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


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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    • "With respect to charitable giving, compelling yet competing psychological theories suggest that different affective states might promote resource sharing (Batson et al., 1991; Batson, Duncan, Ackerman, Buckley, & Birch, 1981; Cialdini et al., 1987; Dickert, Sagara, & Slovic, 2011; Fehr & Camerer, 2007; Zaki & Mitchell, 2011, 2013). For instance, whereas some findings suggest that negative affect (e.g., guilt, empathy) can increase charitable giving (Fisher & Ma, 2014; Hein, Silani, Preuschoff, Batson, & Singer, 2010; Small & Verrochi, 2009), others implicate positive affect (e.g., warmth, excitement; Andreoni, 1995). "
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