Building Empathy to Motivate Successful Communication

Zalabak, Thea [Browse]
Senior thesis


Tamir, Diana [Browse]
Princeton University. Department of Psychology [Browse]
Class year
Summary note
Empathy is an essential component of our everyday interactions; without it, we limit our capacity to understand and connect with others, maintain close relationships, and resolve conflicts. Reportedly there is an empathy deficit among the population, motivating a desire to increase empathy in our daily interactions to communicate more effectively. This also prompts the question of whether conversation enjoyment, closeness, and partner responsiveness are positively related to how empathic people are during conversations, and additionally whether motivating participants to think about empathy differently would affect their ability to have a meaningful and enjoyable conversation. Using an empathy-based intervention within a partnered conversation task, this study seeks to investigate a predicted positive relationship between empathy and partner conversation enjoyment, perceived closeness, and partner responsiveness. I also predicted that given the intervention, participants would report greater conversation enjoyment, perceived closeness, and partner responsiveness during their conversation than participants in the Control group. These hypotheses were partially supported by the results; there were positive effects of the empathy intervention on reported closeness, partner responsiveness, and participants’ interpretations of how empathetic they believed their partner was during their conversation (but not conversation enjoyment). We also confirmed a small positive correlation between participants’ perspective-taking abilities and their partner’s reported closeness, but found no relationship between measures of trait-level empathy and partner conversation enjoyment or partner responsiveness. These findings suggest that motivating empathy can increase social closeness and partner responsiveness, supporting the idea that empathy is a necessary component of successful interpersonal communication. Keywords: empathy, communication, conversation enjoyment, closeness, responsiveness
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