Perspective Taking Reduces Group Biases in Sensorimotor Resonance

Abstract

Similar neural circuits are activated during action and the observation of action and such sensorimotor resonance is said to support action understanding and empathy. Previous research, however, shows that group biases can restrict sensorimotor resonance to the social ingroup. Here we test whether an empathic mindset can alleviate such group biases in sensorimotor resonance. Participants adopted either an objective mindset or a perspective taking mindset while writing about a day in the life of a racial outgroup member. Participants in an objective mindset resonated with ingroup members, indicated by significant suppression of the 8-13 Hz EEG mu-rhythm recorded over sensorimotor areas during action observation compared to baseline, but did not show significant mu-suppression in response to outgroup members. In contrast, participants in a perspective taking mindset resonated with both ingroup and outgroup members and significantly more so with outgroup members. Moreover, mindset uniquely affected resonance in response to outgroup members but not in response to ingroup members, with participants who previously took the perspective of an outgroup member later responding with more resonance to the actions of other outgroup members. Together these findings suggest that taking the perspective of a racial outgroup member can reduce group biases in sensorimotor resonance, potentially fostering an intuitive understanding across groups.

Publication
Cortex

Data and code can be found on the OSF page.