Empathy and self-centredness: A couple of graphs

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conrad
conrad
6 years ago

Aside from the size of the effect in the first graph being tiny (which the authors note), I find trying to interpret these sorts of results almost impossible. There are many problems, but an obvious confounding variable is that people are relentlessly surveyed these days — and it wouldn’t be at all surprising if they responded differently because of this on factors that have nothing to do with the survey. For example, people may not think as much about the questions, they may be willing to give more culturally inappropriate answers, and they may simply be more willing to use extreme answers. Personally, I’d much prefer hard data on what people actually do before I would believe something like that.

john Walker
john Walker(@johnrwalker)
6 years ago

“people are relentlessly surveyed these days” Well those who have the time and patience are, relentlessly surveyed these days .

Chris Lloyd
Chris Lloyd
6 years ago

I cannot find the second graph in the linked document. I don’t know how they measured relative self interest in 1790.

paul walter
paul walter
6 years ago

I think that is a fascinating notion, that empathy and perspective taking can be definitively measured and take on board other comments here.

I’ve tried to make sense of the graphs against the eras involved and I’d tentatively suggest that self interest seems to become sublimated during times of war and take off between wars.

Does the increasing level of self preoccupation coincide with longer life spans, better nutrition and more leisure time?

Think tanks, advertisers, spinners and others interested in opinon and consent formation must love this sort of stuff.

Phil Clark
Phil Clark
6 years ago

As a side note, I would like to share an interesting insight to the nature of self interest and empathy in Jeremy Rifkin’s RSA Animate “The Empathic Civilisation”, link below.
http://youtu.be/l7AWnfFRc7g

Although Roman, in his paper The Empathy Effect, covers the concept of Homo Empathicus his focus on short term social engineering to achieve pragmatic goals seems to lose focus on what it means to be human and the basis of empathy and its effect on socio economic constructs.

I think Rifkin paints a better picture, one that’s a little less dependant on graphs and stats and more on real life feeling, with a bit of science for good measure.

paul walter
paul walter
6 years ago

Phil Clark, many thanks, inc. the film clip…will sleep on concepts like empathy V Survivalism as the necessarily broad brush terminology is gradually worked through in my unconscious.

But, a gift, all in all.

Chris Tayzian
6 years ago

Interesting material. Did the data explore gender differences over time? Any thoughts on this aspect?