The benefits of empathy: When empathy may sustain cooperation in social dilemmas

Leiden University, The Netherlands
European Journal of Social Psychology (Impact Factor: 1.78). 01/2009; 40(5):856 - 866. DOI: 10.1002/ejsp.659

ABSTRACT Cooperation in social dilemmas is often challenged by negative noise, or unintended errors, such that the actual behavior is less cooperative than intended—for example, arriving later than intended for a meeting due to an unusual traffic jam. The present research was inspired by the notion that doing a little more for one's interaction partner, which may be movitvated by empathetic feelings, can effectively reduce the detrimental effects of “negative noise,” or unintended incidents of noncooperation. Consistent with hypotheses, negative noise exhibited detrimental effects on cooperation, but such effects were absent when empathy-motivated cooperation was present. We conclude that empathy has broad benefits for social interaction, in that it can be an effective tool for coping with misinterpreted behaviors, thereby maintaining or enhancing cooperation. Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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Available from: Paul A M Van Lange, Sep 26, 2015
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    • "In line with this interpretation, Sanna, Lundberg, Parks, and Chang (2010) have recently shown that the level at which a social dilemma problem is construed can predict the degree of cooperation (i.e., a prosocial behavior known to involve empathy; Rumble et al., 2010). They predicted and found that when motives were framed abstractly (e.g., being cooperative or competitive), high levels of construal resulted in more cooperation and competitiveness, respectively (see also Giacomantonio, Dreu, Shalvi, Sligte, & Leder, 2010). "
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