The psychophysiological measurement of empathy
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Empathy is a multifaceted construct that has traditionally been studied using selfreport measures. The field of psychophysiology is increasingly offering additional measurement techniques to objectively record changes associated with empathy in the central and autonomic nervous system. The present chapter will review what can be gained by studying empathy using psychophysiological methods such as neuroimaging, electroencephalogram (EEG), facial electromyographic activity (EMG), startle blink reflexes, skin conductance responding, and heart rate. These psychophysiological measurements are particularly well suited to studying (a) the mimicry of facial expressions, (b) emotional contagion and the mirror neuron system, (c) correlates between nervous system changes and self-report measures of empathy, and (d) empathy in special populations. Moreover, psychophysiological measures may offer more objectivity than self-report measures and can be used in individuals for whom self-report measures may be unreliable or unsuitable (e.g., children). Future research using a multimethod approach combining self-report, behavioural, and psychophysiological measurements has the potential to significantly broaden and advance our understanding of empathy.
Psychology of Empathy
Copyright 2011 Nova Science Publishers Inc. This is the author-manuscript version of this paper. It is reproduced here in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher. Please refer to the publisher’s website for further information.
Biological Psychology (Neuropsychology, Psychopharmacology, Physiological Psychology)