Greater emotional empathy and prosocial behavior in late life.
ABSTRACT Emotional empathy and prosocial behavior were assessed in older, middle-aged, and young adults. Participants watched two films depicting individuals in need, one uplifting and the other distressing. Physiological responses were monitored during the films, and participants rated their levels of emotional empathy following each film. As a measure of prosocial behavior, participants were given an additional payment they could contribute to charities supporting the individuals in the films. Age-related linear increases were found for both emotional empathy (self-reported empathic concern and cardiac and electrodermal responding) and prosocial behavior (size of contribution) across both films and in self-reported personal distress to the distressing film. Empathic concern and cardiac reactivity to both films, along with personal distress to the distressing film only, were associated with greater prosocial behavior. Empathic concern partially mediated the age-related differences in prosocial behavior. Results are discussed in terms of our understanding both of adult development and of the nature of these vital aspects of human emotion. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved).