Empathic joy and the empathy-altruism hypothesis.

Department of Psychology, University of Kansas, Lawrence 66045-2160.
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (Impact Factor: 5.08). 10/1991; 61(3):413-26. DOI: 10.1037/0022-3514.61.3.413
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Three experiments tested whether empathy evokes egoistic motivation to share vicariously in the victim's joy at improvement (the empathic-joy hypothesis) instead of altruistic motivation to increase the victim's welfare (the empathy-altruism hypothesis). In Experiment 1, Ss induced to feel either low or high empathy for a young woman in need were given a chance to help her. Some believed that if they helped they would receive feedback about her improvement; others did not. In Experiments 2 and 3, Ss induced to feel either low or high empathy were given a choice of getting update information about a needy person's condition. Before choosing, they were told the likelihood of the person's condition having improved--and of their experiencing empathic joy--was 20%, was 50%, or was 80%. Results of none of the experiments patterned as predicted by the empathic-joy hypothesis; instead, results of each were consistent with the empathy-altruism hypothesis.

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