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Projecting my envy onto you: Neurocognitive mechanisms of offline emotional egocentricity bias

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Steinbeis,  Nikolaus
Department Social Neuroscience, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society;

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Singer,  Tania
Department Social Neuroscience, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society;

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Steinbeis, N., & Singer, T. (2014). Projecting my envy onto you: Neurocognitive mechanisms of offline emotional egocentricity bias. NeuroImage, 102(2), 370-380. doi:10.1016/j.neuroimage.2014.08.007.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0004-A3C6-4
Abstract
Humans often project their own beliefs, desires and emotions onto others, indicating an inherent egocentrism. In five studies we investigated the neurocognitive mechanisms underlying emotional egocentricity bias (EEB) and specifically an offline EEB, defined as the projection of one's own tendency to react with a certain emotional response pattern in a given situation onto other people. We used a competitive reaction time game associated with monetary gains and losses that allowed inducing feelings of envy and Schadenfreude. While we found evidence for the first hand experience of envy and Schadenfreude, we also observed an offline bias, that is participants on average projected feelings of envy and Schadenfreude when having to judge others. Importantly the extent of experienced and projected social emotions were highly correlated. This bias was observed when participants were both directly involved and also as an uninvolved party, suggesting the offline bias to be independent of the presently experienced emotion. Under increased time pressure however an online bias emerged whereby participants just projected their presently experienced emotions onto the other. Finally, we show that on the neural level shared neuronal networks underlie the offline EEB at least for envy. Thus, for envy, activity of the same part of anterior insula was sensitive to individual differences both in the experience and the projection of envy. These findings outline the set of circumstances leading to specific types of empathic attribution biases and show that individual differences in the experience of social emotions are predictive of the offline egocentricity bias both on a behavioral as well as a neural level. These data extend present models on the neurocognitive mechanisms of interpersonal understanding in the socio-affective domain.