Presentation Title

The prosocial benefits of not turning away from others’ pain: evidence from event-related potentials

Faculty Mentor

Daniel Berry

Start Date

23-11-2019 10:45 AM

End Date

23-11-2019 11:30 AM

Location

44

Session

poster 4

Type of Presentation

Poster

Subject Area

behavioral_social_sciences

Abstract

Vicarious ostracism—observing another person being excluded—is known to activate neural responses associated with empathy. Empathic responses to vicarious ostracism, however, have been studied through aggregate neural and self-report indicators to date. To this end, we conducted an experiment to understand how empathic event-related potentials (ERPs), electroencephalographic responses time-locked to ostracism events in the present study, change during a social interaction, and whether these ERPs predict helping behavior toward ostracism victims. Scalp-recorded EEG was collected from undergraduates (N=54) while they observed an ostensible person being ostracized in an online ball-tossing game (Cyberball); ERPs were time-locked to the onset of inclusion and exclusion tosses. Results indicated that exclusion throws, relative inclusion throws, increased P300 and late positive potential (LPP) amplitudes. The former is a component of the ERP associated with selective attention, and the latter is associated with emotional reactivity. Thus, exclusion throws were given greater attention and were more emotionally evocative than inclusion throws. Higher amplitude P300 responses predicted lower distress reactivity (i.e., moral outrage) to the ostracism and higher helping behavior toward the victim. Helping behavior was coded as more comforting emails to the ostracism victim. Similarly, higher amplitude P300 responses predicted lower distress reactivity and higher helping behavior. These results are important, as they suggest that not turning away from social pain leads to lower emotional reactivity and higher helping behavior. We discuss the importance of attention in promoting empathy and prosocial behavior.

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Nov 23rd, 10:45 AM Nov 23rd, 11:30 AM

The prosocial benefits of not turning away from others’ pain: evidence from event-related potentials

44

Vicarious ostracism—observing another person being excluded—is known to activate neural responses associated with empathy. Empathic responses to vicarious ostracism, however, have been studied through aggregate neural and self-report indicators to date. To this end, we conducted an experiment to understand how empathic event-related potentials (ERPs), electroencephalographic responses time-locked to ostracism events in the present study, change during a social interaction, and whether these ERPs predict helping behavior toward ostracism victims. Scalp-recorded EEG was collected from undergraduates (N=54) while they observed an ostensible person being ostracized in an online ball-tossing game (Cyberball); ERPs were time-locked to the onset of inclusion and exclusion tosses. Results indicated that exclusion throws, relative inclusion throws, increased P300 and late positive potential (LPP) amplitudes. The former is a component of the ERP associated with selective attention, and the latter is associated with emotional reactivity. Thus, exclusion throws were given greater attention and were more emotionally evocative than inclusion throws. Higher amplitude P300 responses predicted lower distress reactivity (i.e., moral outrage) to the ostracism and higher helping behavior toward the victim. Helping behavior was coded as more comforting emails to the ostracism victim. Similarly, higher amplitude P300 responses predicted lower distress reactivity and higher helping behavior. These results are important, as they suggest that not turning away from social pain leads to lower emotional reactivity and higher helping behavior. We discuss the importance of attention in promoting empathy and prosocial behavior.