Robert Palumbo

Year: Junior

Major(s):  Psychology

Mentor: Morrison, Robert

Department: Psychology

Project Title: Your Brain on First Person Shooters: Neural Correlates of Empathetic Responding Modulated by Exposure to Violent Media

Project Abstract: Exposure to media violence has long been associated with increased aggression and decreased prosocial behaviors such as empathy. However, few researchers have investigated the possible neural mechanisms for this relationship. In this study, we will investigate how early processing of emotional faces may be affected by exposure to violent video games and explore whether these changes may account for changes in empathetic responding. To accomplish this we will develop an explicit emotion-processing task that allows us to study bottom-up emotional face processing using scalp electroencephalography (EEG). We will attempt to replace the resulting neural correlates to self-report measures of empathy. Secondly, we will experimentally manipulate media violence exposure by having participants play a violent or a nonviolent video game and study how that exposure modulates performance on the EEG measure of emotional face processing and empathetic responding. This project will provide a unique opportunity for me to build my skills in experimental design and data collection using neuroscience techniques, media-violence manipulations, and social psychological self-report measures. I will also gain valuable experience analyzing data with techniques that will prove useful when I attend graduate school in social cognitive neuroscience. Lastly, I look forward to presenting my results at research conferences and working with my sponsors to prepare manuscripts for peer-reviewed journals.