CBBM Lecture "Differentiating early and late electrophysiological markers of empathy in individuals with high and low autistic traits" by

Dana Schneider, PhD,

Institute of Psychology,

Department of Social Psychology,

Friedrich Schiller University Jena


will take place on Tuesday, 22 May 2018 from 15:00 to 16:00 hours in CBBM, Ground Floor, B1/B2.

Host: Prof. Dr. Sören Krach
Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy
University of Lübeck


It has been argued that late cognitive, but not early affective, empathic processes are impaired in individuals with high versus low autistic traits (Fan et al., 2014). We aimed to replicate and extend this finding to person images of various valences and social complexities. Two groups of neurotypical individuals scoring either high or low on the autism spectrum questionnaire (AQ; Baron-Cohen et al., 2001) passively watched scenes from the international affective picture system (IAPS, Lang et al., 2008) and the multifaceted empathy test (MET-core-2, Dziobek et al., 2008) displaying various valences (unpleasant, neutral vs. pleasant) and social complexities (solo vs. interactive scenes). The early posterior negativity (EPN) was increased in the high compared to the low AQ group independent of image valence (200-300 ms). Interestingly, the high AQ group also reported more personal distress on a personality questionnaire (Paulus, 2009). Furthermore, the late positive potential (LPP) over midline electrodes was increased for emotional-interactive, but not emotional-solo scenes (370-470 ms) in the high versus low AQ group. This was accompanied by lower reported empathic concern in the high AQ group. Contrary to current findings in the literature the present data suggest indeed higher sensitivity of individuals with high autistic traits when it comes to early affective empathic processing. This in turn may trigger increased experiences of personal distress, which may hinder subsequent more distant cognitive empathic processing, like empathic concern, especially for socially complex affective scenes. 


Dana Schneider is a Postdoctoral Researcher & Lecturer at the Institute of Psychology, University of Jena, Germany. Dana obtained her PhD in Experimental Psychology from the University of Queensland (Australia) in 2013. Here she worked with Prof. Paul Dux, Prof. Virginia Slaughter and Dr. Andrew Bayliss on “Implicit mental perspective taking in adults”, using methods like eyetracking, fMRI and patient studies on individuals with autism-spectrum-disorders (ASD). 

Dana works in Jena currently at the Department of Social Psychology, General Psychology & Cognitive Neurosciences. For the latter she acts as the Director of Research for the Research Group “Social Potentials in Autism”.  This group focuses on ASD from a broad viewpoint aiming to better understand the core and complementary symptoms as well as the causes of the disorder. The group has a strong expertise in person perception and social cognition research.  

Since 2017 Dana also acts as the speaker of the DFG Scientific Network “Understanding Others”. The network brings together junior and senior researcher from philosophy, psychological science and neuroscience that work on cognitive, affective and social phenomena when it comes to interpersonal interactions.

In general Dana´s work is centred around the question of how people form an understanding of other people. In forming that understanding she is interested in the role of the self, the other and contextual circumstances. Particularly her research focuses on how people construct someone else’s cognitive, affective and social perspective, working in the classical fields of ´Theory of Mind´/Perspective Taking, Empathy and Social Recognition. In her work she uses a variety of experimental methods and scientific approaches to get closer at the question of how we understand others.

Dana´s research is funded, amongst other sources, by grants from the DFG (2017-19) and the Herbert-Feuchte Stiftung (2017-2019).