Empathy and visual perspective-taking performance

Bradley D. Mattan, Pia Rotshtein, Kimberly A. Quinn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study examined the extent to which visual perspective-taking performance is modulated by trait-level empathy. Participants completed a third-person visual perspective-taking task in which they judged the perspectives of two simultaneously presented avatars, designated “Self” and “Other.” Depending on the trial, these avatars either held the same view (i.e., congruent) or a different view (i.e., incongruent). Analyses focused on the relationship between empathy and two perspective-taking phenomena: Selection between competing perspectives (i.e., perspective-congruence effects) and prioritization of the Self avatar’s perspective. Empathy was related to improved overall performance on this task and a reduced cost of selecting between conflicting perspectives (i.e., smaller perspective-congruence effects). This effect was asymmetric, with empathy (i.e., empathic concern) levels predicting reduced interference from a conflicting perspective, especially when adopting the Self (vs. Other) avatar’s perspective. Taken together, these results highlight the importance of the self–other distinction and mental flexibility components of empathy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)170-181
Number of pages12
JournalCognitive Neuroscience
Issue number1-4
StatePublished - 1 Oct 2016
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 Taylor & Francis.


  • Empathy
  • Personal relevance
  • Self-tagging
  • Visual perspective-taking

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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