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

Authors He XL, Zhang N

Received 8 October 2016

Accepted for publication 20 April 2017

Published 29 June 2017 Volume 2017:13 Pages 1713—1721

DOI https://doi.org/10.2147/NDT.S124224

Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewers approved by Prof. Dr. Roumen Kirov

Peer reviewer comments 4

Editor who approved publication: Professor Wai Kwong Tang


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

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