University of Twente Student Theses


Inter- and intraindividual differences in empathy-response to Covid-19 related moral dilemmas

Bartsch, Kathrin (2021) Inter- and intraindividual differences in empathy-response to Covid-19 related moral dilemmas.

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Abstract:The Covid-19 pandemic confronted people with unfamiliar moral issues, such as: Should quarantine instructions be followed if it means sacrificing the collective well-being? This qualitative study explored inter- and intraindividual differences in empathy-response over time when repeatedly asked to engage in Covid-19 related moral dilemmas. Therefore, a closer look at the present state of empathy research is provided. Out of an existing data set of responses on Covid-19 related moral dilemmas, a sample of twenty participants was chosen from different participants resident in the Netherlands, Finland, Ecuador, and Greece. Survey responses were analyzed inductively and deductively by thematic analysis that led to the distinction of four facets of empathy: 1) affective empathy, 2) cognitive empathy, 3) expressed empathy, and 4) future-self empathy. Hereby, the facets 'cognitive empathy', 'affective empathy' and 'expressed empathy' could be found in different depth among the participants. Consequently, the levels high, medium and low emerged. With each level, the effort and depth with which a person tried to use empathy to understand how another person feels, thinks, or behaves increased. Unlike the four empathy facets, it was also possible to discover a form of 'antipathy'. Overall, the empathy facets ‘low cognitive empathy' and medium cognitive empathy' were used most when asked to engage in Covid-19 related moral dilemmas. Interestingly, findings highlighted that there are inter- and intraindividual differences. Thus, participants showed to apply multiple facets of empathy parallel or at least within the same dilemma. Additionally, participants used different empathy facets depending on the dilemma they faced. Furthermore, this study has proven that some individuals show a higher degree of empathy than others. However, within this study, it was not possible to improve an individual's empathy capacity. Thus, according to our finding's empathy is not trainable. This study contributes significantly to understanding empathy as a multidimensional construct and provides a sound basis for future projects.
Item Type:Essay (Master)
Faculty:BMS: Behavioural, Management and Social Sciences
Subject:77 psychology
Programme:Psychology MSc (66604)
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