Benefits Papers‎ > ‎

(KONRATH + 2013)*

The Positive (and Negative) Psychology of Empathy 
In: The Neurobiology and Psychology of Empathy,  Nova Science Publishers, Inc. 
Sara Konrath - University of Michigan 
Delphine Grynberg  - University of Rochester Medical Center

(notes: a meta study on benefits)

Part 1: The Positive Psychology of Empathy

(+prosocial behaviors)
"Empathy for strangers. The most obvious and widely studied benefit of high empathy is its association with more prosocial behaviors directed toward strangers. In a meta-analysis examining the relationship between different kinds of empathy and prosocial behaviors such as helping, sharing, and giving to others, researchers found significant positive relationships between the two, regardless of how empathy was measured (i.e. self-reported traits, observer-reported traits, self-reported empathic emotions, or situational inductions to empathize versus remain objective; Eisenberg & Miller, 1987). "

(+effective helping)
"Moreover, increased situational empathy also makes the helping more sensitive and attuned to the recipient’s needs. After empathy is induced, participants seem to genuinely care about whether their help actually addresses the other’s need, and report feeling bad if their efforts were not helpful, even if it was through no fault of their own (Batson et al., 1988; Batson & Weeks, 1996).

 This suggests some kind of direct linkage between affective resonance/contagion mechanisms and an intrinsic motivation to reduce suffering (as hypothesized in Watt, 2007). More evidence of their increased sensitivity comes from research finding that empathy-induced participants are only more likely to help if it is good for the recipient in the long-term. If there is a short-term benefit of helping the recipient, but at the cost of a long-term harm to this recipient, people induced to be in more empathic states are actually less likely to help (Sibicky, Schroeder, & Dovidio, 1995)."

Empathy in close relationships....
Empathy in professional settings...

Empathy, aggression, and prejudice...

List of Benefits


(+Prosocial behavior)
Prosocial behavior
Evidence that empathy inductions increase altruistic motivation to help strangers and cooperate, even under duress.

(+Close relationships)
Close relationships
High empathy is associated with more sensitive parenting, and more relationship satisfaction in romantic relationships. Experimental evidence needed.*

Professional contexts
High teacher, doctor, and therapist empathy is associated with better outcomes for students and patients, respectively. Experimental evidence needed.*

Some evidence that empathy associated with less aggressive traits and behaviors, such as aggression in response to personal threats or aggression directed toward vulnerable targets.

Empathy inductions improve attitudes, feelings, and prosocial behaviors toward stigmatized groups.

Moral reasoning
Weak or non-existent evidence that empathy can improve moral reasoning, although that depends upon the definition of moral. For example is it moral to kill one person to save more people (i.e. to be utilitarian)? Also, prosocial behavior is morally desirable.


(-Psychological disorders)
Psychological disorders
Low empathy is a feature of some psychological disorders (e.g. Narcissistic Personality Inventory, Antisocial Personality Disorder, Autism Spectrum Disorders). This indicates that high empathy may be protective from such disorders

(+Psychological well-being)
Psychological well-being
Higher psychological well-being among people with higher empathy and related traits and behaviors. Additional evidence needed.*

Physical health
At times improved physiological and physical indicators of health for people with higher empathy and related traits and behaviors. Experimental evidence needed.*