Empathy for positive and negative emotions in social anxiety disorder

Amanda S. Morrison, Maria A. Mateen, Faith A. Brozovich, Jamil Zaki, Philip R Goldin, Richard G. Heimberg, James J. Gross

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

24 Scopus citations

Abstract

Social anxiety disorder (SAD) is associated with elevated negative and diminished positive affective experience. However, little is known about the way in which individuals with SAD perceive and respond emotionally to the naturally-unfolding negative and positive emotions of others, that is, cognitive empathy and affective empathy, respectively. In the present study, participants with generalized SAD (n = 32) and demographically-matched healthy controls (HCs; n = 32) completed a behavioral empathy task. Cognitive empathy was indexed by the correlation between targets’ and participants’ continuous ratings of targets’ emotions, whereas affective empathy was indexed by the correlation between targets’ and participants’ continuous self-ratings of emotion. Individuals with SAD differed from HCs only in positive affective empathy: they were less able to vicariously share others’ positive emotions. Mediation analyses revealed that poor emotional clarity and negative interpersonal perceptions among those with SAD might account for this finding. Future research using experimental methodology is needed to examine whether this finding represents an inability or unwillingness to share positive affect.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)232-242
Number of pages11
JournalBehaviour Research and Therapy
Volume87
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 1 2016

Keywords

  • Affect sharing
  • Empathy
  • Mentalizing
  • Social anxiety disorder

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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  • Cite this

    Morrison, A. S., Mateen, M. A., Brozovich, F. A., Zaki, J., Goldin, P. R., Heimberg, R. G., & Gross, J. J. (2016). Empathy for positive and negative emotions in social anxiety disorder. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 87, 232-242. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.brat.2016.10.005