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Inhibition of personally-relevant angry faces moderates the effect of empathy on interpersonal functioning

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Inhibition of personally-relevant angry faces moderates the effect of empathy on interpersonal functioning

Iacono, Vanessa (2013) Inhibition of personally-relevant angry faces moderates the effect of empathy on interpersonal functioning. Masters thesis, Concordia University.

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Abstract

Empathy has been linked to the accurate perception and understanding of another’s emotions. As such, empathy is typically assumed to promote effective social interactions. However, empathy can sometimes hinder interpersonal functioning when it is unrestrained and overgeneralized. In the present study, we sought to examine whether cognitive inhibition would moderate the effect of empathy on the quality of social functioning both concurrently and over time. Eighty healthy young adults (ages 18-32; 50 females) underwent two assessments six months apart. Participants’ ability to suppress interference from distracting emotional stimuli was assessed using a Negative Affective Priming Task that included both generic and personally-relevant facial expressions of emotion (i.e., anger, sadness, and happiness). The UCLA Life Stress Interview and Empathy Quotient were administered as measures of interpersonal functioning and trait empathy respectively. Multilevel modeling demonstrated that higher empathy was associated with better concurrent interpersonal outcomes, but only for those who were able to successfully inhibit the distracting personally-relevant depictions of anger (b = -.555, SE = .206, t(75) = -2.691, p =. 007). These data suggest that cognitive inhibition might be necessary to restrain excessive empathizing with others and ensure adaptive social functioning. Implications regarding our understanding of empathy and the social skills deficits that characterize certain clinical populations (i.e., depression) are discussed.

Divisions:Concordia University > Faculty of Arts and Science > Psychology
Item Type:Thesis (Masters)
Authors:Iacono, Vanessa
Institution:Concordia University
Degree Name:M.A.
Program:Psychology
Date:1 February 2013
Thesis Supervisor(s):Ellenbogen, Mark
ID Code:977873
Deposited By: VANESSA IACONO
Deposited On:26 Nov 2013 15:22
Last Modified:27 Mar 2018 15:56
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