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Are we ‘in sync’?

Physiological synchronization: does it influence the empathy for one another?

Psychophysiology Research Project | 6 months

Department of Industrial Engineering & Innovation Sciences, University of Technology Eindhoven, NL

Team: Dominique Peeters, Jeroen Krukkert, Wei-Hsi Lin

Supervisors: Prof. Dr. J.H.D.M. Westerink, MSc M. A. Feijt 

Skills: Experiment Design, Data Analysis (STATA), C++

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Abstract

This research provides an insight into the relationship between physiological synchrony (PS) and empathy, as well as the influence of presenting PS as feedback on empathy. Using a combination of experimental procedures used in previous studies, this study attempts to resolve inconsistent findings regarding PS-empathy relationship. Synchronization of Heart Rate (HR) were measured in a between-dyad design. The PS was measured while the participants were subjected to an emotion-evoking video either with or without real-time feedback in the form of a colored border around the video. Empathy and social connectedness were measured by a self-reported questionnaire. Regression on data from 105 participants show a significant positive correlation between PS and empathy for participant dyads that were in the feedback condition and that did not know each other (r(47) = .41, p < .01), whereas the correlation that includes participants in both feedback and no-feedback condition is not statistically significant. Another moderated regression of empathy on PS with PS feedback as the moderator indicates that feedback has a negative correlation with empathy (B2 = -0.20, t(104) = -2.44, p = .02), and it has a significant moderating effect (B3 = 0.86, t(104) = 2.77, p = .01). Additionally, PS score significantly predicted empathy in the feedback condition (B1 = 0.70, t(48) = 3.04, p < .01). Results from this study can be implicated in computer-mediated communication, where providing PS feedback can lead to an increased empathy and possibly resolve a part of the lack of non-verbal cues.

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