Working memory capacity of biological movements predicts empathy traits

Zaifeng Gao, Tian Ye, Mowei Shen*, Anat Perry

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations

Abstract

Working memory (WM) and empathy are core issues in cognitive and social science, respectively. However, no study so far has explored the relationship between these two constructs. Considering that empathy takes place based on the others’ observed experiences, which requires extracting the observed dynamic scene into WM and forming a coherent representation, we hypothesized that a sub-type of WM capacity, i.e., WM for biological movements (BM), should predict one’s empathy level. Therefore, WM capacity was measured for three distinct types of stimuli in a change detection task: BM of human beings (BM; Experiment 1), movements of rectangles (Experiment 2), and static colors (Experiment 3). The first two stimuli were dynamic and shared one WM buffer which differed from the WM buffer for colors; yet only the BM conveyed social information. We found that BM-WM capacity was positively correlated with both cognitive and emotional empathy, with no such correlations for WM capacity of movements of rectangles or of colors. Thus, the current study is the first to provide evidence linking a specific buffer of WM and empathy, and highlights the necessity for considering different WM capacities in future social and clinical research.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)468-475
Number of pages8
JournalPsychonomic Bulletin and Review
Volume23
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Apr 2016
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015, Psychonomic Society, Inc.

Keywords

  • Social cognition
  • Visual working memory
  • Working memory

Fingerprint

Dive into the research topics of 'Working memory capacity of biological movements predicts empathy traits'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this