Changes in Dispositional Empathy in American College Students Over Time: A Meta-Analysis

University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, 48104, USA.
Personality and Social Psychology Review (Impact Factor: 7.55). 05/2011; 15(2):180-98. DOI: 10.1177/1088868310377395
Source: PubMed


The current study examines changes over time in a commonly used measure of dispositional empathy. A cross-temporal meta-analysis was conducted on 72 samples of American college students who completed at least one of the four subscales (Empathic Concern, Perspective Taking, Fantasy, and Personal Distress) of the Interpersonal Reactivity Index (IRI) between 1979 and 2009 (total N = 13,737). Overall, the authors found changes in the most prototypically empathic subscales of the IRI: Empathic Concern was most sharply dropping, followed by Perspective Taking. The IRI Fantasy and Personal Distress subscales exhibited no changes over time. Additional analyses found that the declines in Perspective Taking and Empathic Concern are relatively recent phenomena and are most pronounced in samples from after 2000.

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    • "First, at the East–West study level, we examined potential moderating sample effects—specifically , gender and age distribution, year of data collection, and sample size— on the omnibus analysis. In estimating year of data collection, based on prior work, we used the value of two years prior to publication for article in which precise year was not known (Konrath et al., 2011; Lee & Pratto, 2011; Twenge et al., 2008). Some effect sizes were based on multiple papers published in different years (Cuddy et al., 2009 and Fiske et al., 2002; Lin & 3 Among these three articles, two report greater negative attitudes in the East than in the West (Harwood et al., 1994; Sharps et al., 1998) and the other (Chappell, 2003) reports mixed evidence. "
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    ABSTRACT: Prevailing beliefs suggest that Eastern cultures hold older adults in higher esteem than Western cultures do, due to stronger collectivist traditions of filial piety. However, in modern, industrialized societies, the strain presented by dramatic rises in population aging potentially threatens traditional cultural expectations. Addressing these competing hypotheses, a literature search located 37 eligible papers, comprising samples from 23 countries and 21,093 total participants, directly comparing Easterners and Westerners (as classified per U.N. conventions) in their attitudes toward aging and the aged. Contradicting conventional wisdom, a random-effects meta-analysis on these articles found such evaluations to be more negative in the East overall (standardized mean difference = -0.31). High heterogeneity in study comparisons suggested the presence of moderators; indeed, geographical region emerged as a significant moderating factor, with the strongest levels of senior derogation emerging in East Asia (compared with South and Southeast Asia) and non-Anglophone Europe (compared with North American and Anglophone Western regions). At the country level, multiple-moderator meta-regression analysis confirmed recent rises in population aging to significantly predict negative elder attitudes, controlling for industrialization per se over the same time period. Unexpectedly, these analyses also found that cultural individualism significantly predicted relative positivity-suggesting that, for generating elder respect within rapidly aging societies, collectivist traditions may backfire. The findings suggest the importance of demographic challenges in shaping modern attitudes toward elders-presenting considerations for future research in ageism, cross-cultural psychology, and even economic development, as societies across the globe accommodate unprecedented numbers of older citizens. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2015 APA, all rights reserved).
    Psychological Bulletin 07/2015; 141(5). DOI:10.1037/a0039469 · 14.76 Impact Factor
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    • "Similarly, social psychologists working in the U.S. have detected increases in self-esteem (Twenge and Campbell, 2001) and decreases in conformity (Perrin and Spencer, 1981; Bond and Smith, 1996), need for social approval (Twenge and Im, 2007) and trust (Putnam, 1995; Robinson and Jackson, 2001) over the last half century. Over the same relatively short period, clinical psychologists have observed reliable increases in depression and other psychopathologies (Twenge et al., 2010) and decreased empathy and perspective taking (Konrath et al., 2011). In short, data from standardized intelligence tests, personality measures, and laboratory experiments suggest that Americans are changing on some major psychological variables. "

    Frontiers in Psychology 05/2015; 6:716. DOI:10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00716 · 2.80 Impact Factor
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    • "In contrast with individuals who do not view violent content , those who do showed less arousal to violent scenes ( Bartholow et al . , 2006 ; Krahé et al . , 2011 ) , more tolerance of real - life aggres - sion ( Drabman and Thomas , 1974 ; Molitor and Hirsch , 1994 ; Carnagey et al . , 2007 ) , less empathy toward others ( Konrath et al . , 2011 ) , and enhanced aggressive thoughts and emotions ( Funk et al . , 2004 ) ."
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