Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment (Jun 2017)

Study of the combinatorial impact of empathy and emotion on the processing of conflicts of interest with the event-related potential technique

  • He XL,
  • Zhang N

Journal volume & issue
Vol. Volume 13
pp. 1713 – 1721


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Xiaoli He,1 Ni Zhang2 1Department of Psychology, Ningxia University, Yinchuan, 2Center of Mental Health Education for College Students, Weifang Medical University, Weifang, China Objectives: Studies have found that empathy is important in moral development and violence suppression, and emotion also affects empathy. However, the combinatorial effect of emotion and empathy on the processing of conflicts is not known.Materials and methods: A total of 44 undergraduate students (23 in low-empathy group and 21 in high-empathy group) were enrolled in this study. They were subjected to positive, negative, and neutral emotion evoking, as well as conflicting or nonconflicting proposals. Event-related potential technology was used to study the combinatorial effects of empathy and emotion on the processing of conflict of interest.Results: We found that under the influence of a positive emotion, both low- and high-empathy groups exhibited lower rejection rates. In the context of conflict, individuals in the high-empathy group showed fewer refusals under positive emotion. In the low-empathy group, there was no significant difference between responses to different emotions, but conflicting proposals induced more negative medial frontal negativity than nonconflicting proposals. Individuals in the low-empathy group showed different late positive potentials when responding to different types of proposals under both neutral and negative emotions, whereas those in the high-empathy group only showed different late positive potentials responding to different types of proposals under negative emotion.Conclusion: Our results indicate that under positive emotion, individuals with low empathy show less difference in processing either conflicting or nonconflicting proposals, whereas under negative emotion, individuals with high empathy show enhanced motivation toward nonconflicting proposals. Keywords: empathy, conflicts of interest, emotion, event-related potential, late positive potentials, medial frontal negativity