Summary: While empathy may not have a direct effect on prejudice, researchers say it does have an indirect influence via personality and attitude. The study reveals a person with low empathy is more likely to score high on authoritarianism and is indirectly more susceptible to show prejudice.
Source: University of Cordoba.
This is a subject that is hard to define and harder still to conceptually frame as the subject of a study, due to the overlap with other traits like emotional intelligence or kindness. According to some theories, it is roughly “putting yourself in another person’s shoes.” University of Cordoba Education Professor José Luis Álvarez Castillo defines empathy as “the ability to see things from another person’s perspective from a cognitive and emotional point of view.” That is to say, to imagine and understand other people’s beliefs and opinions and experience their feelings and emotions, understanding and feeling the world through their eyes.
Specifically, this group has examined empathetic behavior and attempted to unravel the impact and association that can exist between empathy and the development of prejudices. According to the results of the research, empathy does not have direct effects on prejudice. Nevertheless, it does have an indirect influence via personality and attitudes, particularly by means of openness to experience and what is known as “right-wing authoritarianism” in scientific literature, an attitude related to defending social stability and the values one perceives as characteristic of his/her culture. Therefore, if a person has very little empathy, there is a certain likelihood that he/she will score high on right-wing authoritarianism, and indirectly would be more susceptible to show prejudice and possibly to develop discriminatory behavior towards certain groups.
As Professor Álvarez explains, the basis for his research was a well established dual model for predicting prejudice developed by John Duckitt, Emeritus Professor at the University of Auckland and an expert on social psychology. This system is able to predict prejudice that a person could develop taking into account personality traits like openness to experience and kindness, as well as two ideological attitudes, the above-mentioned right-wing authoritarianism and “social dominance orientation,” a concept that refers to defending differences between classes and cultures, and the belief that a hierarchical society is preferable over a horizontal one.
Thus, the University of Cordoba research team used this model that initially considered personality traits, worldviews and attitudes, and they incorporated empathy to observe how it behaves in terms of predicting prejudices when a wide range of variables are included. Throughout the study, data were taken from over 250 young people with a cross-sectional design using self-reporting instruments, leading to results obtained via structural equation analysis.
Profesor Álvarez is positive that an empathetic person is less likely to develop prejudices. As he points out, the study demonstrates “empathy is still important even when inserted in complex models, and it continues to be a strong variable when it comes to explaining why a person develops a negative attitude toward certain groups,” so “at university we have to keep fostering it, especially the part of it that can be learned.”
Source: Elena Lázaro Real – University of Cordoba
Publisher: Organized by NeuroscienceNews.com.
Image Source: NeuroscienceNews.com image is in the public domain.
Original Research: Open access research for “Is empathy one of the Big Three? Identifying its role in a dual-process model of ideology and blatant and subtle prejudice” by José Luis Álvarez-Castillo, Gemma Fernández-Caminero, and Hugo González-González in PLOS ONE. Published April 5 2018.
[cbtabs][cbtab title=”MLA”]University of Cordoba “Putting Oneself in Another Person’s Place is the Best Antidote Against Prejudice.” NeuroscienceNews. NeuroscienceNews, 25 June 2018.
<https://neurosciencenews.com/empathy-prejudice-9436/>.[/cbtab][cbtab title=”APA”]University of Cordoba (2018, June 25). Putting Oneself in Another Person’s Place is the Best Antidote Against Prejudice. NeuroscienceNews. Retrieved June 25, 2018 from https://neurosciencenews.com/empathy-prejudice-9436/[/cbtab][cbtab title=”Chicago”]University of Cordoba “Putting Oneself in Another Person’s Place is the Best Antidote Against Prejudice.” https://neurosciencenews.com/empathy-prejudice-9436/ (accessed June 25, 2018).[/cbtab][/cbtabs]
Is empathy one of the Big Three? Identifying its role in a dual-process model of ideology and blatant and subtle prejudice
In the field of the social psychology of prejudice, John Duckitt’s Dual-Process Cognitive-Motivational Model of Ideology and Prejudice has gained a firm grounding over the past decade and a half, while empathy has become one of the most powerful predictors of prejudice, alongside right-wing authoritarianism and social dominance orientation. This study integrates empathy into the dual-process model, exploring the effects of this variable, along with the impact of personality and ideological attitudes, on prejudice in both its blatant and subtle forms. A cross-sectional research design was used to collect data from 260 university students by self-report measures. Despite its cross-sectional nature, a pattern of causal relationships was hypothesized according to experimental and longitudinal findings from previous studies. The path analysis results show that in the model fitted to the data, empathy does not have any direct impact on prejudice, although it plays a significant role in the prediction of prejudice towards a particular immigrant group. On the other hand, the dual-process model is confirmed in the explanation of blatant prejudice and, in a weaker and indirect way, of subtle prejudice; sustaining the distinctive nature of these constructs on some differential predictors and paths. In the discussion, this study proposes that when ideological and personality-based variables are both included in the model, general empathy is not so robust in the explanation of prejudice, since some of the empathetic components might become diluted among other covariates. But even so, its indirect effectiveness through personality and ideological attitudes remains relevant.