Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 1986, Vol.51(3), pp.609-614
Although empathy and sympathy are conceptually discriminable affective responses to emotional displays in others, the distinction between them has been neglected in much past research. In the present study, we sought to establish independent operational definitions of the two responses and to examine the determinants of each. Subjects watched and responded to one of two videotapes of a young woman in emotional distress. One centered on the theme of personal rejection, and the other on the theme of parental conflict. Measures of empathy and sympathy were significantly related in the former, but independent in the latter. Sympathy, but not empathy, depended on an interaction between the personality of the observer and the nature of the other's conflict and was related across conditions to two cognitive variables: how disposed subjects were to imagine themselves in the place of the other and how justified they thought the other's response to be. Empathy, in contrast, seemed more a function of stable personal attributes. These results support the argument that empathy and sympathy are indeed distinct processes and have important theoretical and methodological implications for research in this area.
Empathy ; Personality Traits ; Sympathy ; Social Perception ; Social Perception & Cognition ; Videotape of Female in Distress & Ss' Personality, Sympathetic Vs Empathetic Responses, College Students ; Empirical Study ; Human ; Adulthood (18 Yrs & Older) ; Article;
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