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A Test of empathy-altruism hypothesis versus the simultaneous egoism hypothesis

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Miller, Taylor L.
Lishner, David
Mar 28, 2017
Interpersonal relations; Altruism; Empathy
Two classes of motives are suggested for why we help others as a result of feeling emphatic concern. The empathy-altruism hypothesis (EAH) states that feeling empathic concern for a person in need produces altruistic motivation. Egoism hypotheses propose motivation is directed at satisfying self-interested goals, such as avoiding punishment, obtaining rewards, lessening aversive arousal, reducing negative states acquiring emphatic joy, increasing aspects of one's self shared with another, or a combination thereof. For the present study, participants were told they and another ostensible participant would be completing a study investigating how communication, task difficulty, and task engagement affect task performance. In all conditions participants received a communication from the ostensible participant describing a rec ent relationship breakup. In the first condition, participants were asked to read the communication while remaining objective and detached. Furthermore they were led to believe that the ostensible other was dissimilar to them and had been assigned a task with a potential positive outcome, but had a low likelihood of receiving the positive outcome. Those in the second condition were asked to remain objective while reading the communication, but were given no information about similarity between themselves and the ostensible participant and were led to believe the participant had a high likelihood of receiving the positive outcome. The third condition was same as the first condition except that participants were asked to imagine the ostensible participant's thoughts and feelings while reading the communication. The primary dependent variable was whether participants indicated they would like to receive feedback about whether the other participant succeeded in receiving the postive task outcome. Results revealed that those in the imagine-other/no information/low likelihood of a postive outcome condition were more likely to request feedback about ostensible participant's outcome than those in the other two conditions, but the pattern of proportions was not statistically significant. Although the pattern of results is more consistent with the EAH than the egoistic alternative explanations, findings were ambiguous given the perspective-taking manipulation effect on empathic concern was weak.
A Thesis Submitted In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements For the Degree of Master of Science-Psychology Cognitive and Affective Science
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