Higher cortical activity in the SADG may possibly indicate stronger need for inhibitory control mechanisms and higher recruitment of theory of mind functions during social stress. Higher activity during the SR compared to the SA condition in the SAD subjects may also suggest distinct processing of social cues, whether they involve acceptance or rejection.
Article
The mapping of developmental relations between social cognition and real‐world social behaviors has theoretical and practical importance. In the domain of social anxiety, however, studies examining links between social cognitive ability and anxiety have produced mixed results. One potential explanation is that varied facets of social cognition are differentially linked to social anxiety across development. To better understand how social cognition relates to social anxiety, we assessed multiple facets of two important social‐cognitive capacities, mind‐mindedness and theory of mind,in school‐aged children aged 7‐12 and young adults aged 18‐24. We also measured social anxiety traits. We found that, across ages, mind‐mindedness and theory of mind were not related to each other. Additionally, for children and adults, higher levels of social anxiety correlated with higher levels of mind‐mindedness toward close social partners, indicating an increased propensity to describe partners using mental state terms.In contrast, social anxiety was not correlated with theory of mind, which measured the ability to decipher or attribute mental states to photographs, videos, or story characters. These findings offer insight into how different components of social cognition are related and how more naturalistic measures of social cognition involving relationships may relate tosocial anxiety across development.
Article
Personal distress is a manifestation of empathy characterized by a tendency to respond to others’ difficulties by increasing one’s distress. Previous work on socially anxious individuals has shown mixed results, consistent with a model of social anxiety symptomatology characterized by increased personal distress in empathy eliciting situations, which is driven by emotional dysregulation. The current study aimed to test a serial mediation model to uncover the role of emotional dysregulation in the relationship between social anxiety and empathic distress. 330 young adults were included in the sample. Social anxiety symptomatology, difficulty identifying one’s feelings, expressive suppression, and empathic distress were analyzed through Structural Equation Modeling. Measurement and structural models were supported by data, with social anxiety exhibiting direct and indirect effects on empathic distress. Results also suggest that expressive suppression exhibits a negative effect on the distress exhibited in empathy eliciting situations, which brings forth relevant theoretical and clinical implications.
Thesis
Cette recherche porte sur la compréhension des processus cognitifs, émotionnels et comportementaux en jeu dans l’émergence du trouble d’anxiété sociale chez l’enfant, et sur l’interaction de ces processus dans son développement. Nous tenterons de décrire les mécanismes précoces de développement de ce trouble chez les enfants de 6 à 9 ans. Il est observé un déficit de compétences dans la reconnaissance des émotions du visage d’autrui chez les enfants anxieux. Ils reconnaitraient plus difficilement les émotions positives d’un visage, et seraient particulièrement sensibles aux émotions négatives. Certaines études ont ainsi parlé d’« un biais de perception négative » dans la reconnaissance des visages chez ces enfants. Nous essaierons de mesurer si dès six ans, il existe des différences dans leur capacité de jugement de l’intentionnalité émotionnelle de l’autre en fonction de leur niveau d’anxiété sociale, et d’analyser l’évolution de ce processus dans le temps. Des auteurs ont montré que les enfants chez qui l’on observe une attitude comportementale inhibée devant des stimuli sociaux nouveaux paraissent émotionnellement plus réactifs et plus susceptibles de développer un trouble anxieux. Ils ont indiqué qu’apparaissant dès le très jeune âge chez l’enfant, l’inhibition comportementale peut être un facteur de risque de développement d’un trouble d’anxiété sociale. Nous testerons l’hypothèse d’un processus d’inhibition comportementale accompagnant l’émergence et l’évolution du trouble d’anxiété sociale au cours de l’enfance, et nous essaierons de voir comment ce processus s’articule avec les phases de développement émotionnel de l’enfant. Lors de l’introduction du concept d’anxiété sociale, on s’est interrogé sur les spécificités culturelles de ce trouble qui est, par essence, lié aux normes sociales et relationnelles véhiculées par le groupe d’appartenance d’un individu. Nous proposons donc d’intégrer une dimension interculturelle à cette étude afin de tester l’universalité de ces processus.
Article
Background : Empathy is a multidimensional construct, which includes cognitive and affective components. Studies in adults have demonstrated that both cognitive and affective empathy are associated with anxious and depressive symptoms. The aim of this study was to examine these associations in childhood. Methods : Participants were 127 9- and 10-year-old children, recruited from the community. Self-report measures of cognitive and affective empathy, and internalizing symptoms were administered, as well as a task-based measure of cognitive empathy. Results : Canonical correlation analysis demonstrated that components of affective empathy, specifically affective sharing and empathic distress, were associated with internalizing (particularly social anxiety) symptoms (Rc = 0.63, non-parametric p < .001). Cognitive empathy was not associated with internalizing symptoms. Limitations : Most of our findings were based around self-report measures of empathy, which may not accurately reflect empathy ability. Conclusions : Findings suggests that children who share each other's emotions strongly are more likely to experience anxiety, particularly of a social nature.
Article
Mental health issues are affecting not only families worldwide but also numerous family businesses. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the uniqueness of the family business may be a double-edged sword generating both benefits and drawbacks for business families dealing with mental disorders. Building on the socioemotional wealth (SEW) perspective of family business, the ABCX model of family coping and work-family interface literature, we develop a theoretical model to suggest how MDs interact with family and family business resources to influence the dynamics between families and their firms, and the outcomes from those dynamics. A research agenda is then proposed.
Article
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that plays an important role in regulating behavior and personality in humans and other mammals. Polymorphisms in genes coding for the serotonin receptor subtype 1A (HTR1A), the serotonin transporter (SLC6A4), and the serotonin degrading enzyme monoamine oxidase A (MAOA) are associated with anxiety, impulsivity, and neurotic personality in humans. In primates, previous research has largely focused on SLC6A4 and MAOA, with few studies investigating the role of HTR1A polymorphic variation on behavior. Here we examined variation in the coding region of HTR1A across apes, and genotyped polymorphic coding variation in a sample of 214 chimpanzees with matched measures of personality and behavior. We found evidence for positive selection at three amino acid substitution sites, one in chimpanzees-bonobos (Thr26Ser), one in humans (Phe33Val), and one in orangutans (Ala274Gly). Investigation of the HTR1A coding region in chimpanzees revealed a polymorphic site, where a C/A single nucleotide polymorphism changes a proline to a glutamine in the amino acid sequence (Pro248Gln). The substitution is located in the third intracellular loop of the receptor, a region important for serotonin signal transduction. The derived variant is the major allele in this population (frequency 0.67), and is associated with a reduction in anxiety, decreased rates of male agonistic behavior, and an increase in socio-positive behavior. These results are the first evidence that the HTR1A gene may be involved in regulating social behavior in chimpanzees and encourage further systematic investigation of polymorphic variation in other primate populations with corresponding data on behavior.
Article
Full-text available
Mentalizing, or social cognition, refers to the brain’s higher order capacity that allows humans to be aware of one’s own and others’ mental states (e.g., emotions, feelings, intentions). While cognition in social anxiety has been broadly analyzed, there is a paucity of research regarding the role of social cognition. Moreover, mentalizing or social cognition research is traditionally focused on the understanding of others’ mental states, rather than self-mentalizing. Finally, most studies analyze the role of social cognition in the development or maintenance of social anxiety, yet no study to date has analyzed whether social cognition moderates functional impairment associated with it. This study analyzes whether self- and other-mentalizing moderate the relationship between social anxiety and impairment in social and self-functioning. A sample of 262 adolescents from the non-clinical population was assessed on measures of social anxiety, self- and other- mentalization, indicators of social functioning (social competence and sociometric status), and indicators of self-functioning (depression and self-esteem). Multiple linear regressions were conducted to test possible moderation effects of self-mentalizing and other-mentalizing on the relationships between social anxiety and social and self-functioning. Results revealed that other-mentalizing does not moderate social- nor self-functioning, while self-mentalizing moderates the impairment of all of them. While impairment in social functioning is buffered by one dimension of self-mentalizing (emotional clarity; b = 0.003, p = 0.043 and b = 0.016, p = 0.008 for social competence and sociometric status, respectively), impairment in self-functioning is strengthened by the other dimension (attention to emotions; b = −0.007, p = 0.008 and b = 0.009, p = 0.047 for self-esteem and depression, respectively). Probing the moderation at the 16th, 50th, and 84th percentiles revealed that the negative imbalance between dimensions (i.e., high attention and low clarity) tended to exacerbate impairment most on all indicators, while the positive imbalance (i.e., low attention and high clarity) was usually the most buffering condition. This supports that “low-flying” or implicit mentalizing provides more resilience than explicit mentalizing (i.e., high attention and high clarity). Findings suggest that the work on emotional self-awareness should be stressed in the intervention of the social anxiety spectrum conditions in order to improve prevention, functioning, and ultimately, treatments, of people impaired by symptoms of social anxiety.
Article
Online disinhibition is a common phenomenon with negative implications among adolescents, but its correlates have been scarcely investigated from an integrative perspective. This study aimed to examine the relationship of two socially maladaptive personal characteristics, namely psychopathic traits and social anxiety, with online disinhibition. Furthermore, the effect of empathy (affective and cognitive) was examined through moderation analysis. The investigation was based on a context dependent theoretical framework, according to which, the structural characteristics of cyberspace increase or decrease the expression of certain personal tendencies, thus differentiating an individual’s behavior. Overall, 1,097 Greek Junior High School students from Northern Greece voluntarily completed an anonymous self-report questionnaire. After construct validity was tested, a two-step latent moderated structural equation modeling was conducted. Results showed that online disinhibition correlated negatively with all variables except affective empathy. Cognitive empathy moderated only the effect of impulsive-irresponsible traits and social anxiety on online disinhibition. Overall, findings show that students with maladaptive personality characteristics have high propensity for online disinhibition. These results can contribute significantly in understanding the phenomenon, as well as in the design of prevention programs aiming at developing the cognitive empathy of impulsive and socially anxious adolescents. https://authors.elsevier.com/a/1Z8RJ2f~UW8ZPs
Article
Full-text available
Studies have shown that elevated empathic abilities and impaired theory of mind (ToM) tasks may be associated with social anxiety disorder (SAD). Adolescence is a critical period for the onset of SAD which may cause impairment in various domains of functioning. We aimed to investigate the association of ToM and empathy characteristics in adolescents diagnosed as having SAD. Forty-one drug-naïve adolescents (between 12 and 18 years), who were diagnosed as having SAD without comorbidities were enrolled in the patient group. Forty adolescents in the same age range without any psychiatric disorders were matched as the healthy control group. The sample was evaluated via the Kiddie and Young Adult Schedule for Affective Disorders and Schizophrenia Present and Lifetime Version. The severity of the SAD symptoms was evaluated using the Social Anxiety Scale for Adolescents. ToM was evaluated with the Reading the Mind in the Eyes Test and emotion recognition was assessed by Faces Test. The KA-SI Empathic Tendency Scale was used to assess empathic abilities. The average age was 14.36 ± 1.41 years in the SAD group and 14.30 ± 1.04 years in the control group. Twenty-eight adolescents were female in the SAD and control groups. SAD and healthy controls did not differ in terms of sociodemographic data. There were higher scores in the KA-SI cognitive and affective empathic subscales (p < .001 in all scales) in the SAD group compared with the healthy controls. Adolescents with SAD have more difficulties both in Reading the Mind in the Eyes Test and Faces Test. The results of this study may indicate that although adolescents with SAD may be impaired in decoding aspects of ToM they may evaluate themselves as more empathic in self-report tests. The discrepancy between objective tests of ToM decoding and subjective reports of empathy may play an important role in the etiology and treatment of SAD in adolescents.
Article
This is a cross-sectional nonclinical sample study to examine the different levels of the Ipsiety Disturbance Model (IDM) for schizophrenia spectrum disorders (introduced by Sass and Parnas, 2003). Three faces of schizotypy were studied: diminished self-presence, hyper-reflexivity, and distortion in experience of own self and another person's self-discrimination. A sample of college students (N = 1312) was provided a questionnaire packet that contained the Schizotypy Personality Questionnaire Brief–Revisited (SPQ-BR), the Self-Concept Clarity Sale, the Tellegen Absorption Scale, and Interpersonal Reactivity Index measures. Results: higher absorption capabilities predict higher scores on both the SPQ-BR cognitive and SPQ-BR disorganization factors. High scores in cognitive empathy predicted a low score on both SPQ-BR cognitive and SPQ-BR interpersonal scores. In contrast, higher affective empathy predicted high scores on the SPQ-BR interpersonal factor. The deficiency in self-concept clarity predicted an elevated score on the SPQ-BR cognitive, interpersonal, and disorganization schizotypy symptoms. We argue that a lack of self-concept clarity manifested in both the hyperreflexivity level (measured by absorption) and the metallization level (measured by empathy). We argue that the IDM is a reliable way to interpret functioning with different levels of schizotypy.
Article
Full-text available
A significant clinical feature of depression involves difficulties in social functioning. At the foundation of these difficulties may lie alterations in “theory of mind” reasoning—the ability to decode others' mental states. Participants included 124 undergraduates who participated in a theory of mind task that involved attributing emotion states (e.g., happy, embarrassed) to photographs of eyes. Across two studies, dysphoria was significantly positively associated with greater accuracy on this task, suggesting an increased sensitivity to the subtle social cues required to make theory of mind judgements. This association held regardless of the emotional valence of the judgement. Furthermore, this finding was robust after controlling for reaction time and level of anxiety. These findings are discussed in terms of their implications for developing a model of social cognition in depression.
Article
Full-text available
This paper considers neurocognitive models of aggression and relates them to explanations of the antisocial personality disorders. Two forms of aggression are distinguished: reactive aggression elicited in response to frustration/threat and goal directed, instrumental aggression. It is argued that different forms of neurocognitive model are necessary to explain the emergence of these different forms of aggression. Impairments in executive emotional systems (the somatic marker system or the social response reversal system) are related to reactive aggression shown by patients with “acquired sociopathy” due to orbitofrontal cortex lesions. Impairment in the capacity to form associations between emotional unconditioned stimuli, particularly distress cues, and conditioned stimuli (the violence inhibition mechanism model) is related to the instrumental aggression shown by persons with developmental psychopathy.
Article
Full-text available
Empathy accounts for the naturally occurring subjective experience of similarity between the feelings expressed by self and others without loosing sight of whose feelings belong to whom. Empathy involves not only the affective experience of the other person's actual or inferred emotional state but also some minimal recognition and understanding of another's emotional state. In light of multiple levels of analysis ranging from developmental psychology, social psychology, cognitive neuroscience, and clinical neuropsychology, this article proposes a model of empathy that involves parallel and distributed processing in a number of dissociable computational mechanisms. Shared neural representations, self-awareness, mental flexibility, and emotion regulation constitute the basic macrocomponents of empathy, which are underpinned by specific neural systems. This functional model may be used to make specific predictions about the various empathy deficits that can be encountered in different forms of social and neurological disorders.
Article
Full-text available
Thesis--University of Texas at Austin. Vita. Includes bibliographical references (leaves 209-219).
Article
Full-text available
Cognitive theories of social phobia have largely been inspired by the information-processing models of anxiety. They propose that cognitive biases can, at least partially, explain the etiology and maintenance of this disorder. A specific bias, conceived as a tendency to preferentially process socially-threatening information, has been proposed. This bias is thought to intervene in cognitive processes such as attention, memory and interpretation. Research paradigms adopted from experimental cognitive psychology and social psychology have been used to investigate these hypotheses. The existence of a bias in the allocation of attentional resources and the interpretation of information seems to be confirmed. A memory bias in terms of better retrieval for threat-relevant information appears to depend on specific encoding activities.
Article
Full-text available
This paper considers neurocognitive models of aggression and relates them to explanations of the antisocial personality disorders. Two forms of aggression are distinguished: reactive aggression elicited in response to frustration/threat and goal directed, instrumental aggression. It is argued that different forms of neurocognitive model are necessary to explain the emergence of these different forms of aggression. Impairments in executive emotional systems (the somatic marker system or the social response reversal system) are related to reactive aggression shown by patients with "acquired sociopathy" due to orbitofrontal cortex lesions. Impairment in the capacity to form associations between emotional unconditioned stimuli, particularly distress cues, and conditioned stimuli (the violence inhibition mechanism model) is related to the instrumental aggression shown by persons with developmental psychopathy.
Article
Full-text available
This paper attempts, based on a review of a wide range of clinical, biobehavioral and neuroanatomical studies, to account for the various theory of mind impairments observed in psychiatric and developmental disorders in a single neurobiological model. The proposed model is composed of a representational component subserved by posterior brain regions (temporal and parietal) and an application/execution component subserved by prefrontal regions. Information processed in posterior regions is relayed through a limbic-paralimbic system, which is essential for the implementation of theory of mind processes. In addition to its clinical implications, the proposed model accounts for (1) the ability to mentalize about both the self and others, (2) the nature of the anatomic connections of the various brain regions and their functional correlates, and (3) theories pertaining to the inferencing mechanisms used during mental representation/attribution.
Article
Full-text available
A better understanding of the neural basis of social cognition including mindreading (or theory of mind) and empathy might help to explain some deficits in social functioning in people with schizophrenia. Our aim was to review neuroimaging and neuropsychological studies on social cognition, as they may shed light on the neural mechanisms of social cognition and its dysfunction in patients with schizophrenia. A selective literature review was undertaken. Neuroimaging and neuropsychological studies suggest convergence upon specific networks for mindreading and empathy (the temporal cortex, amygdala and the prefrontal cortex). The frontal lobe is likely to play a central role in enabling social cognition, but mindreading and empathic abilities may require relatively different weighting of subcomponents within the same frontal-temporal social cognition network. Disturbances in social cognition may represent an abnormal interaction between frontal lobe and its functionally connected cortical and subcortical areas. Future studies should seek to explore the heterogeneity of social dysfunction within schizophrenia.
Article
Full-text available
An explication of the neural substrates for social perception is an important component in the emerging field of social cognitive neuroscience and is relevant to the field of cognitive neuroscience as a whole. Prior studies from our laboratory have demonstrated that passive viewing of biological motion (Pelphrey, Mitchell, et al., 2003; Puce et al., 1998) activates the posterior superior temporal sulcus (STS ) region. Furthermore, recent evidence has shown that the perceived context of observed gaze shifts (Pelphrey, Singerman, et al., 2003; Pelphrey et al., 2004) modulates STS activity. Here, using event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging at 4 T, we investigated brain activity in response to passive viewing of goal- and nongoal-directed reaching-to-grasp movements. Participants viewed an animated character making reaching-to-grasp movements either toward (correct) or away (incorrect) from a blinking dial. Both conditions evoked significant posterior STS activity that was strongly right lateralized. By examining the time course of the blood oxygenation level-dependent response from areas of activation, we observed a functional dissociation. Incorrect trials evoked significantly greater activity in the STS than did correct trials, while an area posterior and inferior to the STS (likely corresponding to the MT/ V5 complex) responded equally to correct and incorrect movements. Parietal cortical regions, including the superior parietal lobule and the anterior intraparietal sulcus, also responded equally to correct and incorrect movements, but showed evidence for differential responding based on the hand and arm (left or right) of the animated character used to make the reaching-to-grasp movement. The results of this study further suggest that a region of the right posterior STS is involved in analyzing the intentions of other people's actions and that activity in this region is sensitive to the context of observed biological motions.
Article
Full-text available
Empathizing is the capacity to predict and to respond to the behavior of agents (usually people) by inferring their mental states and responding to these with an appropriate emotion. Systemizing is the capacity to predict and to respond to the behavior of nonagentive deterministic systems by analyzing input-operation-output relations and inferring the rules that govern such systems. At a population level, females are stronger empathizers and males are stronger systemizers. The “extreme male brain” theory posits that autism represents an extreme of the male pattern (impaired empathizing and enhanced systemizing). Here we suggest that specific aspects of autistic neuroanatomy may also be extremes of typical male neuroanatomy.
Book
Empathy has long been a topic of interest to psychologists, but it has been studied in a sometimes bewildering number of ways. In this volume, Mark Davis offers a thorough, evenhanded review of contemporary empathy research, especially work that has been carried out by social and personality psychologists.Davis' approach is explicitly multidimensional. He draws careful distinctions between situational and dispositional “antecedents” of empathy, cognitive and noncognitive “internal processes,” affective and nonaffective “intrapersonal outcomes,” and the “interpersonal behavioral outcomes” that follow. Davis presents a novel organizational model to help classify and interpret previous findings. This book will be of value in advanced undergraduate and graduate courses on altruism, helping, nad moral development.
Article
To facilitate a multidimensional approach to empathy the Interpersonal Reactivity Index (IRI) includes 4 subscales: Perspective-Taking (PT) Fantasy (FS) Empathic Concern (EC) and Personal Distress (PD). The aim of the present study was to establish the convergent and discriminant validity of these 4 subscales. Hypothesized relationships among the IRI subscales between the subscales and measures of other psychological constructs (social functioning self-esteem emotionality and sensitivity to others) and between the subscales and extant empathy measures were examined. Study subjects included 677 male and 667 female students enrolled in undergraduate psychology classes at the University of Texas. The IRI scales not only exhibited the predicted relationships among themselves but also were related in the expected manner to other measures. Higher PT scores were consistently associated with better social functioning and higher self-esteem; in contrast Fantasy scores were unrelated to these 2 characteristics. High EC scores were positively associated with shyness and anxiety but negatively linked to egotism. The most substantial relationships in the study involved the PD scale. PD scores were strongly linked with low self-esteem and poor interpersonal functioning as well as a constellation of vulnerability uncertainty and fearfulness. These findings support a multidimensional approach to empathy by providing evidence that the 4 qualities tapped by the IRI are indeed separate constructs each related in specific ways to other psychological measures.
Article
A series of experiments was conducted to assess the influence of self-directed attention on the ability to take another's perspective. In Experiment 1 subjects who listened to a recording of their own voice were better able to orient themselves to the perspective of another than were subjects in a control group. However, the presence of concern about a potentially negative aspect of the self eliminated the positive relationship between self-directed attention and other orientation. Experiment 2, with the same experimental conditions as in Experiment 1, investigated the relationship between self-focused attention and selfattribution for a group product. The results indicated that self-awareness lessened the tendency of subjects within a group to “overattribute” responsibility for the group product to oneself. Again, self-focused attention did not improve self-other differentiation when subjects were concerned about a potentially negative aspect of the self. A final experiment (3) was a conceptual replication of Experiment 1, using a different perspective-taking measure and a different method of inducing self-focus.
Article
The cognition that constructs mental features such as intention, disposition, and character is an aspect of theory of mind. This aspect of representation of minds, which inherently has valence, is viewed from cognitive, evolutionary, and neural perspectives. It is proposed that this cognition is modular, and that it normally operates in association with a valence-free cognition able to represent mental states such as belief. Examples of neural activity capable of supporting the social representations macaque monkeys are believed to possess (understanding of affective displays, purposeful movement, and elemental social interactions) are presented.
Article
Self-awareness theory assumes that individuals direct their attention outward or back on themselves as a function of characteristics of the situation. Taking this theory literally, it was hypothesized that Ss taking a self-focused perspective would draw a capital letter E on their forehead such that the E would be oriented for the external perspective of an observer. Ss' whose attention was directed outward would draw an E that would appear backward to another person. As hypothesized, in 3 experiments with 175 female undergraduates, Ss in high self-focus conditions significantly more often than low self-focus Ss drew an E on their forehead oriented toward the perspective of an outside observer, even though they believed they could not be observed by anyone else. Self-focus was induced using a video camera placed either to the side of the S (Exp I) or behind the S (Exp II), where it could not record how the E was drawn. In Exp III, an audiotape recorder was used to induce self-focused attention. The results demonstrate that an external, reflexive visual perspective could be induced by an auditory self-focusing manipulation. Furthermore, in Exp III, when situationally induced self-focus was low, Ss who were high in public self-consciousness (as measured by the Self-Consciousness Scale) were more likely to draw the E from an external perspective than were Ss low in public self-consciousness. Degree of private self-consciousness was unrelated to perspective taking. (13 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
Article
It has been suggested that social phobia may be characterized by two interpretation biases. First, a tendency to interpret ambiguous social events in a negative fashion. Second, a tendency to interpret unambiguous but mildly negative social events in a catastrophic fashion. To assess this possibility, patients with generalized social phobia, equally anxious patients with another anxiety disorder, and non-patient controls were presented with ambiguous scenarios depicting social and non-social events, and with unambiguous scenarios depicting mildly negative social events. Interpretations were assessed by participants' answers to open-ended questions and by their rankings and belief ratings for experimenter-provided, alternative explanations. Compared to both control groups, patients with generalized social phobia were more likely to interpret ambiguous social events in a negative fashion and to catastrophize in response to unambiguous, mildly negative social events.
Article
This review critically discusses the empirical evidence for information-processing biases in social phobia. Distortions in attention, interpretation, and memory processes are analyzed as they apply to individuals with social phobia. The literature provides evidence for a specific attentional bias towards socially threatening stimuli and a specific interpretational/judgment bias towards self-relevant social information. However, there is little evidence to suggest that social phobia is associated with a memory bias for socially threatening stimuli. Furthermore, the relationship between the empirical evidence from information processing studies and the cognitive model of social phobia by Clark and Wells (1995) will be discussed.
Article
The development of a 21-item self-report inventory for measuring the severity of anxiety in psychiatric populations is described. The initial item pool of 86 items was drawn from three preexisting scales: the Anxiety Checklist, the Physician’s Desk Reference Checklist, and the Situational Anxiety Checklist. A series of analyses was used to reduce the item pool. The resulting Beck Anxiety Inventory (BAI) is a 21-item scale that showed high internal consistency (α = .92) and test—retest reliability over 1 week, r (81) = .75. The BAI discriminated anxious diagnostic groups (panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, etc.) from nonanxious diagnostic groups (major depression, dysthymic disorder, etc). In addition, the BAI was moderately correlated with the revised Hamilton Anxiety Rating Scale, r (150) = .51, and was only mildly correlated with the revised Hamilton Depression Rating Scale, r (153) = .25.
Article
A new class of visuomotor neuron has been recently discovered in the monkey's premotor cortex: mirror neurons. These neurons respond both when a particular action is performed by the recorded monkey and when the same action, performed by another individual, is observed. Mirror neurons appear to form a cortical system matching observation and execution of goal-related motor actions. Experimental evidence suggests that a similar matching system also exists in humans. What might be the functional role of this matching system? One possible function is to enable an organism to detect certain mental states of observed conspecifics. This function might be part of, or a precursor to, a more general mind-reading ability. Two different accounts of mind-reading have been suggested. According to `theory theory', mental states are represented as inferred posits of a naive theory. According to `simulation theory', other people's mental states are represented by adopting their perspective: by tracking or matching their states with resonant states of one's own. The activity of mirror neurons, and the fact that observers undergo motor facilitation in the same muscular groups as those utilized by target agents, are findings that accord well with simulation theory but would not be predicted by theory theory.
Article
An adult chimpanzee was shown videotaped scenes of a human actor struggling with one of eight problems and was then shown two photographs, one of which depicted an action or an object (or both) that could constitute a solution to the problem. On seven of the eight problems, the animal consistently chose the correct photograph. This test problem-solving comprehension permits the animal's knowledge about problem-solving--its ability to infer the nature of problems and to recognize potential solutions to them--to be examined.
Article
The current paper presents a model of the experience of anxiety in social/evaluative situations in people with social phobia. The model describes the manner in which people with social phobia perceive and process information related to potential evaluation and the way in which these processes differ between people high and low in social anxiety. It is argued that distortions and biases in the processing of social/evaluative information lead to heightened anxiety in social situations and, in turn, help to maintain social phobia. Potential etiological factors as well as treatment implications are also discussed.
Article
This study explored perspective taking in social phobics' images of past anxiety-provoking social situations and non-social situations. For images of social situations, social phobics were significantly more likely than non-patient controls to take an observer perspective, viewing themselves as if from an external point of view. In contrast, social phobics and controls did not differ in the perspective taken in images of non-social situations, which were generally viewed from a field perspective (seeing the situation as if looking out through their own eyes). The clinical significance of these findings is briefly discussed.
Article
Clark and Wells' (1995): 'A cognitive model of social phobia'. In Social phobia: Diagnosis, assessment, and treatment (pp. 69-93), R. G. Heimberg, M. R. Liebowitz, D. A. & F. R. Hope (eds.); cognitive model of social phobia proposes that social phobics generate a negative impression of how they appear to others. This impression often occurs in the form of an image from an "observer" perspective in which social phobics can see themselves as if from another person's vantage point. This study investigated the specificity of the observer perspective among patients with social phobia, agoraphobia, and blood/injury phobia. All participants were asked to recall and imagine a recent anxiety-provoking social situation and a non-social/non-anxiety-provoking situation, and rate their perspective for each. Consistent with predictions only patients with social-evaluative concerns (social phobics and agoraphobics) reported observer perspectives for anxiety-provoking social situations. Only social phobics showed a significant shift from an observer to a field perspective across the two conditions. The clinical implications of these findings are briefly discussed.
Article
Modular theory-of-mind accounts attribute poor mentalizing to disruption of a cognitive module dedicated to computing higher-order representations of primary representations (metarepresentations). Since metarepresentational capacity is needed to mentalize about other people's beliefs but is not needed to judge visual perspectives (which can be done by mentally rotating primary representations of seen objects), this view predicts that visual perspective-taking will be intact in individuals with selective mentalizing impairments. Counter to that prediction, this study found evidence of disturbed visual perspective-taking in normal adults who score higher on the personality variable of schizotypy and who are known to be relatively poor mentalizers (despite intact ability to inhibit salient inappropriate information in order to reason consequentially on the basis of hypothetical states, other than mental states). Whereas high-schizotypal adults and low-schizotypal adults did not differ in their ability to judge item questions (asking the relative location of array features), high-schizotypal adults performed more poorly than low-schizotypal adults in judging appearance questions (asking how an array would appear from another perspective) under viewer-rotation instructions (asking subjects to imagine moving themselves relative to a fixed array) and performed better than low-schizotypal adults in judging appearance questions under array-rotation instructions (asking subjects to imagine rotating an array relative to their own fixed viewer position). Based on these and other findings we conclude that poor mentalizing in normal adults is better understood as an impairment of perspective-taking (visual and/or cognitive) and introduce the concept of allocentric simulation to explain the functional basis of this perspective-taking impairment.
Article
Although lack of empathy has been considered a central characteristic of Asperger syndrome, quantitative and qualitative assessments of empathy in this syndrome are lacking. We present two cases of adolescents with Asperger syndrome who show extreme deficits on measures of both cognitive and affective empathy. Analysis of their performance on tasks assessing cognitive and affective processing did not reveal significant impairment in executive functions, nor in their ability to recognize emotions or the ability to create a mental representation of another person's knowledge. However, both patients were unable to integrate the emotional content with mental representations and deduce the other person's emotional state. These results suggest that impaired empathy in individuals with Asperger syndrome may be due to impaired integration of the cognitive and affective facets of the other person's mental state.
Article
Self-focused attention is an awareness of self-referent information and is present in many emotional disorders. This review concentrates on the role of self-focused attention in social anxiety with particular reference to the Clark and Wells [Clark, D. M., & Wells, A. (1995). A cognitive model of social phobia. In R. R. G. Heimberg, M. Liebowitz, D. A. Hope, & S. Scheier (Eds.), Social phobia: diagnosis, assessment and treatment. New York: Guilford.] model of social phobia. According to Clark and Wells, self-focused attention is an important maintaining factor in the disorder because it increases access to negative thoughts and feelings, can interfere with performance, and prevents the individual from observing external information that might disconfirm his or her fears. Clark and Wells also propose that socially phobic individuals construct a distorted impression of themselves, based on internally generated information, that takes the form of a visual image (often seen from the perspective of an observer) or felt sense. This paper describes the model and then reviews other theories of self-focused attention, and empirical evidence on self-focused attention. Two types of evidence are reviewed: one, studies that have been conducted from a variety of theoretical perspectives that have relevance either to social anxiety in general or to the Clark and Wells model in particular; two, studies that were designed as a direct test of Clark and Wells' predictions. The final section of the review summarizes the conclusions and suggests areas for future examination.
Article
We investigated the overall test-retest reliability and other psychometric properties of a self-report version of the Liebowitz Social Anxiety Scale (LSAS) translated into Hebrew. We also evaluated the utility of three new subscales that were identified by nonparametric analysis (multidimensional scaling; MDS). Two hundred and seven patients who sought treatment for social anxiety or panic disorder were evaluated. All patients completed the self-administered version of the LSAS. A subsample completed the LSAS a second time prior to the beginning of treatment. The results indicate that the self-report format of the LSAS translated into Hebrew demonstrates high test-retest reliability, internal consistency, and discriminant validity. Additionally, some evidence for convergent and divergent validity was noted, and treatment sensitivity was high. MDS analysis followed by the investigation of common underlying facets for items related in two-dimensional space identified three subgroups: 1) the Group Performance/Interaction ("Group") subscale that consists of group performance and group interaction items; 2) the Dyadic Interaction ("Dyadic") subscale that consists of Dyadic interaction items; and 3) the Public Activities ("Public") subscale that consists of individual activities carried out in public. The three new subscales identified by MDS appear to provide clinically relevant information that relates to both demographic and treatment outcome variables and warrant further study.
Article
Impaired empathic response has been described in patients following brain injury, suggesting that empathy may be a fundamental aspect of the social behavior disturbed by brain damage. However, the neuroanatomical basis of impaired empathy has not been studied in detail. The empathic response of patients with localized lesions in the prefrontal cortex (n = 25) was compared to responses of patients with posterior (n = 17) and healthy control subjects (n = 19). To examine the cognitive processes that underlie the empathic ability, the relationships between empathy scores and the performance on tasks that assess processes of cognitive flexibility, affect recognition, and theory of mind (TOM) were also examined. Patients with prefrontal lesions, particularly when their damage included the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, were significantly impaired in empathy as compared to patients with posterior lesions and healthy controls. However, among patients with posterior lesions, those with damage to the right hemisphere were impaired, whereas those with left posterior lesions displayed empathy levels similar to healthy controls. Seven of nine patients with the most profound empathy deficit had a right ventromedial lesion. A differential pattern regarding the relationships between empathy and cognitive performance was also found: Whereas among patients with dorsolateral prefrontal damage empathy was related to cognitive flexibility but not to TOM and affect recognition, empathy scores in patients with ventromedial lesions were related to TOM but not to cognitive flexibility. Our findings suggest that prefrontal structures play an important part in a network mediating the empathic response and specifically that the right ventromedial cortex has a unique role in integrating cognition and affect to produce the empathic response.