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Pascaline Mugiraneza Munezero, Olivia Stibolt, Kendall Stewart, Jane Song, Thalia Viranda, Christopher Cotter, Cindy M. Bukach; A Quick Read: Affective Empathy Reduces the Time to Recognize Identity in Video Morphs. Journal of Vision 2019;19(10):156a. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/19.10.156a.
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Empathy is associated with better emotion detection, and studies suggest that this relationship is due to affective rather than cognitive aspects of empathy (Gery, et al., 2009; Balconi, M. & Canavesio, Y., 2014). The ability to recognize emotional expressions is also associated with face recognition (Biotti & Cook, 2016). Further, facial expressions influence identity recognition (Chen at al., 2015). However, there is little current evidence that empathy modulates identity recognition: using the Interpersonal Reactivity Index, our prior study showed that empathy modulated recognition of anger and fear, but not identity. Here, we use the Questionnaire of Cognitive and Affective Empathy (QCAE) to further investigate the relationship between empathy and recognition of facial expression and identity. QCAE measures affective (sharing emotional experience) and cognitive (understanding emotional experience) components of empathy (Reniers et al., 2011). In addition to the QCAE, participants (N = 56) completed identity and emotion recognition tasks by stopping morphed videos as soon as they could recognize the identity or emotion (happy, sad, angry, or fearful) of the model. They then selected the appropriate response in a forced-choice task. Contrary to expectations, neither affective nor cognitive empathy was associated with expression recognition. Others also have failed to find an association with QCAE and expression recognition (Girolamo et al., 2017). Surprisingly, in our current study, high scores on affective empathy were associated with quicker video stop times for identity judgment (r = −0.264, p = 0.05). The faster video-stop time for participants who score high on affective empathy can be explained either by more skillful processing of facial information, or increased self-efficacy.
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