Ideological values are parametrically associated with empathy neural response to vicarious suffering

Niloufar Zebarjadi, Eliyahu Adler, Annika Kluge, Mikko Sams, Jonathan Levy*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

14 Downloads (Pure)


Several studies in political psychology reported higher levels of empathy among political leftists (i.e. liberals) as compared to political rightists (i.e. conservatives). Yet, all those studies lean on self-reports, which are often limited by subjective bias and conformity to social norms. Here, we tested this putative asymmetry using neuroimaging: we recorded oscillatory neural activity using magnetoencephalography while 55 participants completed a well-validated neuroimaging paradigm for empathy to vicarious suffering. The findings revealed a typical rhythmic alpha-band 'empathy response' in the temporal-parietal junction. This neural empathy response was significantly stronger in the leftist than in the rightist group. In addition to this dichotomous division, the neural response was parametrically associated with both self-reported political inclination and right-wing ideological values. This is the first study to reveal an asymmetry in the neural empathy response as a function of political ideology. The findings reported in this study are in line with the current literature in political psychology and provide a novel neural perspective to support the ideological asymmetry in empathy. This study opens new vistas for addressing questions in political psychology by using neuroimaging.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbernsad029
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalSocial Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 22 May 2023
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • alpha rhythm
  • empathy
  • ideological asymmetry
  • magnetoencephalography
  • neuropolitics


Dive into the research topics of 'Ideological values are parametrically associated with empathy neural response to vicarious suffering'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this