Empathy: Selfless Identification or Selfless Aid?
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This paper first describes the article presented by experimental psychologist Daniel Batson that defines empathy as the degree to which another human being is able to selflessly identify with another individual's difficulty. Next, the author explains Robert Cialdini's experiments, which conclude that purely empathetic identification does not begin with forgetting ones self and identifying with another human being but rather by altering a personal feeling of discomfort. The paper finds fault with both articles because of their methodologies and their narrow definitions of empathy and suggests that feelings of empathy might be culturally determined, influenced by gender or more situational than was revealed in either study.
From the Paper:"Cialdini suggests that even apparently altruistic subjects seemed to be motivated more from a 'sadness-cancelling' mechanism than actual altruism. In one study, subjects were given what they erroneously believed to be a mood 'fixing' drug--"empathic subjects were more helpful than their nonempathic counterparts only when it seemed possible that their personal moods could be raised as a consequence of helping. High-empathy subjects who learned that their saddened mood states could not be altered by the helping act (because of the temporary action of a "mood-fixing drug") did not help at enhanced levels, despite their still-elevated empathic-concern scores". The proposition of a financial reward in exchange for nonempathetic behavior also reduced the subject's generosity--the selfish pleasure from the reward reduced the selfish desire to reduce the anxiety from 'doing nothing,' Cialdini hypothesized.
"Interestingly, only female subjects were used in the test, and Cialdini notes that they were psychology students. This raises several questions: firstly, might male and female empathic responses differ? Also, the idea of a 'mood stabling drug' seems to lack credibility to some extent, and perhaps the students might suspect that they were being lied to, given their experience with basic psychology."
Sample of Sources Used:
- Batson, Daniel; Bruce D. Duncan; Paula Ackerman; Terese Buckley; & Kimberly Birch. "Is empathic emotion a source of altruistic motivation?" (1981). Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 40
- Cialdini, Robert B.; Mark Schaller; Donald Houlihan; Kevin Arps; Jim Fultz, & Arthur L. Beaman. (1987). Empathy-based helping: Is it selflessly or selfishly motivated? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 52(4), 749
Cite this Article Review:
Empathy: Selfless Identification or Selfless Aid? (2011, November 06) Retrieved October 03, 2023, from https://www.academon.com/article-review/empathy-selfless-identification-or-selfless-aid-148822/
"Empathy: Selfless Identification or Selfless Aid?" 06 November 2011. Web. 03 October. 2023. <https://www.academon.com/article-review/empathy-selfless-identification-or-selfless-aid-148822/>