Belmont University Research Symposium (BURS)

It's Painfully Evident, or Is It? An Investigation of Empathy and Sleep Quality on Pain Identification in Faces

Publication Date



Sciences and Mathematics, College of


Psychological Science, Department of

BURS Faculty Advisor

Carole Scherling

Presentation Type

Oral Presentation


Pain is very salient, grabbing attention to alert others to a person’s needs (Eccleston & Crombez, 1999). While facial pain expressions have social benefits, it is only successful if that message is accurately detected and acknowledged by another. A notable mechanism is empathy, the ability to understand and share the feelings of others. While previous research suggests that higher empathy correlates with higher accuracy in identification of painful facial expressions in others (Green et al., 2009), no research to date has examined its potential relationship with identification speed of such expressions. Also, sleep quality has been shown to impact rational judgments, yet little research has shown whether this relationship modulates empathetic judgments towards pain (Guadagni et al., 2014; Duan, et al., 2021). The current study aims to investigate the effects of empathy and sleep quality on the ability to identify painful facial expressions in others. Participants completed a newly developed facial identification assessment called the Pain Affect Identification Naming Exercise (PAINE), consisting of 24 standardized images of neutral and painful facial expressions. Data collection is still ongoing, with expectations that higher empathy will reveal shorter reaction times when identifying facial expressions of pain compared to lower empathy. It is also expected that lower sleep quality will yield slower identifications of facial expressions of pain compared to nights of better sleep quality.

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