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In three experiments, we examine parochial empathy (feeling more empathy for in-group than out-group members) across novel group boundaries, and test whether we can mitigate parochial empathy with brief narrative descriptions. In the absence of individuating information, participants consistently report more empathy for members of their own assigned group than a competitive out-group. However, individualized descriptions of in-group and out-group targets significantly reduce parochial empathy by interfering with encoding of targets’ group membership. Finally, the descriptions that most effectively decrease parochial empathy are those that describe targets’ mental states. These results support the role of individuating information in ameliorating parochial empathy, suggest a mechanism for their action, and show that descriptions emphasizing targets’ mental states are particularly effective.
© 2015 Bruneau et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
memory, recall memory, experimental design, personality, emotions, problem solving, altruistic behavior
Bruneau, E., Cikara, M., & Saxe, R. (2015). Minding the Gap: Narrative Descriptions about Mental States Attenuate Parochial Empathy. PLoS ONE, 10 (10), https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0140838
Date Posted: 15 June 2018
This document has been peer reviewed.