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Interpersonal interactions and empathy modulate perception of threat and defensive responses

Fossataro, C; Sambo, CF; Garbarini, F; Iannetti, GD; (2016) Interpersonal interactions and empathy modulate perception of threat and defensive responses. Scientific Reports , 6 , Article 19353. 10.1038/srep19353. Green open access

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Abstract

The defensive peripersonal space (DPPS) is a vital "safety margin" surrounding the body. When a threatening stimulus is delivered inside the DPPS, subcortical defensive responses like the hand-blink reflex (HBR) are adjusted depending on the perceived threat content. In three experiments, we explored whether and how defensive responses are affected by the interpersonal interaction within the DPPS of the face. In Experiment 1, we found that the HBR is enhanced when the threat is brought close to the face not only by one's own stimulated hand, but also by another person's hand, although to a significantly lesser extent. In Experiments 2 and 3, we found that the HBR is also enhanced when the hand of the participant enters the DPPS of another individual, either in egocentric or in allocentric perspective. This enhancement is larger in participants with strong empathic tendency when the other individual is in a third person perspective. These results indicate that interpersonal interactions shape perception of threat and defensive responses. These effects are particularly evident in individuals with greater tendency to having empathic concern to other people.

Type: Article
Title: Interpersonal interactions and empathy modulate perception of threat and defensive responses
Location: England
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1038/srep19353
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/srep19353
Language: English
Additional information: This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons license, unless indicated otherwise in the credit line; if the material is not included under the Creative Commons license, users will need to obtain permission from the license holder to reproduce the material. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Life Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Life Sciences > Div of Biosciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Life Sciences > Div of Biosciences > Neuro, Physiology and Pharmacology
URI: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1485675
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