Graduation Year


Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



Reader 1

Alan Hartley

Reader 2

Jennifer Ma

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Rights Information

© 2017 Gabriela V Paganini


This study examined the role of attention and trait empathy within the production of neural facial mimicry responses that have been previously found to be associated with the experience of empathy. More specifically, do people who have high trait empathy levels require less attention to emotional information in order to still exhibit these physiological responses than people who have lower trait empathy levels? It has previously been demonstrated that responses in the zygomaticus and corrugator muscles have been associated with the experience of empathy. College aged participants were shown series of happy, angry, and neutral faces with the amount of attention allocated to the emotional information of the faces manipulated. It was predicted that the level of attention directed at the emotional faces would affect the level of these physiological empathetic responses. Attention directed at the emotional content of the photos was shown to elicit higher activations of these physiological responses than when participants’ attention was directed at another characteristic of the stimuli, gender, but trait empathy was not shown to significantly moderate the relationship between these physiological responses and the level of attention directed at the emotional information.