Faculty Advisor

Andresen, David

Area of Study

Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences

Publication Date

Summer 2013


Research suggests that how a person looks can affect how much empathy they receive from others, with evidence pointing to attractive people receiving the most empathy. This study extended that research by examining if the heightened empathy received by more attractive people may be based in neurological processes. Participants (n = 19) were shown movie clips of young women of naturally-varying degrees of attractiveness making emotional expressions while having their brain activity monitored by an electroencephalograph (EEG). The EEG recording was used to examine the activity of mirror neurons, which have been shown to play an active role in the human experience of empathy, following the logic that if more attractive people elicit more mirror neuron activity, this may be the biological process underlying why they receive greater empathy from others. After a Fourier Transformation of the first five participants, the data suggested that attractive people do elicit more mirror neuron activity from others at a statistically significant level (p = .02). The remaining data must still be analyzed, but given the significance level of the results so far, the conclusion will likely remain the same, unless further analysis reveals an as-of-yet unanalyzed confound.


University of Puget Sound