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Behavioural and neurobiological foundations of vicarious processing

Lockwood, PL; (2015) Behavioural and neurobiological foundations of vicarious processing. Doctoral thesis , UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

Empathy can be broadly defined as the ability to vicariously experience and to understand the affect of other people. This thesis will argue that such a capacity for vicarious processing is fundamental for successful social-cognitive ability and behaviour. To this end, four outstanding research questions regarding the behavioural and neural basis of empathy are addressed 1) can empathy be dissected into different components and do these components differentially explain individual differences in social functioning? [Chapter 2] 2) how does empathy relate to trait prosocial behaviour and do additional trait constructs moderate the association between empathy and prosocial behaviour? [Chapter 3] 3) how does the brain represent vicarious information, and does this vary dependent on individual differences in typical and atypical empathy? [Chapters 4-5] 4) what are the behavioural and neural mechanisms that link empathy to prosocial behaviour? [Chapter 6] The findings of this thesis suggest that: 1) specific components of empathy have distinct associations with different kinds of disrupted trait social-cognitive ability 2) specific components of empathy are positively associated with trait prosocial behaviour and individual differences in the capacity to regulate one’s own emotions moderates the strength with which empathy relates to trait prosocial behaviour 3) anterior cingulate cortex function may be critical in the perception of vicarious information, including pain and reward processing; and individual differences in anterior cingulate cortex function during pain and reward processing relates to individual differences in empathy and 4) empathy is important for prosocial decision making and underpins the neural computations that signal outcomes for others that are different from our expectations. Together, these findings contribute to a more complete and coherent understanding of the structure, function and neural basis of empathic/vicarious processing.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: Behavioural and neurobiological foundations of vicarious processing
Event: University College London
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
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 Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1471918
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