Wednesday, January 25, 2017
Study Indicates Empathetic Areas Grow Compassion
“Those living in more charitable areas may have become more empathetic after witnessing the generous behavior in that area,” surmised researchers in a recent study, Geographic Variation in Empathy, a State-Level Analysis.
From a report, The Most (and Least) Empathic States of America, recently posted in Greater Good in Action, the study is "a first-of-its-kind study (that) ranked 63 nations of the world in terms of empathy, and the United States came in at an enviable seventh place."
"The researchers analyzed data from 79,563 American adults who volunteered to complete an online survey ... While not scientifically selected to represent the population, participants were from all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
"They responded to seven statements reflecting empathic concern, such as 'I often have tender, concerned feelings for people less fortunate than me.' Another seven statements referred to the ability to imagine others’ points of view, such as 'I sometimes try to understand my friends better by imagining how things look from their perspective.'
"For each statement, participants reported their level of agreement on a scale of one ('does not describe me well') to five ('describes me very well'). Scores on the emotional and intellectual components of empathy were combined to create a 'total empathy' rating.
"...The researchers also examined rates of pro-social and anti-social behavior in each state, utilizing such factors as the crime rate, the percentage of the population that engages in volunteer work, and how much the average resident gives to charity.
They found levels of total empathy 'were positively related to state-level volunteering and higher well-being,' along with 'lower rates of violent crime, aggravated assault, and robbery.'
"While careful to note their findings do not prove causality, the researchers argue they provide evidence that 'between-state differences in important outcomes like crime, economics, and health may be attributable to psychological characteristics of people living in those places.'
"Why certain states or regions show more or less empathy isn’t clear, but the researchers note that social influence may play a role. 'Those living in more charitable areas may have become more empathetic after witnessing the generous behavior in that area,' they write."