Perceiving emotion in non-social targets: The effect of trait empathy on emotional contagion through art

O. Stavrova, Andrea Meckel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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This research examines the role of trait empathy in emotional contagion through non-social targets—art objects. Studies 1a and 1b showed that high- (compared to low-) empathy individuals are more likely to infer an artist’s emotions based on the emotional valence of the artwork and, as a result, are more likely to experience the respective emotions themselves. Studies 2a and 2b experimentally manipulated artists’ emotions via revealing details about their personal life. Study 3 experimentally induced positive vs. negative emotions in individuals who then wrote literary texts. These texts were shown to another sample of participants. High- (compared to low-) empathy participants were more like to accurately identify and take on the emotions ostensibly (Studies 2a and 2b) or actually (Study 3) experienced by the “artists”. High-empathy individuals’ enhanced sensitivity to others’ emotions is not restricted to social targets, such as faces, but extends to products of the human mind, such as objects of art.
Empathy Emotional contagion Music Poetry Art
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)492–509
JournalMotivation and Emotion
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2017


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