Presentation on theme: "Testing the Scope of Empathy: Masi Noor Canterbury Christ Church University Collaborators: Samer Halabi, Sohela Nazneen & Sharon Coen Can empathising with."— Presentation transcript:
Testing the Scope of Empathy: Masi Noor Canterbury Christ Church University Collaborators: Samer Halabi, Sohela Nazneen & Sharon Coen Can empathising with a person who is a source of menace improve specific attitudes towards that person?
Overview Traditional research focus on empathy Identifying an important theoretical and methodological gap The empathy-forgiveness link Evidence from Bangladesh, the UK and Israel Implications
Empathy: The ability to sense and understand someone else's feelings as if they were one's own. Other-oriented emotional response congruent with the perceived welfare of another person (Batson, 1991)
Empathy: expediency = popularity Highly pragmatic approach to generating positive attitudes Simple set of written instructions (empathise or remain detached) Actual contact not needed
Traditional research focus & paradigm positive attitudes ( towards: women with HIV, the homeless, the drug addict, etc.) Empathy-Attitude Effect Empathy ( research participants)
Neglected focus: The relationship between the parties within the empathy-attitude link People’s attitudes and lives may be directly (and adversely) affected by the attitudes and intentions of the very individuals with whom they were asked to empathise
Relatively low vs. high costs of empathy-attitude effect Low costs: Changing attitudes towards stigmatised individuals, refusing self-benefit, helping someone skip a queue, offering voluntary time, etc (Batson et al., 1997; Batson et al., 1995; Stocks, Lishner & Decker, 2009). High costs: Generating positive attitudes towards individuals who express attitudes and intentions of harming the research participant and the wider public.
Theoretical implications of this gap Lack of knowledge of the critical boundaries that may well define and limit the traditionally observed broad scope of empathy.
Methodological implication Someone who is also in a difficult situation but who, crucially, intends to inflict severe harm onto all those whom s/he views as responsible for his/her plight Vulnerable and harmless target of empathy who is in difficult circumstances Replacing the target of empathy
The Empathy-Attitude Effect and the Menace of Suicide Bombing Terrorism Would people harvest a positive attitude towards an individual terrorist immediately after being induced with empathy? Would people be able to experience empathy for a terrorist, who is, for example, a trained suicide bomber waiting for his call?
Improving a specific attitude rather than a general positive attitude The Empathy-Forgiveness link Impact of empathy on a specific attitude which is closely linked to the perpetrator and his/her intentions Forgiveness improves negative attitudes towards the offender through asking the forgiver to abandon his/her legitimate entitlement to retribution (McCullough et al., 1997; Noor et al., 2008).
Interim Summary Exploring the scope of empathy Extension of the empathy-attitude research paradigm i.e., the effect of empathy (if any) on people’s willingness to forgive a suicide bomber for his/her intentions Initial hypothesis: High empathy, rather than low empathy, will lead to more willingness to forgive the bomber
Forgiving a suicide bomber? Our experimental paradigm Alleged media study Classic empathy manipulation instructions Bogus article reporting an interview with a suicide bomber Brief questionnaire (main DV = forgiveness)
Empathy Instructions ‘Try to take the perspective of the person being interviewed. That is, try to imagine yourself in the person’s shoes. Concentrate on trying to imagine what the person being interviewed is thinking and how he is feeling.’ ‘Try to take an objective perspective towards what is described. That is, try not to get caught up in how the person being interviewed feels; just remain objective and detached.’ HighLow
Bogus interview ‘Inside the mind of a Suicide Bomber ‘ Background info (21yr, male, Palestinian, who loses his father at an Israeli check point) Protagonist’s decision to become a suicide bomber (motives: restoring lost dignity, resisting cowardice, fighting for freedom) Protagonist’s understanding of the suicide phenomenon (owning it to his father, not because of religion, or other people’s expectations)
Main DV Forgiveness (1-7 Likert scale) ‘I can forgive Saleem for his actions;’ ‘I do not hold a grudge against Saleem;’ ‘I have no ill-feelings towards Saleem’ ‘I resent Saleem for his behaviour’ (reversed)
Experiment 1 in Bangladesh Manipulation check: N = 122; Conditions: 61E, 61D F(1,120) = 12.42, p <.01
The impact of empathy on forgiveness in Bangladesh F(1,120) = 4.29, p <.05
Discussion of Exp. 1 Results yielded: Empathy could be induced for a source of menace Empathy improved forgiveness attitudes towards a suicide bomber But: 1) The majority of the sample were Muslims (shared religious group membership) 2) relatively low threat of terrorist attacks 3) not directly targeted by the bomber
Experiment 2 in the UK Manipulation check: N = 108; Conditions: 54E, 54D F(1,106) = 3.42, p =.07
The impact of empathy on forgiveness in the UK F(1,106) = 4.95, p <.05
Discussion of Exp. 2 Results yielded: Empathy could be induced for a source of menace Empathy improved forgiveness attitudes towards a suicide bomber …even in a context that is naturally exposed to a higher level of terrorism than the Bangladeshi context But: 1) Although sample was non-Muslim, 2) moderate threat of terrorist attacks 3) the research participants not directly targeted by the bomber.
Experiment 3 in Israel The Middle East highest exposure to suicide bombings worldwide, with 224 attacks alone between 1981 and 2003 (Ricolfi, 2006). Major target: Israelis/Jewish people Our Israeli/Jewish research participants high real-life exposure to suicide bombings being directly targeted by the bogus bomber.
Experiment 3 in Israel Manipulation check: N = 104; Conditions: 53E, 51D F(1,103) = 0.26, p >.05
The impact of empathy on forgiveness in Israel F(1,103) = 2.11, p >.05
Discussion of Exp. 3 Results yielded: Empathy manipulation was not effective Empathy failed to improve forgiveness attitudes towards a suicide bomber
Conclusions/Implications Empathy can affect our attitudes Establishing the boundaries of the broad scope of empathy Impact of context