The ability to share another person’s feelings: About empathy
The ability of empathy includes different competences: being infected by emotions, the adoption of another person’s perspective and the capability to understand the social context. All three competences must be learned through social experiences. A theory of the empathic process has to describe, how it is possible to experience emotions and phantasies of another person in the self as one’s own and to recognize them as belonging to the other. The theoretically founded attempt to differentiate between self-perception and the perception of the other proves necessarily to reach an impasse. A constructivistic hypothesis seems to be more appropriate here, that conceives empathy as a personal draft. This draft is directed by one’s own inner objects and by concrete experiences with the other as well. In the psychoanalytic dialogue both participants, patient and analyst, develop their empathic drafts and try to reach through them an understanding.
Einfühlung: Über Empathie
- Jürgen KörnerForum der Psychoanalyse
- March 1998, Volume 14, Issue 1, pp 1–17 | Cite as
- Einfühlung: Über Empathie
- Authors and affiliations
- Jürgen Körner
The current study examines changes over time in a commonly used measure of dispositional empathy. A cross-temporal meta-analysis was conducted on 72 samples of American college students who completed at least one of the four subscales (Empathic Concern, Perspective Taking, Fantasy, and Personal Distress) of the Interpersonal Reactivity Index (IRI) between 1979 and 2009 (total
Overall, the authors found changes in the most prototypically empathic subscales of the IRI: Empathic Concern was most sharply dropping, followed by Perspective Taking. The IRI Fantasy and Personal Distress subscales exhibited no changes over time. Additional analyses found that the declines in Perspective Taking and Empathic Concern are relatively recent phenomena and are most pronounced in samples from after 2000.
empathy, temporal change, meta-analysis
Recent psychological research recognizes that people are inextricably linked to their social environments and to those around them. For example, people report a stronger preference for spending time with others rather than being alone and do so for most of their waking hours (Kahneman, Krueger, Schkade, Schwarz, & Stone, 2004). Moreover, people are more likely to experience a wide variety of health problems when lonely or isolated (see Cacioppo & Patrick, 2008). However, this is a paradox of sorts: Although people cannot seem to live without one another, they also some-times cheat and manipulate each other, are physically aggressive and verbally offensive, lie, steal, and exhibit several other socially deleterious tendencies. Given the prevalence of conflicted, antisocial, and otherwise unpleasant interactions with other people, researchers have been interested in factors that promote cooperative, prosocial, and satisfying relationships. Our focus in this article is specifically on empathy. In general, empathy seems to enable people to relate to others in a way that promotes cooperation and unity rather than conflict and isolation. Thus, an examination of potential changes in empathy over time affords new insights into how and why people help and relate positively to one another. Temporal changes in empathy might help explain certain interpersonal and societal trends that suggest people today are not as empathic as previous generations. In the current article, we use cross-temporal meta-analytic methods to examine changes over time in American college students’ dispositional empathy scores. We do so by using the time-lag method, which separates the effects of birth cohort from age by analysing samples of people of the same age at different points in time. In this study, we compare college students from the late 1970s and early 1980s to college students in the 1990s and 2000s. By studying college students at each of these time periods, we are able to collect data from people who are from the same age group but different birth cohorts. Birth cohorts can be seen as sociocultural milieus (Stewart & Healy, 1989; Twenge, 2000), in that children growing up in the 1970s in the United States were exposed to different sociocultural norms than those growing up in the 2000s, despite being physically located in the same country. The logic underlying this approach is similar to that used in cross-cultural psychology to examine similarities and differences in the self-construals, traits, and behaviors of people across different sociocultural regions of the world (e.g., Choi, Nisbett, & Norenzayan, 1999; Heine & Lehman, 1997; Markus & Kitayama, 1991), except that we instead assess differences between birth cohort groups (rather than cultures). Several studies have used this method to find birth cohort differences in traits such as anxiety, self-esteem,
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, USA
University of Rochester Medical Center, Rochester, NY, USA
Sara H. Konrath, University of Michigan, Research Center for Group Dynamics, Institute for Social Research, 426 Thompson Street, Ann Arbor, MI 48104Email: firstname.lastname@example.org