How interpersonal power affects empathic accuracy: differential roles of mentalizing vs. mirroring?

  • Bombari D
  • Schmid Mast M
  • Brosch T
 et al. 
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Empathic accuracy (EA)-the correct assessment of the affective states and thoughts of a social partner-affects social behavior and the outcome of interpersonal interactions. Growing evidence has shown that interpersonal power of a perceiver affects EA when assessing a target. This picture, however, is not obvious; there is evidence supporting both the idea that power can improve EA or impair it. Moreover, the mechanisms through which high power individuals are more (or less) accurate at reading others' minds are unknown. The present article provides a new perspective on the power-EA link by investigating how two core abilities involved in EA, mentalizing and mirroring, can explain when and how power is related to EA. The inclusion of findings from neuroimaging studies on mentalizing and mirroring adds a cognitive neuroscience perspective to the power-EA research that has traditionally been conducted in a social psychological framework. The extent to which a given EA-test requires mentalizing or mirroring and the way power affects both of them could explain the contrasting findings. In addition, the analysis of the neural substrates of mentalizing and mirroring may provide new insight into the relationship between power and EA.

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  • Dario Bombari

  • Marianne Schmid Mast

  • Tobias Brosch

  • David Sander

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