Empathy Is Associated With Dynamic Change in Prefrontal Brain Electrical Activity During Positive Emotion in Children

Abstract

Empathy is the combined ability to interpret the emotional states of others and experience resultant, related emotions. The relation between prefrontal electroencephalographic asymmetry and emotion in children is well known. The association between positive emotion (assessed via parent report), empathy (measured via observation), and second-by-second brain electrical activity (recorded during a pleasurable task) was investigated using a sample of one hundred twenty-eight 6- to 10-year-old children. Contentment related to increasing left frontopolar activation (p < .05). Empathic concern and positive empathy related to increasing right frontopolar activation (ps < .05). A second form of positive empathy related to increasing left dorsolateral activation (p < .05). This suggests that positive affect and (negative and positive) empathy both relate to changes in prefrontal activity during a pleasurable task.

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