First Advisor

Basham, Mark

Second Advisor

Gosselin, Abigail


Regis College

Degree Name



Regis College Senior Honors Program

Document Type

Thesis - Open Access

Number of Pages

55 pages


As the Neuroscientific world continues to examine this concept, my thesis explores cognitive and affective empathy within the context of neural processing pathways and as a motivation for prosocial helping behaviors. Is one better than the other? How do we explore this in research? This thesis includes empathetic theory, as well as behavioral research which explores affective empathy in a rat model, abstract below.

Empathy is an emotion that often instigates prosocial actions, so research increasingly focuses on the biological basis of this quality. Because affective empathy develops before the cognitive regulation components, lower order mammalian species should be able to express empathy in an affective perspective. A rat model of empathy has been developed, showing that a free rat in an arena with a restrained conspecific will act prosocially and open the door of the restrainer. This study explores affective isomorphy as a criterion of affective empathy, by placing the free rats in the restrainer prior to being the free rat in the testing arena. The control condition rats did not experience the previous restraint. Number of door openings and latency to door openings were measured in 60 minute testing sessions. No significant effect of condition was found for number of door openings or latency to door openings. We conclude that affective isomorphy may strengthen empathetic behaviors.

Date of Award

Spring 2013

Location (Creation)

Denver, Colorado

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