Is empathy always viewed as morally good?

Mentor: Dr. Y. Andre Wang

Assistant Professor of Psychology


Project Description

Empathy has long been celebrated as virtuous. Yet empathy remains scarce, particularly across sociopolitical divides: People prefer to empathize with those in their own social group (“us”) rather than those outside of it (“them”). In this research, we will explore one potential cause of empathy deficit in sociopolitical contexts: people’s moral beliefs about empathy—beliefs about when (and for whom) empathy is morally good versus bad. Might people choose to empathize with some individuals but withhold empathy from others, because they believe this is the right thing to do (e.g., empathizing with pro-vaxxeres but not empathizing with anti-vaxxers; Wang & Todd, 2021)? We will analyze data from a study where participants shared their beliefs about empathy—specifically, when, for what, and for whom empathy is good versus bad. We will also design studies to examine whether these beliefs predict moral judgments of empathizers and impact decisions to empathize. With my guidance, you will be involved in various stages of the research process, which may include literature review, data collection, and analysis of qualitative and quantitative data. By understanding what beliefs people have about the morality of empathy, we can achieve a better understanding of the motivational processes that drive empathy (or the lack thereof). Depending on your interests, you can also take on other projects in the lab (e.g., why people think racial bias in romantic attraction is “just a preference”).

Does this project require the SROP Student to be in-person or remote? Remote

Mentorship Statement

Mentoring is one of my favorite things about my job as a professor. I am excited to foster in my mentee: intellectual curiosity, critical thinking, the ability to acquire academic and professional skills, and a belief of seeing themselves in the work that they do. During SROP, I will meet one-on-one with you weekly to identify progress goals and action plans, solve problems you might encounter, and connect your work to the bigger research picture. Depending on the progress of the project, you can expect to receive training on research skills such as synthesizing research literature, programming surveys, managing data, analyzing data, and presenting findings. You can also connect with members in my lab, including my grad student and research assistants. My ultimate goal is to help you find what your interests are and pave the way toward them.

Project ID 743