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It's all about the self: When perspective taking backfires.

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Abstract

Although abundant research documents positive interpersonal outcomes of perspective taking, a growing body of evidence indicates perspective taking can also induce negative interpersonal outcomes (i.e., it “backfires”). We aim at integrating these seemingly contradictory findings, suggesting that perspective taking backfires when it causes the perspective-taking individual to feel threatened. Threat can emerge from the very act of perspective taking whenever the target of perspective taking is perceived as too different from the self, or if adopting another’s perspective creates the potential for negative self-evaluation. Furthermore, threat may emerge if perspective taking successfully creates perceptions of self-other overlap, but the overlapping characteristics accentuate potentially threatening characteristics of the perspective-taking target. Our theoretical model affords predictions for other conditions when perspective taking is linked to self-threat and may backfire.

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The cognitive significance of being in a close relationship is described in terms of including other in the self (in K. Lewin's [1948] sense of overlapping regions of the life space and in W. James [1890/1948] sense of the self as resources, perspectives, and characteristics). Exp 1 (with 24 college students), adapting W. B. Liebrand's (see record 1985-20117-001) decomposed-game procedures, found less self/other difference in allocations of money to a friend than to a stranger, regardless of whether Ss expected other to know their allocations. Exp 2 (with 20 female undergraduates), adapting C. G. Lord's (see record 1988-00331-001) procedures, found that Ss recalled fewer nouns previously imaged with self or mother than nouns imaged with a nonclose other, suggesting that mother was processed more like self than a stranger. Exp 3 (with 17 married graduate students), adapting self-schema, reaction-time (RT) procedures (e.g., H. Markus; see record 1977-27587-001) found longer latencies when making "me/not me" decisions for traits that were different between self and spouse versus traits that were similar for both, suggesting a self/other confusion with spouse. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
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Experiments testing the self-serving bias (SSB; taking credit for personal success but blaming external factors for personal failure) have used a multitude of moderators (i.e., role, task importance, outcome expectancies, self-esteem, achievement motivation, self-focused attention, task choice, perceived task difficulty, interpersonal orientation, status, affect, locus of control, gender, and task type). The present meta-analytic review established the viability and pervasiveness of the SSB and, more important, organized the 14 moderators just listed under the common theoretical umbrella of self-threat. According to the self-threat model, the high self-threat level of each moderator is associated with a larger display of the SSB than the low self-threat level. The model was supported: Self-threat magnifies the SSB. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
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Students of empathy can seem a cantankerous lot. Although they typically agree that empathy is important, they often disagree about why it is important, about what effects it has, about where it comes from, and even about what it is. The term empathy is currently applied to more than a half-dozen phenomena. These phenomena are related to one another, but they are not elements, aspects, facets, or components of a single thing that is empathy, as one might say that an attitude has cognitive, affective, and behavioral components. Rather, each is a conceptually distinct, stand-alone psychological state. Further, each of these states has been called by names other than empathy. Opportunities for disagreement abound. In an attempt to sort out this disagreement, I wish first to identify two distinct questions that empathy is thought to answer. Then I wish to identify eight distinct phenomena that have been called empathy. Finally, I wish to relate these eight phenomena to the two questions. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
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In recent years, abundant evidence from behavioral and cognitive studies and functional-imaging experiments has indicated that individuals come to understand the emotional and affective states expressed by others with the help of the neural architecture that produces such states in themselves. Such a mechanism gives rise to shared representations, which constitutes one important aspect of empathy, although not the sole one. We. suggest that other components, including people's ability to monitor and regulate cognitive and emotional processes to prevent confusion between self and other, are equally necessary parts of a functional model of empathy. We discuss data from recent functional-imaging studies in support of such a model and highlight the role of specific brain regions, notably the insula, the anterior cingulate cortex, and the right temporo-parietal region. Because this model assumes that empathy relies on dissociable information-processing mechanisms, it predicts a variety of structural or functional dysfunctions, depending on which mechanism is disrupted.
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To assess whether perspective-taking, which researchers in other fields have shown to induce empathy, improves patient satisfaction in encounters between student-clinicians and standardized patients (SPs). In three studies, randomly assigned students (N = 608) received either a perspective-taking instruction or a neutral instruction prior to a clinical skills examination in 2006-2007. SP satisfaction was the main outcome in all three studies. Study 1 involved 245 third-year medical students from two universities. Studies 2 and 3 extended Study 1 to examine generalizability across student and SP subpopulations. Study 2 (105 physician assistant students, one university) explored the effect of perspective-taking on African American SPs' satisfaction. Study 3 (258 third-year medical students, two universities) examined the intervention's effect on students with high and low baseline perspective-taking tendencies. Intervention students outscored controls in patient satisfaction in all studies: Study 1: P = .01, standardized effect size = 0.16; Study 2: P = .001, standardized effect size = 0.31; Study 3: P = .009, standardized effect size = 0.13. In Study 2, perspective-taking improved African American SPs' satisfaction. In Study 3, intervention students with high baseline perspective-taking tendencies outscored controls (P = .0004, standardized effect size = 0.25), whereas those with low perspective-taking tendencies did not (P = .72, standardized effect size = 0.00). Perspective-taking increased patient satisfaction in all three studies, across medical schools, clinical disciplines, and racially diverse students and SPs. Perspective-taking as a means for improving patient satisfaction deserves further exploration in clinical training and practice.
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The hypothesis for the present study may be stated as follows: In a situation where failure is ego-threatening, individuals who have a high success-to-failure recall ratio will show a greater degree of perceptual defense than will individuals with a low success-to-failure recall ratio The results show the main effect of ego involvement on the recall of completed vs. incompleted tasks is to increase greatly the group variance The increase in variance with ego involvement reflects marked individual differences in response to threat.
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Perspective-taking, by means of creating an overlap between self and other cognitive representations, has been found to effectively decrease stereotyping and ingroup favoritism. In the present investigation, the authors examined the potential moderating role of self-esteem on the effects of perspective-taking on prejudice. In two experiments, it was found that perspective-takers, but not control participants, with temporarily or chronically high self-esteem evaluated an outgroup more positively than perspective-takers with low self-esteem. This finding suggests an irony of perspective-taking: it builds off egocentric biases to improve outgroup evaluations. The discussion focuses on how debiasing intergroup thought is often best accomplished by working through the very processes that produced the bias in the first place.
Perspective-taking: Decreasing stereotype expression, stereotype accessibility, and in-group favoritism
  • A D Galinsky
  • G B Moskowitz
Galinsky, A. D., & Moskowitz, G. B. (2000). Perspective-taking: Decreasing stereotype expression, stereotype accessibility, and in-group favoritism. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 78, 708-724. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.78.4.708
Stumbling in their shoes: Disability simulations reduce judged capabilities of disabled people
  • A M Silverman
  • J D Gwinn
  • L Van Boven
Silverman, A. M., Gwinn, J. D., & Van Boven, L. (2015). Stumbling in their shoes: Disability simulations reduce judged capabilities of disabled people. Social Psychological & Personality Science, 6, 464-471. doi:10.1177/1948550614559650