Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Sharee Light

Second Advisor

Erin Tone

Third Advisor

Jessica Turner


Theoretical models propose that executive function may play a role in empathy (to “share in” the emotion of another); however, the specific contribution of executive function to emotional empathic processing remains unclear. This study utilized neuroimaging and neuropsychological measures to examine the relationship between individual differences in executive function abilities (working memory, inhibition, cognitive flexibility, verbal fluency) and empathic responding during an empathy induction paradigm in 20 healthy participants. fMRI analyses revealed that prefrontal brain regions may be important for empathic responding, with empathy for positive emotions recruiting a greater number of prefrontal regions. Prefrontal activation was associated with working memory, but not with other executive function abilities. Findings suggest that working memory abilities contribute to affective empathic responding.