Empathy: A motivated account

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Empathy: A motivated account

Empathy: A motivated account. Zaki, Jamil Psychological Bulletin, Vol 140(6), Nov 2014, 1608-1647. Link Citation

Empathy features a tension between automaticity and context dependency. On the one hand, people often take on each other’s internal states reflexively and outside of awareness. On the other hand, empathy shifts with characteristics of empathizers and situations. These 2 characteristics of empathy can be reconciled by acknowledging the key role of motivation in driving people to avoid or approach engagement with others’ emotions. In particular, at least 3 phenomena—suffering, material costs, and interference with competition—motivate people to avoid empathy, and at least 3 phenomena—positive affect, affiliation, and social desirability—motivate them to approach empathy. Would-be empathizers carry out these motives through regulatory strategies including situation selection, attentional modulation, and appraisal, which alter the course of empathic episodes. Interdisciplinary evidence highlights the motivated nature of empathy, and a motivated model holds wide-ranging implications for basic theory, models of psychiatric illness, and intervention efforts to maximize empathy. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2014 APA, all rights reserved)

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