Love to Help: The Roles of Compassion and Empathy in Regards to Altruism
Sammanfattning: Unresolved global problems, such as extreme poverty, ask for a better understanding of what predicts altruism and what does not. The aim of this thesis project was to address this topical and timely research question by studying the predictive role of compassion and empathy in understanding altruism. In past research on the relationship between altruism and empathy, distinct empathic processes (Perspective taking, Empathic concern, Personal distress, Emotional contagion, and Behavioral contagion) have been often lumped together and the context dependency of the relationship has been insufficiently taken into account, resulting in confusion and contradictory findings. Compassion overcomes these issues. The present web-based survey with previous or current university students (age 18-45; N=240) aimed to clarify relationships between components of empathy, compassion, and altruism. It was hypothesized that (1) compassion would predict altruism beyond all components of empathy; (2) Empathic concern would mediate the relationship between Perspective taking and altruism; (3) compassion would mediate the relationship between Empathic concern and altruism, and (4) higher levels of compassion would result in a reduced negative relationship between Personal distress and altruism. The results supported all hypotheses except for the final one. These findings are discussed in context of previous research and theory, considering the current study limitations and with focus on theoretical and practical implications. In sum, the findings suggest that efforts to motivate altruism should focus on invoking positive emotions of warmth, concern, and relatability. Care should be taken to avoid unnecessary Personal distress when invoking altruism, as this reduces its likelihood.
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