Header

UZH-Logo

Maintenance Infos

Aberrant link between empathy and social attribution style in borderline personality disorder


Homan, Philipp; Reddan, Marianne C; Brosch, Tobias; Koenigsberg, Harold W; Schiller, Daniela (2017). Aberrant link between empathy and social attribution style in borderline personality disorder. Journal of Psychiatric Research, 94:163-171.

Abstract

In social interactions, we often need to quickly infer why other people do what they do. More often than not, we infer that behavior is a result of personality rather than circumstances. It is unclear how the tendency itself may contribute to psychopathology and interpersonal dysfunction. Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is characterized by severe interpersonal dysfunction. Here, we investigated if this dysfunction is related to the tendency to over-attribute behaviors to personality traits. Healthy controls and patients with BPD judged positive and negative behaviors presented within a situational constraint during functional magnetic resonance imaging. Before the experiment, we measured trait levels of empathy, paranoia, and need for cognition. Behaviorally, we found that empathy levels predicted the tendency to attribute behavior to traits in healthy controls, whereas in patients with BPD this relationship was significantly weakened. Whole brain analysis of group-by-empathy interaction revealed that when participants judged the behavior during the attribution phase, several brain regions implicated in mentalizing distinguished patients from controls: In healthy controls, neural activity scaled negatively with empathy, but this relationship was reversed in BPD patients. Due to the cross-sectional study design we cannot establish a causal link between empathy and social attributions. These findings indicate that the self-reported tendency to feel for others is related to the tendency to integrate situational information beyond personality. In BPD patients, by contrast, the association between empathy and attribution was significantly weaker, rendering empathy less informative in predicting the overall attribution style.

Abstract

In social interactions, we often need to quickly infer why other people do what they do. More often than not, we infer that behavior is a result of personality rather than circumstances. It is unclear how the tendency itself may contribute to psychopathology and interpersonal dysfunction. Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is characterized by severe interpersonal dysfunction. Here, we investigated if this dysfunction is related to the tendency to over-attribute behaviors to personality traits. Healthy controls and patients with BPD judged positive and negative behaviors presented within a situational constraint during functional magnetic resonance imaging. Before the experiment, we measured trait levels of empathy, paranoia, and need for cognition. Behaviorally, we found that empathy levels predicted the tendency to attribute behavior to traits in healthy controls, whereas in patients with BPD this relationship was significantly weakened. Whole brain analysis of group-by-empathy interaction revealed that when participants judged the behavior during the attribution phase, several brain regions implicated in mentalizing distinguished patients from controls: In healthy controls, neural activity scaled negatively with empathy, but this relationship was reversed in BPD patients. Due to the cross-sectional study design we cannot establish a causal link between empathy and social attributions. These findings indicate that the self-reported tendency to feel for others is related to the tendency to integrate situational information beyond personality. In BPD patients, by contrast, the association between empathy and attribution was significantly weaker, rendering empathy less informative in predicting the overall attribution style.

Statistics

Citations

Dimensions.ai Metrics
8 citations in Web of Science®
8 citations in Scopus®
Google Scholar™

Altmetrics

Downloads

0 downloads since deposited on 14 Feb 2023
0 downloads since 12 months

Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:04 Faculty of Medicine > Psychiatric University Hospital Zurich > Clinic for Psychiatry, Psychotherapy, and Psychosomatics
Dewey Decimal Classification:610 Medicine & health
Scopus Subject Areas:Health Sciences > Psychiatry and Mental Health
Life Sciences > Biological Psychiatry
Language:English
Date:November 2017
Deposited On:14 Feb 2023 13:57
Last Modified:28 Jun 2024 01:42
Publisher:Elsevier
ISSN:0022-3956
OA Status:Closed
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jpsychires.2017.07.012
PubMed ID:28735169