Promotion of other-oriented behavior towards a target with dementia : using perspective taking to enhance empathy and reduce pity
The population of individuals with dementia is expected to increase in the future. Thus, discovering the antecedents of willingness to help those with dementia is of current concern. In the present study, participants were shown a picture of a woman with dementia and were randomly assigned to either imagine her situation (imagine-other condition), remain objective and detached about her situation (stay-objective condition), or received no further instructions (no instructions) condition. It was hypothesized that imagine-other and no-instructions participants would experience higher empathic concern than stay-objective participants. Participants in the no instructions condition were predicted to experience higher levels of pity compared to those in the stay-objective and imagine-other conditions. Furthermore, participants in the imagine-other condition were expected to be more willing to help the woman with dementia than participants in the no instructions and stay-objective conditions. Contrary to expectations, perspective-taking instructions had minimal impact on self-reported levels of pity or empathic concern. However, participants in the imagine-other and stay-objective conditions had higher rates of volunteerism than participants in the no instructions condition. A series of binary logistic regressions revealed that pity and perspective-taking manipulation predicted volunteerism among participants in the imagine-other condition. Only the perspectivetaking manipulation predicted rates of volunteerism among participants in the stayobjective condition. The results of this study suggest that characteristics of a target with dementia may have a greater impact than perspective-taking instructions on empathic concern and pity. Furthermore, level of pity may be more predictive of willingness to volunteer for an individual with dementia than empathic concern in certain scenarios. Finally, factors other than vicarious emotions may motivate individuals to volunteer for a target with dementia when trying to remain objective.