CHFA | Psychology Department Showcase: Completed Projects

Title

Put yourself in their shoes: Empathy and thinking patterns

Presenter Information

Tyler RobinsonFollow

Academic Level at Time of Presentation

Senior

Major

Psychology

Minor

History

List all Project Mentors & Advisor(s)

Patrick Cushen, PhD

Presentation Format

Poster Presentation

Abstract/Description

Fewer social maxims are repeated more often than “put yourself in someone else’s shoes.” This sentiment encourages empathy by prompting people to change their entrenched thinking patterns. Empathy can be thought of as an active attempt to understand another’s perspective or the visceral sensation of identifying with another's emotions (i.e., cognitive, or affective empathy; Davis, 1983). Recently, research has identified a relationship between empathy and self-serving cognitive distortions (Grieve & Panebianco, 2013). Cognitive distortions refer to predictable and inaccurate patterns of thinking. Self-serving cognitive distortions are a form of distorted thinking patterns that are steeped in self-centered attitudes, thoughts, and beliefs (Barriga & Gibbs, 1996). Understanding the relationships between these variables may help to better understand the factors that contribute to empathetic behavior. The primary goal of this study was to expand upon previous literature and investigate the relationships between empathy and cognitive distortions. One-hundred and forty-four undergraduate psychology students participated in this study. Via an online survey, participants completed the How I Think Questionnaire (HIT-Q; Barriga & Gibbs, 1996) and the Interpersonal Reactivity Index (IRI; Davis, 1983) to measure thinking patterns and empathy, respectively. The HIT-Q includes subscales of types of distortions, such as Self-Centered, Blaming Others, Minimizing/Mislabeling, and Assuming the Worst. The IRI includes four subscales assessing either cognitive or affective empathy, including Perspective Taking, Empathic Concern, Personal Distress, and Fantasizing. It was hypothesized that self-serving cognitive distortions (i.e., Self-Centered, Blaming Others) would be negatively correlated with empathy. Consistent with the hypothesis, the results showed a significant negative correlation between scores on the Self-Centered, Blaming Others, Minimizing/Mislabeling, and Assuming the Worst subscale(s) of the HIT-Q and the scores on the Perspective Taking, and Empathic Concern subscale(s) of the IRI. These results suggest that pervasive thinking patterns, or cognitive distortions, may be a factor in peoples’ tendencies towards empathy. Practically, these distortions may be valuable targets for interventions to improve prosocial behaviors.

Keywords: empathy, cognitive distortions, self-serving biases

Location

Waterfield Gallery

Start Date

November 2021

End Date

November 2021

Fall Scholars Week 2021 Event

Psychology: Completed Projects

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Nov 16th, 9:30 AM Nov 16th, 12:30 PM

Put yourself in their shoes: Empathy and thinking patterns

Waterfield Gallery

Fewer social maxims are repeated more often than “put yourself in someone else’s shoes.” This sentiment encourages empathy by prompting people to change their entrenched thinking patterns. Empathy can be thought of as an active attempt to understand another’s perspective or the visceral sensation of identifying with another's emotions (i.e., cognitive, or affective empathy; Davis, 1983). Recently, research has identified a relationship between empathy and self-serving cognitive distortions (Grieve & Panebianco, 2013). Cognitive distortions refer to predictable and inaccurate patterns of thinking. Self-serving cognitive distortions are a form of distorted thinking patterns that are steeped in self-centered attitudes, thoughts, and beliefs (Barriga & Gibbs, 1996). Understanding the relationships between these variables may help to better understand the factors that contribute to empathetic behavior. The primary goal of this study was to expand upon previous literature and investigate the relationships between empathy and cognitive distortions. One-hundred and forty-four undergraduate psychology students participated in this study. Via an online survey, participants completed the How I Think Questionnaire (HIT-Q; Barriga & Gibbs, 1996) and the Interpersonal Reactivity Index (IRI; Davis, 1983) to measure thinking patterns and empathy, respectively. The HIT-Q includes subscales of types of distortions, such as Self-Centered, Blaming Others, Minimizing/Mislabeling, and Assuming the Worst. The IRI includes four subscales assessing either cognitive or affective empathy, including Perspective Taking, Empathic Concern, Personal Distress, and Fantasizing. It was hypothesized that self-serving cognitive distortions (i.e., Self-Centered, Blaming Others) would be negatively correlated with empathy. Consistent with the hypothesis, the results showed a significant negative correlation between scores on the Self-Centered, Blaming Others, Minimizing/Mislabeling, and Assuming the Worst subscale(s) of the HIT-Q and the scores on the Perspective Taking, and Empathic Concern subscale(s) of the IRI. These results suggest that pervasive thinking patterns, or cognitive distortions, may be a factor in peoples’ tendencies towards empathy. Practically, these distortions may be valuable targets for interventions to improve prosocial behaviors.

Keywords: empathy, cognitive distortions, self-serving biases