EMPATHIC CONCERN AND THE INHIBITION OF AGGRESSION: GENERAL OR INDIVIDUAL-SPECIFIC INHIBITION?
Wenzlaff, Miranda R.
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Previous studies on empathic concern and aggression have yielded inconsistent support that empathic concern inhibits aggression and failed to discern whether this inhibition is victim-specific or general. The purpose of this research was to examine the influence of empathic concern on aggression toward provoking individuals, and to test whether the nature of this inhibition is a result of a general effect or an individual-specific effect. In other words, does empathic concern inhibit aggression toward a provoking individual only when empathic concern is felt for that individual, or does experiencing empathic concern inhibit aggression toward any individual, regardless of whether empathic concern is felt toward them specifically? The present study was intended to address previous limitations, establish whether a causal relation between empathic concern and aggression exists, and test competing predictions of the General Aggression Model and the empathy-altruism hypothesis. Participants were assigned to a perspective-taking role (imagine-other or objective) while reading a communication (empathic concern manipulation) sent from an ostensible participant. Participants then received negative feedback from either the sender of the communication or a different third participant and were asked to provide feedback in return. Less aggression from participants in the imagine-other/sender condition than those in the imagine-other/control condition would provide support for the empathy-altruism hypothesis. Less aggression from participants in both of the imagine-other perspective conditions compared to those in the objective condition would provide support for the GAM. A one-way-between-subjects analysis of variance failed to find significant support for the expected outcomes for either the General Aggression Model or the empathy-altruism hypothesis.