Making People Care: Can Inducing Empathic Concern Motivate Desire to Engage in Social Action on Behalf of a Stigmatized Group and Their Families?

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2017-05
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Gralapp, Sophie A.
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Psychology
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Inducing empathic concern can improve attitudes toward a stigmatized group (Batson et al., 1997; Batson et al., 2002; Gleichgerrcht & Young, 2013; Todd & Burgmer, 2013). But, can improving attitudes translate into action on behalf of the group? Research suggests that feeling for a member of a stigmatized group can motivate one to help the group (Batson, Chang, Orr, & Rowland, 2002). This study used an empathy manipulation to examine the relationship between inducing empathy, improving attitudes toward, and motivating desire to engage in social action on behalf of a highly stigmatized group – offenders and their families. Participants completed a two-part online survey comprised of three measures, which assessed: (1) participants’ empathic response to offenders and their families, (2) participants’ attitudes toward offenders and their families, and (3) whether inducing empathic concern would increase participants’ desire to engage in social action on behalf of offenders and their families. The results of this study revealed that participants’ empathy levels for offenders and their families rose from before the empathy manipulation (pretest) to immediately after the manipulation (posttest), but fell 1-2 weeks after the manipulation (followup). Both experimental groups experienced increases in empathy levels regardless of which empathy manipulation (high vs. low) they received, indicating that simply engaging in this study impacted empathy levels. Further, the induction of empathic concern was not related to an increase in participants’ desire to engage in social action on behalf of offenders and their families.
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altruism, empathy, empathic concern, families, incarceration, interventions, offenders, prejudice, prisoners, prosocial, social action, stigma, stigmatization
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