THE GROWTH OF EMOTIONAL EMPATHY AND CERTAIN PERSONALITY CORRELATES IN ADOLESCENTS ENGAGED IN FACE-TO-FACE HELPING

MARGARET MCKIM ARTHUR, Fordham University

Abstract

The human brain is so constructed that when we perceive another's emotion, we tend to respond with a similar emotion. This innate, species-wide, involuntary response constitutes the emotional component of empathy.^ This study placed empathy within a broad theory of emotion and defined empathy as an emotion process. This deliberately narrow focus emphasized the emotional component of empathy and excluded the cognitive.^ Theoretically, empathy can be increased under certain conditions. A necessary though not sufficient condition of an empathy growth setting is that the developing person engage in face-to-face helping of a needy other.^ This and other essential criteria of empathy growth settings are the basis of Jesuit high schools' service programs, which provided a ready-made opportunity to study empathy growth in an uncontrived setting.^ One urban and one suburban Jesuit school participated in the study. Subjects were assigned randomly to the empathy growth/service project group or the no growth/no service project group. After 14 weeks, the Emotional Empathy Scale and the Comrey Personality Scales were administered to both groups.^ It was hypothesized that the service project (treatment) group would score higher on the Emotional Empathy Scale and the Comrey Empathy subscale than the no project (control) group, and that certain personality correlates of empathy would also change in the treatment group as compared to the control group.^ The data failed to support the basic hypotheses. Several factors probably contributed to this outcome, including problems inherent in the measurement of emotion processes and the nature of the service projects themselves.^ An unpredicted finding was that students in the urban school scored higher on both measures of empathy than their suburban counterparts. Socioeconomic, ethnic, and age differences between the two populations may have affected this finding.^ Further research is needed regarding empathy growth settings, methods of measuring empathy, and the influence of personalogic and social variables on empathy development. The goal should be a coherent, thoroughgoing model of empathy: its definition, its mechanisms, and its effects. ^

Subject Area

Developmental psychology

Recommended Citation

ARTHUR, MARGARET MCKIM, "THE GROWTH OF EMOTIONAL EMPATHY AND CERTAIN PERSONALITY CORRELATES IN ADOLESCENTS ENGAGED IN FACE-TO-FACE HELPING" (1983). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI8326159.
https://fordham.bepress.com/dissertations/AAI8326159

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