The Many Faces of Empathy : Mirrored Feelings and Compassion Lead to Differences in Desire to Punish Wrongdoers
MetadataShow full item record
Research has often framed empathy as a good, moral construct. Recently, psychologists have been adding complexity to the definition and outcomes of empathy, or mirrored feelings, and distinguishing it from the experience of compassion. I sought to explore these differences as they relate to how people react in the face of injustice. In this experiment, participants were primed with either mirrored feelings or compassion training in the form of a short meditation, then exposed to a scenario in which one person wrongs another. Participants in the mirrored feelings condition wanted more strongly to punish the wrongdoer than those who underwent compassion training. This relationship was mediated by the experience of mirrored feelings, including anger. Between conditions, there were no significant differences in desire to compensate the victim and hypothetical distribution of reward and punishment between victim and wrongdoer. Certain aspects of participants’ preexisting empathy (e.g., personal distress and empathic concern) had an effect on their responses to the scenario.