Vicarious pain while observing another in pain: an experimental approach

Vandenbroucke, S.; Crombez, G.; Van Ryckeghem, D. M. L.; Brass, M.; Damme, S. Van; Goubert, L.
June 2013
Frontiers in Human Neuroscience;Jun2013, Vol. 7, p1
Academic Journal
Objective: This study aimed at developing an experimental paradigm to assess vicarious pain experiences. We further explored the putative moderating role of observer's characteristics such as hypervigilance for pain and dispositional empathy. Methods: Two experiments are reported using a similar procedure. Undergraduate students were selected based upon whether they reported vicarious pain in daily life, and categorized into a pain responder group or a comparison group. Participants were presented a series of videos showing hands being pricked whilst receiving occasionally pricking (electrocutaneous) stimuli themselves. In congruent trials, pricking and visual stimuli were applied to the same spatial location. In incongruent trials, pricking and visual stimuli were in the opposite spatial location. Participants were required to report on which location they felt a pricking sensation. Of primary interest was the effect of viewing another in pain upon vicarious pain errors, i.e., the number of trials in which an illusionary sensation was reported. Furthermore, we explored the effect of individual differences in hypervigilance to pain, dispositional empathy and the rubber hand illusion (RHI) upon vicarious pain errors. Results: Results of both experiments indicated that the number of vicarious pain errors was overall low. In line with expectations, the number of vicarious pain errors was higher in the pain responder group than in the comparison group. Self-reported hypervigilance for pain lowered the probability of reporting vicarious pain errors in the pain responder group, but dispositional empathy and the RHI did not. Conclusion: Our paradigm allows measuring vicarious pain experiences in students. However, the prevalence of vicarious experiences of pain is low, and only a small percentage of participants display the phenomenon. It remains however unknown which variables affect its occurrence.


Related Articles

  • Empathy. S. Marx, Rabbi Gregory // Jewish Post & Opinion;Dec2011, Vol. 78 Issue 3, p10 

    In this article, the author discusses the lack of empathy in today's human beings as it could have disastrous effects. He suggests to empathize with those who are homeless and those who would not empathize with the suffering are very often insufferable. He further suggests the need to build...

  • The ethology of empathy: a taxonomy of real-world targets of need and their effect on observers. Preston, Stephanie D.; Hofelich, Alicia J.; Stansfield, R. Brent // Frontiers in Human Neuroscience;Aug2013, Vol. 7, p1 

    Empathy is inherently interpersonal, but the majority of research has only examined observers. Targets of need have been largely held constant through hypothetical and fictionalized depictions of sympathetic distress and need. In the real world, people's response to life stressors varies...

  • POOR CARL'S ALMANAC.  // DVM: The Newsmagazine of Veterinary Medicine;Jun2005, Vol. 36 Issue 6, p56 

    The article presents information about the meaning of the term, empathy. Empathy is the projection of one's own thoughts and feelings into the thoughts and feelings of others in order to better understand and comfort them. Empathy goes further than sympathy, for in empathy people strive to put...

  • On a Scale of Empathic Response to Health-related Persuasive Messages. Shen, Lijiang // Conference Papers -- National Communication Association;2008, p1 

    Empathic response (to persuasive media messages) was conceptualized as having three dimensions: affective empathy, cognitive empathy, and identification. A 12-item scale was developed as a measurement instrument. Confirmatory factor analyses were performed to test the unidimensionality of the...

  • The role of empathy in choosing rewards from another's perspective. O'Connell, Garret; Christakou, Anastasia; Haffey, Anthony T.; Bhismadev Chakrabarti // Frontiers in Human Neuroscience;May2013, Vol. 7, p1 

    As social animals, we regularly act in the interest of others by making decisions on their behalf. These decisions can take the form of choices between smaller short-term rewards and larger long-term rewards, and can be effectively indexed by temporal discounting (TD). In a TD paradigm, a reward...

  • Empathy and attitudes to animals. Taylor, N.; Signal, O. // Anthrozoos;2005, Vol. 18 Issue 1, p18 

    The article focuses on the empathy and attitudes towards animals. Governments are lobbied to change or create laws to protect animal welfare; perceived infringements of animal welfare remain news and more and more people the world over indicate that companion animals play an important role in...

  • The Moral Contours of Empathy. Carse, Alisa // Ethical Theory & Moral Practice;Jan2005, Vol. 8 Issue 1/2, p169 

    Morally contoured empathy is a form of “reasonable partiality” essential to the healthy care of dependents. It is critical as an epistemic aid in determining proper moral responsiveness; it is also, within certain richly normative roles and relationships, itself a crucial...

  • WE GRIEVE, TOO. Penepent, David R. // Director (NFDA Services, Inc.);May2011, Vol. 83 Issue 5, p42 

    The author explores the implication of empathetic grieving among funeral directors for their professionalism, with particular focus on a case study. He stresses that funeral directors respond in their own unique way to a death experience. He partly attributes the vices and addictions of some...

  • The Role Of Empathy In Brief Therapy: The Overlooked But Vital Context. Turnell, Andrew; Lipchik, Eve // Australian & New Zealand Journal of Family Therapy;Dec99, Vol. 20 Issue 4, p177 

    Brief therapy is widely perceived to be a very technique oriented and outcome focused endeavour, with limited interest in the fluidity of the relationship between the therapist and client. This perception exists despite the absolute priority brief therapy has always placed on building a...


Read the Article


Sorry, but this item is not currently available from your library.

Try another library?
Sign out of this library

Other Topics