Month/Year of Graduation


Degree Name

Bachelor of Science (B.S.)



First Advisor

Dr. Janelle Beadle


Empathy is of critical public health importance due to its association with relationship satisfaction and well-being (Davis & Oathout, 1987; Davis, 1983). There is growing evidence that bilingual individuals may have higher levels of empathy (Javor, 2016). One potential mechanism for this relationship is that bilingual individuals tend to have higher levels of executive functioning (Costa et al, 2008), which is linked to higher empathy because individuals are able to more easily adopt others’ perspectives. Previous studies examining this question have largely relied on self-report questionnaires assessing empathy as a general tendency (i.e., trait). No studies have examined differences in the empathic experience in the moment (i.e., state empathy) in monolinguals versus bilinguals. Furthermore, while there is much known about the neural underpinnings of executive function, the degree to which bilinguals show greater neural recruitment of executive function regions during the experience of empathy is not well understood. A primary purpose of this study is the development of materials to induce empathy in the moment in bilingual individuals through reading about an event designed to evoke empathy in their primary language and their secondary language. A secondary purpose of this study is to examine the effects of the empathy induction in the primary and secondary language on bilingual individuals through collection of behavioral and neuroimaging pilot data. Pilot data collection included measurement of empathy as a trait and state through self-report questionnaires. Brain activation in response to the empathy task was measured using functional near infrared spectroscopy.