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This study examined neural activation during the experience of compassion, an emotion that orients people toward vulnerable others and prompts caregiving, and pride, a self-focused emotion that signals individual strength and heightened status. Functional magnetic resonance images (fMRI) were acquired as participants viewed 55 s continuous sequences of slides to induce either compassion or pride, presented in alternation with sequences of neutral slides. Emotion self-report data were collected after each slide condition within the fMRI scanner. Compassion induction was associated with activation in the midbrain periaqueductal gray (PAG), a region that is activated during pain and the perception of others’ pain, and that has been implicated in parental nurturance behaviors. Pride induction engaged the posterior medial cortex, a region that has been associated with self-referent processing. Self-reports of compassion experience were correlated with increased activation in a region near the PAG, and in the right inferior frontal gyrus (IFG). Self-reports of pride experience, in contrast, were correlated with reduced activation in the IFG and the anterior insula. These results provide preliminary evidence towards understanding the neural correlates of important interpersonal dimensions of compassion and pride. Caring (compassion) and self-focus (pride) may represent core appraisals that differentiate the response profiles of many emotions.
Studies of emotion signaling inform claims about the taxonomic structure, evolutionary origins, and physiological correlates of emotions. Emotion vocalization research has tended to focus on a limited set of emotions: anger, disgust, fear, sadness, surprise, happiness, and for the voice, also tenderness. Here, we examine how well brief vocal bursts can communicate 22 different emotions: 9 negative (Study 1) and 13 positive (Study 2), and whether prototypical vocal bursts convey emotions more reliably than heterogeneous vocal bursts (Study 3). Results show that vocal bursts communicate emotions like anger, fear, and sadness, as well as seldom-studied states like awe, compassion, interest, and embarrassment. Ancillary analyses reveal family-wise patterns of vocal burst expression. Errors in classification were more common within emotion families (e.g., 'self-conscious,' 'pro-social') than between emotion families. The three studies reported highlight the voice as a rich modality for emotion display that can inform fundamental constructs about emotion.