Month/Year of Graduation


Degree Name

Bachelor of Science (B.S.)



First Advisor

Janelle Beadle


This thesis project aimed to utilize functional near infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) technology in order to assess empathy in a lifespan sample. fNIRS is a non-invasive brain imaging technique that uses properties of light to infer brain activity. Participants ranged in age from 19-75 and were recruited to participate in an fNIRS experiment to assess empathy. Each participant was asked to assume the mental perspective of players on a computer game, and witnessed the player win, lose or tie the game involving a monetary reward. After the fNIRS recording, participants completed personality trait questionnaires related to empathy and emotional contagion. Results revealed brain activity during the win condition was positively correlated with trait perspective taking, and brain activity during the lose condition was positively correlated with emotional contagion. Additionally, younger adults had greater activation in both medial pre-frontal and dorsolateral regions compared to older adults in the win condition. These results suggest older and younger adults process information related to empathy differently in the frontal cortex, and that trait personality characteristics may be related to task-based brain activity in empathy-inducing situations. Understanding the way information processing changes in aging is an important aspect of taking care of the growing aging population.