IntroductionEmpathy is an interpersonal experience that enables understanding of other's emotions and can lead to altruistic behavior such as blood donation. Cognitive theories of empathy refer to selective attention as one of its cognitive dimensions. The current study examined if individuals who engage in altruistic behavior are characterized by a distinct pattern of selective attention to observation of pain in others. MethodsWe recruited 50 volunteer blood donors. Half (n = 25) of the volunteers donated for a self-declared altruistic reason, and the other half of the volunteers donated blood for a health-related reason. We assessed the individuals' self-reported empathy with the Interpersonal Reactivity Index (IRI). We then measured the individuals' selective attention toward faces expressing pain in a pictorial dot-probe task. ResultsConsistent with the proposed hypothesis, participants who donated blood out of altruism reported significantly higher empathic concern on the IRI than those who donated blood for a health-related reason. The altruistic donors also showed significantly greater selective attention toward facial expressions of pain. Moreover, among all donors, self-report empathic concern on the IRI was significantly correlated with greater selective attention toward faces expressing pain. DiscussionThese findings suggest that altruistic individuals not only show higher levels of empathy, but also attend more to the pain of others. Limitations, implications, and suggestions for future research are discussed.
|Number of pages||7|
|Journal||Brain and Behavior|
|Early online date||1 Dec 2022|
|Publication status||Published - Jan 2023|