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Emotion. 2016 Dec;16(8):1107-1116. Epub 2016 Sep 26.

Are empathy and concern psychologically distinct?

Author information

1
Department of Anthropology, Yale University.
2
Department of Psychology, Yale University.

Abstract

Researchers have long been interested in the relationship between feeling what you believe others feel-often described as empathy-and caring about the welfare of others-often described as compassion or concern. Many propose that empathy is a prerequisite for concern and is therefore the ultimate motivator of prosocial actions. To assess this hypothesis, the authors developed the Empathy Index, which consists of 2 novel scales, and explored their relationship to a measure of concern as well as to measures of cooperative and altruistic behavior. A series of factor analyses reveal that empathy and concern consistently load on different factors. Furthermore, they show that empathy and concern motivate different behaviors: concern for others is a uniquely positive predictor of prosocial action whereas empathy is either not predictive or negatively predictive of prosocial actions. Together these studies suggest that empathy and concern are psychologically distinct and empathy plays a more limited role in our moral lives than many believe. (PsycINFO Database Record.

PMID:
27668802
DOI:
10.1037/emo0000228
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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