ISSN 0439-755X
CN 11-1911/B

Acta Psychologica Sinica ›› 2021, Vol. 53 ›› Issue (6): 629-638.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1041.2021.00629

• Reports of Empirical Studies • Previous Articles     Next Articles

The relationship between dispositional self-construal and empathy for ingroup and outgroup members’ pain: evidence from ERPs

CHEN Jie1,2(), WU Ke1,2, SHI Yupeng1,2(), AI Xiaoqing3   

  1. 1School of Educational Science, Hunan Normal University, Changsha 410081, China
    2Cognition and Human Behavior Key Laboratory of Hunan Province, Changsha 410081, China
    3School of Economics and Management, Beijing University of Technology, Beijing 100124, China
  • Received:2020-11-02 Published:2021-06-25 Online:2021-05-12
  • Supported by:
    National Natural Science Foundation of China(NSFC31771240);Hunan Provincial Fund for Philosophy and Social Sciences(15YBA263);Foundation of Education Department of Hunan Province of China(18A036)


Previous studies have found that temporary shifts in self-construals modulate neural correlates of empathy for pain. The present study aimed to investigate the relationship between the dispositional self-construal and empathic neural responses to ingroup and outgroup members’ pain. Using a priming paradigm, event-related potentials were recorded for pictures depicting the faces in painful or no-painful situations while subjects performed a pain judgment task. The results showed a significant ingroup bias in empathy in the early N2 component where painful stimuli elicited a greater negative shift relative to non-painful stimuli in response to ingroup members’ pain only. It suggests that group factors influence automatic emotion sharing stage of pain empathy. Regardless of whether it is ingroup priming or outgroup priming, the painful picture evoked greater P3 amplitudes than the non-painful picture. More importantly, there were significantly positive correlations between self-construal scores (interdependence minus independence scores) and P3 amplitudes induced by ingroup or outgroup pain empathy (painful minus non-painful conditions), but their correlation coefficients were similar. This finding suggests that trait self-construal is closely related to the late cognitive appraisal process in pain empathy, and the degree of correlation was similar between internal and external group conditions.

Key words: pain empathy, dispositional self-construal, ingroup, event-related potentials, N2, P3