Distinct effects of self-construal priming on empathic neural responses in Chinese and Westerners

Chao Jiang, Michael Varnum, Youyang Hou, Shihui Han

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


The present study investigated whether and how self-construal priming influences empathic neural responses to others' emotional states. We recorded event-related brain potentials to stimuli depicting the hands of unknown others experiencing painful or non-painful events from Chinese and Western participants after they had been primed in three conditions (independent self-construal priming, interdependent self-construal priming, and a control condition). Stimuli depicting painful events (as opposed to non-painful ones) elicited a positive shift of the fronto-central activity at 232-332 ms and of the central-parietal activity at 440-740 ms in the control condition. Moreover, neural responses to stimuli depicting painful (vs. non-painful) situations at 232-332 ms were decreased by interdependent self-construal priming among Chinese and by independent self-construal priming among Westerners. Our findings suggest that self-construal priming modulates sensitivity to perceived pain in unknown others and that this effect varies with culture.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)130-138
Number of pages9
JournalSocial Neuroscience
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2014


  • Culture
  • ERP
  • Empathy
  • Pain
  • Self-construal

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Development
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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