ISSN 0439-755X
CN 11-1911/B

心理学报 ›› 2022, Vol. 54 ›› Issue (4): 385-397.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1041.2022.00385

• 研究报告 • 上一篇    下一篇


何怡娟, 胡馨木, 买晓琴()   

  1. 中国人民大学心理学系, 北京 100872
  • 收稿日期:2021-04-15 出版日期:2022-04-25 发布日期:2022-02-21
  • 通讯作者: 买晓琴
  • 基金资助:

Influence of empathic concern on fairness-related decision making: Evidence from ERP

HE Yijuan, HU Xinmu, MAI Xiaoqin()   

  1. Department of Psychology, Renmin University of China, Beijing 100872, China
  • Received:2021-04-15 Online:2022-04-25 Published:2022-02-21
  • Contact: MAI Xiaoqin


本研究运用事件相关电位技术(event-related potential, ERP)和最后通牒博弈范式(ultimatum game, UG)考察了共情关怀对公平决策的影响。实验采用2 (状态共情关怀: 有共情关怀vs.无共情关怀) × 3 (分配公平性: 公平vs.劣势不公平vs.优势不公平)被试内设计, 共37名被试参与实验, 被试作为响应者选择是否接受提议者的分配提议。行为结果显示劣势不公平条件下, 有共情情境的接受率高于无共情情境; 优势不公平条件下呈现相反的结果。ERP结果显示: 对于他人提出的优势不公平提议, 无共情情境较有共情情境下诱发了更负的前部N1 (anterior N1, AN1), 有共情情境比无共情情境下诱发了更大的P2波幅; 有共情情境下, 他人提出的劣势不公平提议较优势不公平和公平提议诱发了更负的内侧额叶负波(medial frontal negativity, MFN); P3在公平条件下的波幅较劣势不公平条件下更大, 并未受到共情关怀的调节。这些结果表明共情关怀不仅调节了公平决策行为, 还调节了公平加工的早期注意和动机及之后的认知和情绪加工, 但由P3表征的高级认知过程仅受到公平性的调节而不受共情水平的影响。

关键词: 公平决策, 共情关怀, AN1, P2, MFN


Recipients often reject unfair offers at the cost of their own interests in ultimatum games (UGs), reflecting their fairness preference. Yet fairness preference is not invariable. It is affected by various factors, among which empathy plays an important role. Individuals might, for example, sacrifice own interests to help others in need. This kind of behavior not only is contrary to the pursuit of self-interest maximization but also violates fairness principles. As individuals are not only concerned about fairness but also care for others, this study focuses on managing the relationship between the two potentially conflicting goals. We explored individuals’ behaviors and time dynamic processes of brain activities when fairness conflicted with empathy. It was hypothesized that empathy could modulate fairness-related decision making behaviors and ERPs.
Thirty-seven college students (26 females, 21.00 ± 2.07 years) participated in this study and completed multiple ultimatum games. EEG signals were recorded during play. In the task, the proposers were underprivileged students (empathy condition) and ordinary children (non-empathy condition). Each proposer distributed 10 yuan between themself and one recipient. The participants played as recipients who would choose to accept or reject distribution offers (fair, disadvantageous unfair, advantageous unfair) by the proposers. The proposers and recipients would get the assigned money only if participants accepted the distribution offers. They received nothing if participants rejected the offer.
The behavioral results showed that the acceptance rate in the empathy condition was greater than that in the non-empathy condition for the disadvantageous unfair condition, while the opposite result occurred in the advantageous unfair condition. The EEG results showed that in the non-empathy condition, the advantageous unfair offer induced more negative anterior N1 (AN1) than it did in the empathy condition, but there was no difference between the disadvantageous unfair versus fair conditions. In the advantageous unfair condition, the P2 amplitude of the empathy condition was significantly more positive than that for the non-empathy condition, while in the disadvantageous unfair condition, P2 amplitude of the non-empathy condition was slightly positive than that of the empathy condition. The disadvantageous unfair offer induced more negative medial frontal negativity (MFN) in the empathy condition, while no difference was found between fair versus unfair offers in the non-empathy condition. Additionally, the amplitude of P3 was larger in the fair versus the unfair conditions as it was not modulated by empathy.
These findings suggest that experimentally-induced state empathy modulates fairness-related decision making behaviors and accompanying neural activity. Behavioral results indicate that state empathy takes priority in guiding people's behavior when it conflicts with the fairness criterion. For EEG results, empathy mainly modulates the early stage of the fairness concern and affects early attention and motivation as well as cognition and emotion. In later stages, the higher cognitive process represented by P3 is modulated only by fairness, not empathy. In conclusion, our study systematically explored and compared behavior patterns of fairness processing with temporal dynamic characteristics of brain activities by modulating empathy. The findings provide further insight into fairness-related decision making behaviors. They indicate the potential to influence individuals’ behaviors and cognition by manipulating empathy.

Key words: fairness-related decision making, empathic concern, AN1, P2, MFN