Violent Offenders are Cold-blooded?Apr. 13,2016
Whether violent offenders are cold-blooded or have lower capacity of empathy for pain（a state that individual has the same feeling with another person）?
Empathy for pain refers to an individual’s perception, judgment, and emotional reactions with regard to another person’s pain. As it is of great significance to the mankind’s survival and social development, empathy for pain has become one of the focal topics in contemporary psychological research.
GAO Xuemei and other researchers from the Faculty of Psychology of Southwest University set the communications model as the foundation, Used a picture-priming paradigm, recorded their ERP data. They observed the reactions of eighteen male violent offenders and seventeen male ordinary participants to painful pictures and non-painful pictures in two different perspectives (first-person and other-person), so as to compare their levels of empathy for pain.
Based on the experiment, the study shows that violent offenders have lower capacity of empathy for pain.
Firstly, the N110 amplitudes triggered by painful pictures are all smaller than those by non-painful pictures, suggesting that pain is to some extent threatening to both violent offenders and ordinary participants. However, violent offenders’ N110 latencies are significantly longer while viewing painful pictures than non-painful ones; in addition, violent offenders have longer N110 latencies when viewing the pictures in the other-person perspective. Therefore, it indicates that violent offenders have developed higher acceptance of pain and they are less sensitive to others’ pain. Their level of empathy for pain is relatively lower.
Secondly, violent offenders’ P2 latencies extend and P2 amplitudes increase, which shows that painful stimuli may not always be negative or something they need to avoid. On the contrary, violent offenders pay more attention to such stimuli and have negative emotional reactions to painful stimuli.
Thirdly, violent offenders’ P300 amplitudes are significantly smaller than those of ordinary participants, further indicating that painful pictures cause relatively weaker negative emotions among violent offenders. Moreover, violent offenders have evoked larger P300 amplitudes while viewing painful pictures in the other-person perspective but not in the first-person perspective, suggesting a reduced level of arousal by painful stimuli. This, from another angle, reflects violent offenders have lower capacity of empathy for pain.
The research findings were published on Acta Psychologica Sinica Issue 4，2015. The bilingual version has been launched already.