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The Empathy-Altruism Association and Its Relevance to Health Care Professions

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Abstract:

It is posited in the empathy-altruism hypothesis that altruistic motivation evoked by empathy is directed toward the ultimate goal of improving another person's welfare. In this study the empathy-altruism hypothesis was examined. Measures of altruism, empathy, and social desirability were completed by 112 individuals in a university setting. A positive and significant association was found between altruism and empathy (rs = .24, p = .01, 95% CI [.06-.41]). No significant associations were found between social desirability and altruism or between social desirability and empathy. Because the loss of capacity to feel empathy may lead to burnout, disillusionment, and reduced altruistic helping efforts, the clinical applicability and implications of these findings are particularly important to health care and other helping professions.

Keywords: ALTRUISM; EMPATHY; HELPING; PROSOCIAL BEHAVIOR

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.2224/sbp.2012.40.3.395

Publication date: April 1, 2012

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