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The Impact of Emotions and Empathy-Related Traits on Punishment Behavior: Introduction and Validation of the Inequality Game

Published in PLOS ONE. 2016, vol. 11, no. 3, p. e0151028
Abstract In the prevention and resolution of conflicts in social contexts, an important step is to understand how different emotions and empathic traits are linked to punishment behaviors. Unfortunately, few paradigms exist to study these phenomena. Here, we developed the Inequality Game (IG) as an economic and verbal interaction paradigm in which participants are faced with an “unfair other” as opposed to a “fair other” and subsequently have the opportunity to engage in a range of social behaviors. These social behaviors include cooperative or competitive economic choices and nice or derogatory verbal behavior toward the unfair and fair other. Participants could thus engage in punishment or forgiveness behavior toward the unfair other as well as in cooperative or aggressive behavior toward the fair other. We validated the IG through multimodal measures comprising the assessment of personality traits, emotions (by means of facial expressions and self-reports), arousal (by means of skin conductance responses), physical effort (force exertion), and behavioral reactions. Second, we examined the influence of emotions and empathy-related traits on punishment behavior. With regard to emotions, we observed a positive relation between malicious joy and punishment behavior. This result highlights the role of reward-related mechanisms in favoring punishment behavior. In addition, different empathic traits had opposing effects on antisocial behavior. Whereas personal distress predicted aggressive verbal behavior, perspective taking and empathic concern predicted a reduction in punishment behavior. Empathic traits also modulated emotional experience and person evaluations, such that perspective taking was related to more positive affect (less frowning and more smiling) and a more favorable evaluation of the unfair other. The current data validate the IG, reveal that malicious joy is positively related to punishment behavior, and show that different types of empathic traits can have opposing effects on antisocial behavior as well as on related emotions and person evaluations.
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Article (Published version) (1.3 MB) - public document Free access
Research groups Affective sciences
Emergence et expression de l'émotion (E3 Lab)
Mécanismes cérébraux du comportement et des fonctions cognitives (701)
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KLIMECKI-LENZ, Olga Maria, VUILLEUMIER, Patrik, SANDER, David. The Impact of Emotions and Empathy-Related Traits on Punishment Behavior: Introduction and Validation of the Inequality Game. In: PLOS ONE, 2016, vol. 11, n° 3, p. e0151028. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0151028 https://archive-ouverte.unige.ch/unige:90681

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Deposited on : 2016-12-21

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