Date Thesis Awarded

12-2016

Document Type

Honors Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelors of Science (BS)

Department

Neuroscience

Advisor

Cheryl Dickter

Committee Member

Joshua Burk

Committee Member

Randolph Coleman

Abstract

The current research aimed to examine whether the neural expression of empathy in response to the pain of racial ingroup and outgroup members might differ as a function of individuals’ autistic traits. In the current study, 40 neurotypical undergraduates completed a task in which they viewed a series of pictures of black and white hands in painful and non-painful situations while EEG was recorded to measure mu suppression, a neural measure of empathic processing. Participants also completed questionnaires that measured autistic traits, racial prejudice, and familiarity with racial outgroup members. Although there was a marginally significant interaction between autistic traits and race, simple main effects analyses revealed that there were not significant differences in how individuals high and low in autistic traits processed the different races. Autistic traits were not related to levels of mu suppression. Additionally, the condition of the stimulus (pain versus non-pain) was not related to levels of mu suppression. The current study did not support our hypotheses and in fact yielded null effects. Limitations of the study design and sample are discussed and suggestions for future research are given.

Available for download on Saturday, December 14, 2019

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