For Future Reference; Cognitive Empathy is Augmented Over Temporal Distance: An investigation of temporal distance influence on empathy

University essay from Lunds universitet/Institutionen för psykologi

Abstract: The goal of this experiments was to investigate a possible link between emotional and cognitive empathy and temporal distance. Along the lines of the Affect dependent time discounting hypothesis (Liberman & Trope, 2000) it is proposed that emotional reactions to empathic events decrease with temporal distance and cognitive reactions to the same empathic events increase. To test this hypothesis series of three experiments were carried out. Participants either read empathy evoking vignettes that took place in present or in the future. They were requested to report to what degree they engaged in perspective taking (cognitive empathy) respectively emotional empathy. Non significant tendencies were found in experiment 1 and 2 and a significant main effect was found for participant engagement in perspective taking in the distant future. Whereas effects for emotional empathy were inconclusive. Partially confirming empathy’s susceptibility to the affect dependent time discounting effect. Moreover results from experiment 3 exhibited non significant tendencies for a decrease in temporal distance for both types of empathy for target situation-irrelevant emotions, providing support against the affect dependent time discounting hypothesis. Implementations of a vignette method and a probable social distance component are discussed.

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