Empathic concern and personal distress depend on situational but not dispositional factors

Autoři: Sarah Fabi aff001;  Lydia Anna Weber aff002;  Hartmut Leuthold aff001
Působiště autorů: Department of Psychology, University of Tübingen, Tübingen, Germany aff001;  Universitätsklinikum Tübingen, University of Tübingen, Tübingen, Germany aff002
Vyšlo v časopise: PLoS ONE 14(11)
Kategorie: Research Article
doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0225102


Empathic concern and personal distress are empathic responses that may result when observing someone in discomfort. Even though these empathic responses have received much attention in past research, it is still unclear which conditions contribute to their respective experience. Hence, the main goal of this study was to examine if dispositional empathic traits or rather situational variables are more likely to evoke empathic concern and personal distress and how the two empathic responses influence motor responses. We presented pictures of persons in psychological, physical, or no pain with matched descriptions of situations that promoted an other-focused state. Approach-avoidance movements were demanded by a subsequently presented tone. While psychological pain led to more empathic concern, physical pain led to higher ratings of personal distress. Linear mixed-effects modelling analysis further revealed that situational factors, such as the type of pain but also the affect experienced by the participants before the experiment predicted the two empathic responses, whereas dispositional empathic traits had no significant influence. In addition, the more intensely the empathic responses were experienced, the faster were movements initiated, presumably reflecting an effect of arousal. Overall, the present study advances our understanding of empathic responses to people in need and provides novel methodological tools to effectively manipulate and analyze empathic concern and personal distress in future research.

Klíčová slova:

Behavior – Cognition – Emotions – Memory – Motivation – Motor system – Myocardial infarction – Pain psychology


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2019 Číslo 11