ERIC Number: ED176850
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1979-Mar
Conceptual, Methodological, and Value Issues in Empathy Research.
Hoffman, Martin L.
Empathic distress refers to the empathic response to another's pain, anxiety, or sadness. Empathic distress must be viewed as only one component of a person's response when observing someone in distress. Studies of empathy should be designed to rule out or control the non-empathic components insofar as possible. The importance of perception and cognition for affective empathy has probably been overemphasized. While it is commonly held that role-taking (a cognitive skill) is necessary for empathy to mediate helping, a case can be made for the proposition that empathy often fosters role-taking rather than the reverse. The question of age differences in empathy remains an unresolved issue. Research studies utilizing cognitively oriented measures tend to find age differences while those employing non-verbal measures do not. An ideal empathy index would include evidence that (1) affect has been aroused in the observer and (2) the affect experienced by the observer is sufficiently close in quality and direction to the affect experienced by the model that it can be considered a vicarious response. The use of facial response as an index of empathy seems promising enough to warrant further investigation. Attempts have been made to circumvent certain ethical, value issues by proposing that children be trained in affective empathy which will contribute to prosocial behavior rather than being trained for prosocial behavior directly. This approach raises ethical questions of its own which need to be discussed. (JMB)
Publication Type: Speeches/Meeting Papers; Opinion Papers
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Note: Paper presented at the Biennial Meeting of the Society for Research in Child Development (San Francisco, California, March 15-18, 1979)