Encouraging perspective taking: Using narrative writing to induce empathy for others engaging in negative health behaviors

Autoři: Victoria A. Shaffer aff001;  Jennifer Bohanek aff001;  Elizabeth S. Focella aff002;  Haley Horstman aff003;  Lise Saffran aff002
Působiště autorů: Department of Psychological Sciences, University of Missouri, Columbia, MO, United States of America aff001;  Department of Health Sciences, University of Missouri, Columbia, MO, United States of America aff002;  Department of Communication, University of Missouri, Columbia, MO, United States of America aff003
Vyšlo v časopise: PLoS ONE 14(10)
Kategorie: Research Article
doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0224046


Societal expectations of self-care and responsible actions toward others may produce bias against those who engage in perceived self-harming behavior. This is especially true for health professionals, who have dedicated themselves to helping reduce the burden of illness and suffering. Research has shown that writing narratives can increase perspective taking and empathy toward other people, which may engender more positive attitudes. Two studies examined whether creating a fictional narrative about a woman who smokes cigarettes while pregnant could increase positive attitudes toward the woman who smokes and reduce the internal attributions made for her behavior. Across both experiments, the narrative writing intervention increased participants’ empathy and perspective taking, evoked more positive attitudes toward a woman who smokes cigarettes while pregnant, and increased external attributions for her behavior. This work supports our hypothesis that narrative writing would be an efficacious intervention promoting attitude change toward patients who engage in unhealthy, and often contentious, behaviors. This work also suggests that narrative writing could be a useful intervention for medical professionals and policy makers leading to more informed policy or treatment recommendations, encouraging empathy for patients, and engendering a stronger consideration of how external forces can play a role in someone’s seemingly irresponsible behavior.

Klíčová slova:

Behavior – Behavioral and social aspects of health – Emotions – Exercise – Physicians – Pregnancy – Smoking habits – Undergraduates


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2019 Číslo 10