Minding the Gap: Narrative Descriptions about Mental States Attenuate Parochial Empathy
Author(s)Bruneau, Emile G.; Cikara, Mina; Saxe, Rebecca R.
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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.
DepartmentMassachusetts Institute of Technology. Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences
Public Library of Science
Bruneau, Emile G., Mina Cikara, and Rebecca Saxe. “Minding the Gap: Narrative Descriptions About Mental States Attenuate Parochial Empathy.” Edited by Angela Sirigu. PLoS ONE 10, no. 10 (October 27, 2015): e0140838.
Final published version