Presentation Title

Effects of Empathy, Race and Responsibility on Perceptions of Substance Users

Faculty Mentor

Andrea Richards

Start Date

17-11-2018 2:15 PM

End Date

17-11-2018 2:30 PM

Location

C158

Session

Oral 3

Type of Presentation

Oral Talk

Subject Area

behavioral_social_sciences

Abstract

Empathy and blame toward a stigmatized individual can be altered by the perceived responsibility for the stigma [i.e., did the person cause the negative predicament they are in (Weiner, 1988)]. We conducted two experiments to investigate how race and responsibility can impact affective and behavioral reactions to stigmatized persons. Our first study (55 participants) looked at whether empathy could be invoked for substance abusers through the introduction of story as well as impact of labeling. Images of substance abusers were paired with a story (in which the user was a victim of circumstance) or shown without a story. All subjects had positive or negative labels identifying them. Participants rated feelings of empathy, blame, and willingness to help. Results indicated that images paired with a story were shown significantly more empathy, willingness to help and less blame. Label had no effect. With the second study, we attempted to induce empathy while manipulating race and responsibility of a man in an image. 57 participants were shown images of drug users (black and white males in their 30s) coupled with a story portraying them as responsible for their addiction or as victims of circumstance. Before seeing the images/stories, participants were asked to remain objective (low empathy) or to imagine the full impact of the person’s situation (high empathy). Respondents rated compassion, sympathy, blame, willingness to help and whether they were moved by the subjects’ stories. Results showed level of responsibility significantly impacted all dependent measures, supporting previous findings that perceived responsibility affects prosocial behaviors. Regarding empathy, no significant effect was observed. With helping behavior, women were more willing to help than men. Contrary to our hypothesis, respondents showed more positive responses toward Black than White substance abusers. Responsibility consistently remained the primary predictor of social behaviors toward stigmatized populations.

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Nov 17th, 2:15 PM Nov 17th, 2:30 PM

Effects of Empathy, Race and Responsibility on Perceptions of Substance Users

C158

Empathy and blame toward a stigmatized individual can be altered by the perceived responsibility for the stigma [i.e., did the person cause the negative predicament they are in (Weiner, 1988)]. We conducted two experiments to investigate how race and responsibility can impact affective and behavioral reactions to stigmatized persons. Our first study (55 participants) looked at whether empathy could be invoked for substance abusers through the introduction of story as well as impact of labeling. Images of substance abusers were paired with a story (in which the user was a victim of circumstance) or shown without a story. All subjects had positive or negative labels identifying them. Participants rated feelings of empathy, blame, and willingness to help. Results indicated that images paired with a story were shown significantly more empathy, willingness to help and less blame. Label had no effect. With the second study, we attempted to induce empathy while manipulating race and responsibility of a man in an image. 57 participants were shown images of drug users (black and white males in their 30s) coupled with a story portraying them as responsible for their addiction or as victims of circumstance. Before seeing the images/stories, participants were asked to remain objective (low empathy) or to imagine the full impact of the person’s situation (high empathy). Respondents rated compassion, sympathy, blame, willingness to help and whether they were moved by the subjects’ stories. Results showed level of responsibility significantly impacted all dependent measures, supporting previous findings that perceived responsibility affects prosocial behaviors. Regarding empathy, no significant effect was observed. With helping behavior, women were more willing to help than men. Contrary to our hypothesis, respondents showed more positive responses toward Black than White substance abusers. Responsibility consistently remained the primary predictor of social behaviors toward stigmatized populations.