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Empathic Perspective Taking and the Situational Malleability of the Communal Self-concept

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Previous research has suggested that communal self-descriptions might be less malleable than agentic ones. We propose that the communal self-concept is malleable as well, and that empathic perspective taking activates the communal self-concept. In two studies, participants watched a video and were either instructed to empathically take the perspective of the target person or to remain objective and detached. In Study 1, we used a repeated-measures design and found that participants' communal self-descriptions changed after empathic perspective taking, but not in the objective condition. In Study 2, we assessed the accessibility of the communal self-concept by measuring response latencies. Participants in the empathic perspective-taking condition responded faster for communal traits and judged more communal traits as self-descriptive than participants in the objective condition.
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Keywords: Agency; Empathic perspective taking; Self-concept; Communion; Situational malleability

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Social Psychology Group, University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, Erlangen, Germany

Publication date: May 1, 2013

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