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Empathy as a predictor of liking and perception of injustice – differences between characters with and without stigmatizing features / Maričić, Jelena ; Kamenov, Željka.

By: Maričić, Jelena.
Contributor(s): Kamenov, Željka [aut].
Material type: ArticleArticleDescription: 74-75 str.Other title: Empathy as a predictor of liking and perception of injustice – differences between characters with and without stigmatizing features [Naslov na engleskom:].Subject(s): 5.06 | children's prejudice; empathy; perception of injustice; perspective taking | children's prejudice; empathy; perception of injustice; perspective taking In: 2013. ISSBD regional workshop - Social Development and Interpersonal Dynamics in Childhood and Adolescence Workshop str. 74-75Abstract: Bearing in mind that empathy is one of the socio-cognitive traits which affects whether a child will develop prejudices or not (Nesdale et al., 2005), the main aim of the study was to examine the role of empathy in children’s relation towards the characters with and without stigmatizing features. The study was conducted in Zagreb, Croatia among 602 fifth-graders from elementary schools, divided into experimental and control groups. To both groups short stories were presented about the situation of unjust treatment (e.g. social exclusion, insults, false accusation) of peers against the main character. Stories presented in experimental and control groups were identical in all aspects, except for the main character belonging to either a discriminated group (Roma ethnicity, obesity, physical disability (using a wheelchair) or blindness) or to the majority population. Groups of participants were divided by gender and the characters in the stories were of the same gender as the respondents. After reading the story, participants assessed how much they liked the main character of the story and how much they perceived the situation that occurred as unjust. Empathy was measured via Interpersonal Reactivity Index for Children (Davis, 1980 ; adapted for children in the study of Litvak-Miller et al, 1997). Original subscales were named fantasy, empathic concern, perspective taking and personal distress. In the analyses, we used empathic concern, a fundamental aspect of emotional empathy, and perspective taking, a fundamental aspect of cognitive empathy, because these two aspects are more relevant for the issue of prejudice than fantasy and personal distress. However, we also aimed to examine the effect of general empathy ; thus, we calculated the total empathy score as the sum of all items retained after reliability analysis. In order to assess the children’s relation to the main characters of the story, we used the reported liking of the character and perception of injustice committed toward her/him as criterion variables in our analysis. For each of the criterion variables, a total of 16 regression analysis were conducted, separately for the experimental and control groups, as well as for boys and girls, for each of the four stories. Also, separate regression analyses were conducted with empathic concern and perspective taking as predictors on the one hand and with total empathy as a predictor on the other hand. Those cases in which some predictor proved significant in two or more regression analyses in one relative to the other group were commented. Altogether, the findings indicated that empathic concern, perspective taking, and total empathy are somewhat more often significant positive predictors of liking in experimental than in control group. In terms of perceived injustice, the difference is found only concerning perspective taking, which is also more often significant positive predictor in the experimental than in the control group. Results indicate the importance of cognitive aspects of empathy in positive relation toward children with some specific feature. The role of empathic concern and total empathy should be considered with more caution, because those constructs can sometimes be mixed with pity, which is one form of prejudice expression.
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Bearing in mind that empathy is one of the socio-cognitive traits which affects whether a child will develop prejudices or not (Nesdale et al., 2005), the main aim of the study was to examine the role of empathy in children’s relation towards the characters with and without stigmatizing features. The study was conducted in Zagreb, Croatia among 602 fifth-graders from elementary schools, divided into experimental and control groups. To both groups short stories were presented about the situation of unjust treatment (e.g. social exclusion, insults, false accusation) of peers against the main character. Stories presented in experimental and control groups were identical in all aspects, except for the main character belonging to either a discriminated group (Roma ethnicity, obesity, physical disability (using a wheelchair) or blindness) or to the majority population. Groups of participants were divided by gender and the characters in the stories were of the same gender as the respondents. After reading the story, participants assessed how much they liked the main character of the story and how much they perceived the situation that occurred as unjust. Empathy was measured via Interpersonal Reactivity Index for Children (Davis, 1980 ; adapted for children in the study of Litvak-Miller et al, 1997). Original subscales were named fantasy, empathic concern, perspective taking and personal distress. In the analyses, we used empathic concern, a fundamental aspect of emotional empathy, and perspective taking, a fundamental aspect of cognitive empathy, because these two aspects are more relevant for the issue of prejudice than fantasy and personal distress. However, we also aimed to examine the effect of general empathy ; thus, we calculated the total empathy score as the sum of all items retained after reliability analysis. In order to assess the children’s relation to the main characters of the story, we used the reported liking of the character and perception of injustice committed toward her/him as criterion variables in our analysis. For each of the criterion variables, a total of 16 regression analysis were conducted, separately for the experimental and control groups, as well as for boys and girls, for each of the four stories. Also, separate regression analyses were conducted with empathic concern and perspective taking as predictors on the one hand and with total empathy as a predictor on the other hand. Those cases in which some predictor proved significant in two or more regression analyses in one relative to the other group were commented. Altogether, the findings indicated that empathic concern, perspective taking, and total empathy are somewhat more often significant positive predictors of liking in experimental than in control group. In terms of perceived injustice, the difference is found only concerning perspective taking, which is also more often significant positive predictor in the experimental than in the control group. Results indicate the importance of cognitive aspects of empathy in positive relation toward children with some specific feature. The role of empathic concern and total empathy should be considered with more caution, because those constructs can sometimes be mixed with pity, which is one form of prejudice expression.

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