Biological postural oscillations during facial expression of pain in virtual characters modulate early and late ERP components associated with empathy: A pilot study.

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Heliyon, Volume 9, Issue 8, p.e18161 (2023)


<p>There is a surge in the use of virtual characters in cognitive sciences. However, their behavioural realism remains to be perfected in order to trigger more spontaneous and socially expected reactions in users. It was recently shown that biological postural oscillations (idle motion) were a key ingredient to enhance the empathic response to its facial pain expression. The objective of this study was to examine, using electroencephalography, whether idle motion would modulate the neural response associated with empathy when viewing a pain-expressing virtual character. Twenty healthy young adults were shown video clips of a virtual character displaying a facial expression of pain while its body was either static () or animated with pre-recorded human postural oscillations (). Participants rated the virtual human's facial expression of pain as significantly more intense in the compared to the . Both the early (N2-N3) and the late (rLPP) event-related potentials (ERPs) associated with distinct dimensions of empathy, affective resonance and perspective-taking, respectively, were greater in the compared to the . These findings confirm the potential of idle motion to increase empathy for pain expressed by virtual characters. They are discussed in line with contemporary empathy models in relation to human-machine interactions.</p>

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