A link between BIS/BAS, frontal asymmetry and empathy; predispositions towards arousal in affectively charged imagery.

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Rogers, John
Issue Date
BA (Hons) in Psychology
Dublin Business School
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Research into the relationship between Gray’s behavioural activation and inhibition systems (BIS/BAS) and frontal alpha asymmetry have led to conflicting results within the literature. While inter-individual variation in both asymmetry and BIS/BAS manifest as personality traits enveloping both motivation and emotion, a discrepancy exists with relating the BIS with left-favouring asymmetry. Other research has started to find relationships between BIS/BAS and empathy, more specifically how a predisposition to a BIS or BAS predicts empathic arousal towards negative or positive targets. The current experiment aimed to close the gap in the literature regarding BIS/BAS and trait asymmetry, as well as investigate the role empathy (using Basic Empathy Scale in Adults (BES-A)) and BIS/BAS play in arousal to positive a negative imagery, in an attempt to replicate recent finding. Arousal was measured under 4 domains; 2 physiological (EEG, GSR) and 2 self-report (arousal and valance). No significant relationship was found between BIS/BAS and asymmetry. Nor was BIS/BAS a predictor of arousal to affective imagery. High levels of emotional disconnect, a very recent construct implicated in empathy, was found to correlate with reduced perceived empathic arousal to negative imagery. Reduced right sided alpha activity was found to be strongly related with high cognitive and emotional empathy and low emotional disconnection in low BIS individuals. The results suggest that individuals with low trait BIS individuals may generally be more empathic as they experience less anxiety relating to high BIS goal conflict when approached with the choice to empathise.