Motivation and Emotion

, Volume 42, Issue 3, pp 446–457 | Cite as

Empathic understanding: Benefits of perspective-taking and facial mimicry instructions are mediated by self-other overlap

  • Alison N. Cooke
  • Doris G. Bazzini
  • Lisa A. Curtin
  • Lisa J. Emery
Original Paper


The current study sought to better understand the utility of two strategies—perspective-taking and facial mimicry—proposed to increase empathic responding. Thirty-seven female participants were presented an interpersonal situation (a betrayal) that would elicit the use of empathic responding to achieve conflict resolution between friends. Each participant was given instructions to partake in either perspective-taking, facial mimicry, or to remain neutral (control condition). The results demonstrated that individuals who engaged in perspective-taking reported significantly higher state empathy than the control condition, but there was no significant difference in state empathy between the mimicry and control condition. Also, those who engaged in either strategy reported significantly higher self-other overlap relative to those not instructed to engage in a particular strategy. Importantly, self-other overlap mediated the association between the instructional sets and state empathy. Both strategies are arguably means of enhancing interpersonal understanding.


Facial mimicry Perspective-taking State empathy Self-other overlap 



This study was funded by National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (T32-HD07376).


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyNorth Carolina State UniversityRaleighUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyAppalachian State UniversityBooneUSA

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